Teacher Back-to-School Success Secrets Improve Classroom Management


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Teacher Back-to-School Success Secrets
Improve Classroom Management


classroom management workshopIt's a new school year, but for many students back-to-school means back to problems. It can seem like such a mystery why so many of today's kids struggle so much each school year, but perhaps we've overlooked a common sense explanation and solution.

It's that time of year when I hit the road all over North America training school after school on  how to build a better school year. I'm Youth Change Professional Development Workshops' Director and Trainer, Ruth Herman Wells, M.S. I spend a lot of time at each stop sharing all the classroom management secrets I've collected over the past decades. In our high tech era, I also provide online training, as pictured in the image above. After years of providing teacher training in a huge range of formats and venues, I know that these techniques can really stop classroom management problems before they start– and isn't that what every teacher wants?

So, have you ever noticed that we don't actually teach kids to be students? It's true. While every school district has a formal, written-down plan to teach kids academics, few districts have a formal, written-down plan to teach kids how to be students and take advantage of all the great academics they are offered.

Perhaps we need to teach kids to be students exactly the same way we teach them how to read, learn math, and master social studies. Teaching kids how to be students is very different than stating the rules. Most teachers review the rules, but many instructors don't ensure that their new students have the skills, attitudes, and motivation needed to properly comply.

In our live and online Breakthrough Strategies to Teach and Counsel Troubled Youth Workshops that Youth Change hosts, I often joke that in a time long ago, and a place far away, moms and dads reliably motivated their offspring, and prepared them to be successful students. Continuing the theme, I note that time and place are gone, and they aren't coming back any time soon. Sadly, many of today's families don't motivate their children to care about school, and don't teach them the skills needed to succeed as students. If the family doesn't prepare the child to succeed in school, by default, that task must become the job of the teacher if the family can't or won't start doing what they are supposed to do.

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We would never throw a child in the deep end of the pool and expect him to teach himself how to swim. We would never put a child up on the expert ski slope and expect her to teach herself how to ski. But, we do place children in school each year and expect them to teach themselves how to be students. That is why so many teachers work with kids that don't look, act or sound like students. That is why so many teachers struggle with unmotivated, uninterested youngsters, and have an uphill battle to maintain good classroom management and control. Teachers are working with untrained, unmotivated children and youth. It should be no surprise that from Day 1 of the new school year, so many children struggle.

Districts that take the time to train youngsters how to look, act and sound like students usually report a drop in attendance problems, tardiness, absences, and behavior problems. Many report a decrease in expulsions, suspensions and detention. Most report wasting less instruction time than the national average of 22 minutes per hour lost to behavior management problems. But those results make perfect sense and should be expected. Training kids to be students can only yield improvement, and probably has no significant downside. Training kids to be students should begin in Pre-K and every year after. Training kids to be students may be the only common sense, real-world way to build a better school year.

If you do decide to teach your new students how to be prepared for the job they face over the new school year, there is a lot to cover. So where do you start on Day 1 of the new school year? We recommend safety and attendance issues come first, then follow up by teaching the remaining skills your new students need. The subsequent skill training should include a lot of motivation-building. Your youngsters might look, act and sound completely different if they come to believe that school is more important than the air they breathe. But don't forget to ultimately include other key school skill training areas such as adult interaction skills, peer interaction skills, how to be in a class discussion, homework management skills, punctuality skills, and so on. For this back-to-school issue, here are several sample strategies that address an assortment of critical school skills your students will be needing this year.

Successful Back-to School

Classroom Management Techniques to Use Now

New School Year Resolutions

Some students start off the new school year chock full of negative expectations. Stop the negativity now by hosting a Happy New School Year Party that is similar to a Happy New Year Party. It's tough to stay negative and sour at a party. During the party, have each student make New School Year Resolutions listing what they hope to accomplish during the school year. This approach can really defuse some of the negativity because school is not fitting these students' bleak view.

Banker, Not Teacher

Because students who graduate earn $329,000 more than those who drop out, you may want to tell the class that they should refer to you as a banker, not a teacher. Or, use this line: "A diploma is so valuable that it belongs in your wallet." A great follow-up activity is to ask your students to speculate on what they would do with an extra $329,000. Another follow-up: Have students rename your school to be a bank, so Sixteen Acres Elementary School could become The First Bank of Sixteen Acres or Sixteen Acres Elementary Savings Bank and Loan.

Give Me Five

classroom management posterTeach essential paying attention skills to students by playing Give Me Five. Have the student give you a high five slap then say "Give me five! Two eyes watching, two ears listening, one mouth shut. Give me five!" Our $8 Poster #252 can provide on-going reminders, and for a limited time, it's on sale for 25% off on our site when you enter 25 at checkout.

From Vacation Back to Education

Students don't necessarily have the skills to settle themselves back into the routine of school, but sometimes we assume youngsters can make the big leap on their own, or that they will get help from their parents. Unfortunately, many students will struggle to make the transition, and many of these youngsters won't have parental support, so don't assume that all students will be able to fit back in to the routines and responsibilities of school. Help students let go of summer break and become ready for more structure and responsibility. To aid in the transition, assist students to understand the specific differences they're about to face. Distribute pieces of poster board, about 8 x 11 inches in size. Ask the students to write on one side of the poster board: Goodbye Summer. On the other side, ask students to write: Hello School. Next, ask students to illustrate each side, then discuss their completed creations, assisting students to identify what they must do to make the "big leap" back to school.

Your Job at School

When discussing your role with your students, consider using this description that one of our workshop participants uses each year: "My job is to get you to do what you don't want to do, so you can become what you do want to become."

Have You Ever Heard of Eating School?

To teach students how to behave in the cafeteria, set up Eating School and practice. Instead of practicing with actual food, select silly substitutes. For example, instead of spaghetti and meatballs, students practice with cut-out pictures of spaghetti strands, sauce and meatballs. Be very careful that students don't put any of the substitute items in their mouths, but do select items that are fun so that students won't even notice that they are actually learning lunch room behavior skills.

Self-Control or Teacher Control

A teacher in Alabama says he has great success telling his students at the start of the school year that he expects them to use good self-control, but if they don't "it will be provided for you." Because he adds a light humorous element to the information, it makes it harder for students to resist. Of course, he also teaches his students exactly how to manage their mouths, feet, hands, arms, legs and so on. Both of these aspects need to be included for this technique to work.

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About Ruth Herman Wells

Author/Trainer Ruth Herman Wells, M.S. is the director of Youth Change Professional Development Workshops. In 2011, Ruth was rated as a Top 10 U.S. K-12 educational and motivational speaker by Speakerwiki and Speakermix. She is the author of several book series, a columnist, adjunct professor for two universities, and a popular keynote speaker and workshop presenter. Ruth's dozens of books includes Temper and Tantrum Tamers and Turn On the Turned-Off Student.