Vol. 14, Issue 2, December 2013

First Year Focus

by Jennifer Scully

Classroom Management, or Who’s Running the Asylum?

Classroom Management is a set of skills that many first year teachers must work to develop. While observing new TESOL professionals in the field, I wonder at times, “Who’s running this classroom—the teacher or the students?” I must confess that I run a very teacher-centered classroom myself, in that I am the boss; I mix it up, though, with varied participation structures (individual work, pairs, triads, and structured group work) and a good amount of laughter, as well as building in ample opportunity for individual choice. New teachers sometimes feel uncomfortable managing students’ behavior or being the authority in the room, but I strongly feel that someone has to be in charge, just to keep the wheels turning.At any given time, it’s either the teacher or the students; that is, if the teacher isn’t managing the classroom, then the students are.

New teachers are sometimes asked to write a mini-manifesto on their classroom management philosophy, which usually goes out the window as they face the realities of having to simultaneously cover content, meet students’ individual needs and keep their classroom under relative control. There are many quick tips available online on how one might be an effective classroom manager, but new teachers should discern their own beliefs about managing student behavior before clinging to advice like, “Don’t smile ‘tilNovember.” In this column, therefore, I will move from philosophies to techniques.

Think first about your natural belief system. Where do you place yourself in the relationship with your students? In other words, what is your model of classroom management? Here are three potential modelsof classroom management in a nutshell; think about which strike a chord with you:

  • Interactionists believe in understanding and managing student behaviour.
  • Non-interventionists nurture individual differences in their students.
  • Interventionists believe in eliminating differences between their students.

The particular model of classroom management you feel most comfortable with will inform the specific choices you make as you manage your students’ behavior. This is a list of questions new teachers might ask themselves to determine their own philosophy of classroom management:

What do you understand and believe about

  • how students learn?
  • the differences between learners?
  • what motivates students to learn?
  • how to manage behavior in the classroom?
  • the teacher-student relationship?
  • teacher organization?

Also see a helpful checklist of tips organized by the steps of each lesson (getting students’ attention, focusing students’ attention, maintaining students’ behavior and keeping students on task during seat work) on the ldonline web site, which can be found here: http://www.ldonline.org/article/Checklists_for_Teachers.

The behavior management techniques above are entirely applicable to English language learners, but Mary Anne Curran has provided some excellent caveats for those of us who work with both ELLs and non-ELLs:

The good news is that you will most likely be better at managing student behavior during the latter half of your first year of teaching. Managing student behavior is a skill that you can develop and continue to improve. Keep at it, newbie!


Curran, M.E. (2003) THEORY INTO PRACTICE, Volume 42, Number 4, Autumn 2003 , The Ohio State University. Retrieved 12-14-13 from http://esl.eportalnow.net/uploads/1/0/4/5/10458746/linguistic_diversity_and_classroom_management.pdf

Models of classroom management: a misleading objectifying of experience? Blog post retrieved 11-14-13 from http://degreesfiction.wordpress.com/2012/01/23/models-of-classroom-management-a-misleading-objectifying-of-experience/

Classroom Management Philosophy: Questions Teachers Need To Ask. Retrieved 12-14-13 from http://www.classroom-management-success.org/classroom-management-philosophy.html#sthash.Bg9bHLBR.dpu

Jennifer Scully started teaching ESL in 1992 and has worked with students from kindergarten to college.She works with New York City Teaching Fellows, graduate students in TESOL, and mainstream teachers to improve their practice with ELLs. She provides professional development in various settings but still works with elementary school ELLs to stay current.

To contact Jennifer about this column, send an email to dialogue@nystesol.org

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