Musings of a classroom management guru, teacher and parent.

Classroom Management: It’s More than a Bag of Tricks

Develop a bag of tricks. Don’t smile until Christmas. These are two of the most common pieces of advice passed from veteran to novice teacher with respect to classroom management. The mentality that classroom management is a bag of tricks is extremely prevalent in today’s classrooms. A quick search for the term classroom management on the ever so popular Pinterest provides evidence of this mentality. The majority of pins related to classroom management are of “bag of trick” type techniques or “cutesy,” extrinsic-reward based systems. For example, a popular image is an empty Windex bottle that has been decorated and labeled with the phrase “quiet spray,” implying that a teacher can spritz her class, and they will all magically quiet down. There are also numerous images of school stores representing systems where students can earn play money for exhibiting appropriate behavior and purchase various prizes. These images perpetuate a limited and faulty mindset about classroom management.  It’s time to stop thinking about classroom management as a “Bag of Tricks!”

So, if not a bag of tricks, what is classroom management?

Classroom management is a thoughtful and purposeful process consisting of key tasks that teachers address to develop an environment conducive to academic and social-emotional learning.

These tasks include:

  • Organizing the physical environment
  • Establishing rules and routines
  • Developing safe, caring relationships
  • Implementing engaging instruction
  • Addressing discipline problems

All of these tasks play an important role when it comes to effectively managing your classroom. However, which tasks you emphasize more than others and what strategies you use to accomplish each task depends on factors such as your own beliefs, grade level and subject that you teach, your students, etc.

Which of these tasks play a crucial role in your classroom management plan?


  • I tech 7th grade, and have heard the no smiling until Christmas rule a few times. But, I don’t want my kids to be scared of me! I want to be approachable! I like doing surveys with my students to find out what their likes and dislikes are, I’ve found that to be an easy, authentic way to connect with my kids, which leads to a reduced need for behaviour or classroom management, because the students actually want to be there.

    • Hi Dana,
      I also want my students to see me as approachable! I love your survey strategy. I also use something similar. It is such as easy and effective way to begin to build a relationship. Thanks for reading and sharing!

      • Hi Dana,
        Thanks for taking the time to read and respond to my blog! I look forward to reading more of your responses. Thanks!

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Meet Dr. Tracey Garrett

Dr. Tracey Garrett

Dr. Tracey Garrett is a professor in the Department of Teacher Education at Rider University in New Jersey and was recently awarded the University Distinguished Teaching Award. She earned her Ed.D. in elementary and early childhood education with a specialization in classroom management from The Graduate School of Education at Rutgers University. She is also a former elementary teacher with experience teaching at the 3rd, 4th and 5th grade level. Tracey’s unique combination of classroom management knowledge and 24 years of practical experience allows her to successfully facilitate teacher growth.

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