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Effortless classroom management

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This is an extract from one of my books – Take Control of the Noisy Class. I believe this to be THE most important message in the book. It holds the secret to ‘effortless’ classroom management.

A few years ago I was talking with a friend of mine after delivering training at his school. He (let’s call him John) told me a story about one of the teachers at the school (she can be called Janet for the purpose of this story and for the benefit of any fans of the late Terry Wogan) who was struggling badly with one particular group of students. She just couldn’t get them quiet.

John was Janet’s head of department and he often had to pass through her room when she was teaching in order to get resources from the main store cupboard. He told me that on one particular day he happened to be passing through when Janet was teaching her most challenging group.

The students were literally out of control – screaming, shouting and totally ignor- ing Janet’s cries to settle down. John didn’t normally intervene unless asked to do so but he felt this situation was only going to get worse, so he walked around the room speaking quietly to some of the students for a few minutes. Without the need to raise his voice, a hush gradually descended on the room and the students returned to their seats facing Janet – happy faces, ready to work.

John quietly left the room and went about the rest of his day without giving the incident a second thought. At the end of the school day, when the students had left the premises, Janet caught up with John in the staffroom.‘John, how do you do that? How the hell do you manage to get that group so quiet so easily?’ she asked. ‘They won’t do anything I say and yet they settle straight away for you. I spend the whole lesson fighting with them. What do you do? What is it? What’s the secret?’

I’m sure she didn’t expect the reply he gave her. She wanted a magic bullet, a sure- fire strategy, a new way of giving instructions, a secret hand signal or a never-fail script to follow. But I hope she understood the power of what he said and I hope you do too – it’s priceless. It is the single, most important tool any teacher can develop and it leads to an enviable level of respect from your most challenging students.

‘There’s no magic to it,’ he said. ‘It just boils down to this: I know these kids. I’ve spent time with them. I go to support them playing football for the school at weekends, I chat with them in the corridor, I regularly speak to their parents on the telephone, I visit their homes, I’ve taken them on trips and I sit with them at lunchtime. The door to my room is always open to them – they know they can come and chat when something’s wrong – and I make a point of catching up with them whenever I can.’

I maintain, as my friend does, that there is no ‘magic’ to successful classroom management other than making positive relationships the foundation of your overall approach.

What do you think? What’s your focus for effective classroom management? Leave a comment below and let me know.

Take Control of the Noisy Class is the best-selling classroom management book by Rob Plevin It’s available on Amazon and includes hundreds of practical strategies for building those crucial student-teacher bonds.

Search for it by title or by author name on your country’s Amazon site.

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6 comments
Tom James says 11th September 2019

I like the story and I wish it worked like that but it doesn’t, at least not for me. I think I’m well enough liked by the students. I make an efforts to always be cheery towards them and interact with them in the playground and the like. I admit I still struggle to learn all 430 names of the students I teach each week for 45 minutes a time, I’ve been at the nearly a year. I’m supposed to teach English conversation skills to primary age children who don’t have English as their first language and little incentive to try. Almost everything I try fails.

    rob says 11th September 2019

    I empathise Tom. It can seem as if you’re fighting a losing battle day in day out. You’ve said there that ‘almost’ everything you try fails. Is there anything at all that has made a difference? If so, can I suggest forgetting everything else and concentrating on that for a while. Sometimes we get overwhelmed by the apparent mountain of techniques and strategies – as well as the never ending workload.

    In situations like this I suggest concentrating on one area for your focus. Teaching is a HARD job and it sounds like you’ve got your work cut out so let’s try and make it a bit easier by narrowing your focus a bit. Don’t let the things you’re not managing to succeed at get you down – you can’t do everything so just concentrate on one area until you see improvements.

    So… you could focus on ONE class – build relationships with them and see if they respond differently than the others. I guarantee that once you get one group REALLY on side (or even a handful of students), you’ll get more on side automatically – kids talk!

    Or you might focus on your lesson starters – creating the best ways to hook your students. Or contacting parents of your most troublesome students. Or… Get the idea? Just focus on one area for improvement for now. It will do you the world of good to experience some success.

Hoda Adel says 11th September 2019

I agree totally with you

Bill Allen says 11th September 2019

Very true and really, great advice.
However, very difficult for prac students who haven’t had the opportunity to develop those relationships. It’s this group that I am most worried about in my role.

Holly says 10th September 2019

I believe this to be true. I am using this idea this year and it has made a difference.

Lola says 10th September 2019

Great thoughts ! So easy))

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