This week, to ease student restlessness due to the upcoming vacation, us teachers planned and organized a tournament style volleyball tournament for the kids. It gives them something to look forward to, an outlet to blow off some steam…and let’s face it: No one’s focused enough to do work in study hall the day before break.
My team made a good run, and even though we lost, it was a good time.
As we were playing, I looked around at all of my students and above their heads were all the assignments some of them were missing. The failing grades some of them were receiving. And a wave of anxiety crept up. We shouldn’t be playing volleyball right now, I thought. These kids owe me assignments. They should be doing work.
Why did I decide to let it go? Because I decided that building a rapport with my students by playing volleyball with them was more important at that moment. Going into the end of the year, when everyone’s patience for each other has run short, classroom management becomes ever so important. If you have no rapport with your students, the end of the year (especially for 8th and 12th graders since they know they are going to be leaving the school and cannot be held responsible for their behavior to a degree) is going to be hell for everyone involved.
You see, throughout my short 5 years of teaching classroom management has always been something I’ve struggled with. Yes, I’ve read The First Days of School. Yes I have a classroom management plan that I stick to. Yes I give detentions, call parents, give rewards, give them pep talks. But honestly what I’ve discovered the SINGLE most powerful classroom management strategy is having a respectful, honest relationship with your students and creating an atmosphere of mutual respect.
Playing a volleyball game with them is a way to build rapport. That’s why I was willing to let all that academic work slide for a couple of days. I NEED this rapport to carry me into the end of the year so I don’t go crazy. I work in a very small school, and by the end of the year everyone just starts getting restless. In order to combat that I need to continue fostering the respectful relationship I’ve been building all year.
I know I have WAY more to learn about classroom management and every year presents new struggles. Every school is different, but I truly believe if a student respects and likes you, classroom management won’t be an issue.
What are classroom management strategies you read about but don’t feel work?
What are the BEST strategies you use in your classroom?