Achieving Classroom Management through Student Engagement

Recently I passed along an article to my school community about how best to intervene when individual students behave inappropriately. I liked the article because of the analogy made between responding on the fly to behavioural problems and emergency room doctors and nurses responding to emergency situations – during a crisis we are only working to stabilize the situation, we are not working on long-term solutions. During a crisis situation we are only working to ‘stop things from getting worse’.

To view this article go here: Classroom Management: The Intervention Two-Step

Then came the more important question: “What to do when a group of students (5 or 6 – not just 1 or 2) are out of control – engaging in inappropriate physical or verbal behaviours that are disrupting or unsafe to other students in the class?”

My short answer to this is – engagement.

Sounds simple – but it may take some rethinking of our traditional practices to grasp … and a great deal of ‘letting go’. The cool part is that once you are there, planning  becomes less daunting (the kids do that part), setting up the learning environment, reflecting on student learning, and responding becomes the work.

Here’s the thing. Kids are junkies for novelty, control, excitement, and fun. If our classrooms don’t provide this they will get it from somewhere. If the learning doesn’t provide them with the adrenaline rush they need, they will find it through social interactions (positive… negative…). The trick is to make the learning where they get their adrenaline rush from.

What do you remember about what you learned at school. For me (and I think most of  us) it was the projects that I could ‘sink my teeth into’ and have some ownership over. I did one about Hummingbirds, one about Earwigs, and another about Flying Fish. I also remember an entire Unit a teacher created for us about Ancient Egypt. Common feature – I had ownership over the learning – and I was excited about the learning. They involved elements of choice and control over the learning. I remember these projects, I don’t remember the seat-work activities from my day-to-day classroom experience.

I also remember the teachers who made learning fun – who had a sense of humour. For a great article about this go here: Using Humour in the Classroom. One important consideration: “Just remember, above all, that sarcasm has no place in the school. Only “no hurt” humor is acceptable.”

Learning is what our brains are built to do – and kids are at the best stage to do it. I get worried in education that we take the stance that we can “lead the horse to water but we can’t make it drink”. While I agree to a point with this statement, if the water is tepid, stale, or even stagnant, ought we still insist they drink it?

As educators, creating engaging learning environments is our task. It is our task to inspire our students to become life-long learners. Our lessons should not be the bitter pill they need to take, but rather the elixer that inspires them to become life-long learners.

How can we do this? Start here: Ten Tips for Classroom Management.

This ten tips this article provides support for are:

    • Build Community:
    • Design a Safe, Friendly, and  Well-Managed Classroom Environment
    • Include Students in Creating Rules, Norms, Routines and Consequences
    • Creating a Variety of Communication Channels
    • Always be Calm, Fair, and Consistence
    • Know the Students you Teach
    • Address Conflict Quickly and Wisely
    • Integrate Positive Classroom Rituals
    • Keep it Real
    • Partner and Parents and Guardians

“Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.”
― Socrates

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