Why Classroom Management is Important
Classroom management in the high school classroom can be tricky. You don’t want to treat high schoolers like small children, but you also don’t want to give them too much freedom.
My first year of teaching was a classroom management DISASTER. I was 22 years old and clueless. I completed my student teaching in the 6th grade, so I didn’t know how to run a high school classroom. So, I thought I would treat them like adults. I mean, one of my students was 19 years old!
Needless to say, that did NOT work. The students knew I was a young, first year teacher, and they were ready to take advantage of that. They saw me as more of a peer than an authority figure. That didn’t work so well when I tried to enforce the rules.
After a very long and exhausting year, I was burnt out and knew something had to change. I started researching classroom management for high school, and I found that they were very similar to middle school. High schoolers need routines, rituals, and consistency.
Here are the 5 high school classroom management strategies I use every year that help me keep a well-managed classroom (and also keep my sanity).
1. Make a Seating Chart
When my students walk into my classroom on the first day of school, they see a seating chart on my Interactive Whiteboard. They find their name and take a seat.
A seating chart automatically shows students that I have an organized, well-managed classroom. They also probably think, “Aw man, this teacher is strict!” Which is exactly what I want! Don’t get me wrong–I don’t my students to think I’m a careless dictator. However, I do want them to immediately know that my classroom is first and foremost for LEARNING!
That’s the whole point of classroom management, right? To have a classroom environment where students can learn–free from behavioral distractions.
I tried allowing students to sit wherever they want, and it just didn’t work for me. I have teacher friends who allow students to sit where they want so they can see the friend groups. Then, they make a seating chart that separates the talkers.
The reason I go ahead and make one on the first day is to establish the tone of consistency and order.
I make my seating charts in alphabetical order. Usually, I have two or three students who will happen to end up sitting by a friend. If they begin to chat while I’m trying to talk, I immediately move them. This is another way to set the tone from the very first day!
Smartdraw is an easy way to make seating charts online!
2. Learn Names ASAP
I learn all my students’ names on the first day of school. Yep, day one! And I teach on block schedule, so I have over 100 students each semester.
I play a name game with my students that allows me to memorize students’ names while also getting to know them. It helps the students get to know each other’s names as well. Learn how to play my name game here.
The reason I want to learn students’ names so quickly is twofold. First, it helps establish a positive relationship from the very beginning. It lets students know that I care about them as individuals and want to call them by name.
Second, it helps with any behavior problems in the first few weeks. We all know there are students who will push your buttons in the beginning to see how much they can get away with.
When that happens, I immediately say in a firm tone, “Hey [student name], please stop.” By calling them by name, it quickly gets their attention. It also lets them know that I know who are they are, and they can’t get away with poor behavior.
3. Establish Immediate Parent Contact
Parent and guardian communication is such a key component to good classroom management. Within the first week, I try to call or email every single parent or guardian.
I want the first communication with parents or guardians to be positive. I try to say one positive comment about each student. You’d be surprised at the reactions I get from parents!
They are so excited to hear something good about their child from a high school teacher. By establishing positive relationships from the beginning, you will have a much easier time making phone calls about bad behavior later on.
Another reason why I call parents is to let students know that I am on the same team as their parent. Many high schoolers think that they can misbehave without their parents finding out.
This is probably because high school teachers don’t call home as often as elementary teachers (at least that is what I have found to be true). When students know that their parents will be contacted, they will be less likely to misbehave.
You can read more about how I set up a consistent parent communication plan here.
4. Be Consistent
I’ve already used the word “consistent” multiple times in this post, but it’s because I know how important it is!
Being consistent means you set rules and consequences for your class, and you continually enforce them. If a student breaks the rule, they get a consequence.
Now, the first consequence could be a warning. Totally fine! However, you shouldn’t be giving 15 warnings! Give a warning, then move to the next consequence if the behavior doesn’t stop.
Make sure students know the consequences from the very first day of school. I even like to make a poster with my classroom rules and consequences.
It was always a struggle for me to discipline students. Especially those students who I really liked!
However, if you let one student get away with something and not another, you are setting yourself up for failure. Students will not trust you because they will think you are unfair.
If you are worried about students thinking you are too strict because of how rigidly you enforce consequences, try this:
After a student gets in trouble and you give them a consequence, have a talk with them. Make sure you wait until the student has calmed down. Also, make sure there aren’t other students around. I have mine stay after class for a couple minutes.
Let them know that you believe they are a good student who just made a mistake. Also, tell them everyone makes mistakes, and that you forgive them. Closing the situation with a positive note lets the student know that you truly care.
5. Be Confident
Have you ever heard that students can smell fear? Or is that sharks? Haha whatever the case, students can immediately sense if you have a lack of confidence.
My first year, I definitely did not have confidence in myself as a teacher or authority figure. I was scared to death, and the students could see it all over my face.
Confidence is all about your mental state. If you believe in yourself and are certain that you are a good teacher and classroom manager, it will show on the outside.
So, what do you do if you DON’T believe in yourself? Try saying some edifying mantras to yourself on a daily basis:
“I am a great teacher.”
“I have the training, knowledge, and skills to teach these students well.”
“I am awesome at managing my classroom.”
Those are just a few to try. You might feel dumb at first, but they work! Whatever you think about will start to become how you actually feel.
It’s kind of like “fake it til you make it”, however you aren’t really faking. You ARE an awesome teacher. You ARE great at managing your classroom. You just have to believe it!
I hope these 5 strategies help you manage your classroom! If you have any tips you’d like to share, please comment below!
If you want another fun classroom management strategy that incorporates social media, check out my friend Brooklyn’s post here!