The new school year is well under way and classroom management continues to be a top concern for teachers. However, I find it problematic that the majority of conversations about classroom management focus primarily on what type of system (such as Class Dojo) that teachers plan to use to control students’ behavior or to punish students after misbehavior has occurred. These systems do little to create students who choose to behave, are intrinsically motivated and can self-regulate their own behavior. This type of conversation indicates that teachers are focusing their energy in the wrong place. It is time to change the conversation and focus on the following question:
What strategies am I going to use to prevent misbehavior in my classroom this year?
In 1980, Emmer, Evertson and Anderson conducted a groundbreaking study in the field of classroom management. Their study was the first to illustrate the importance of establishing classroom rules and routines as a means to prevent misbehavior. In fact, Carolyn Evertson has said many times that classroom rules and routines are a teachers’ most powerful tool to communicate his or her behavioral expectations. Emmer, Evertson and Anderson’s work continues to have a strong influence on classroom practice with many teachers understanding the importance of having clear rules and routines.
However, in addition to establishing rules and routines, the number one thing teachers can do to prevent misbehavior in their classrooms is to develop caring relationships with and among their students. Research repeatedly demonstrates that students who feel cared for by their teachers are more likely to follow classroom rules and routines and engage in academic activities. Unfortunately, the crucial relationship between caring relationships and effective classroom management is often overlooked or underestimated. The good news is that the beginning of the school year is the ideal time to focus on developing these relationships in your classroom. These relationships must include both relationships between the teacher and the students as well as among students themselves.
It is time for teachers to shift their classroom management practice from an approach that focuses on how to control and respond to students’ misbehavior to an approach that focuses on how to prevent misbehavior from occurring in the first place through the use of clear and explicit classroom rules and routines and strong classroom relationships. The end result will be a safe, caring classroom community where academic and social–emotional learning can take place, which is the ultimate goal of effective classroom management.