My last post discussed issues I have had this year with a problem class. After a few weeks of frustration, I made some changes that helped me turn things around. It wasn’t easy and I’m sure it’s not over, but the changes I’ve seen have been noteworthy.
Change their schedule.
This one was not easy for me to do. My teammates were sympathetic to the issues I was having in my last class, but I did have another adult in the room with me. It took awhile for them to realize how badly I needed to split some students up. The history I have with my teammates also really helped me out. We’ve taught together for four years now. In years past, I’ve been willing to take kids into my last class to help them out. Being flexible and willing to help out your colleagues will always pay dividends. I know that not everyone works on a team like mine, or even a team at all, but being able to move some student’s schedules around honestly made the biggest difference for me.
Don’t do fun things, but don’t punish them forever.
I’ve been using Gimkit for a few months in class and my students love it. When I was having problems with my last class they rarely got to play it. I also avoided most group work and never even entertained the idea of letting them collaborate with students that they chose. This wasn’t punishment as much as it was me trying to control chaos in my classroom. If students can’t handle independent work then they won’t be able to play a game. This was all temporary, though. We played Gimkit the first day they were able to start class in a focused manner. A couple of days after they were allowed to choose their own partners for a collaborative activity. Once they saw that they would be rewarded for appropriate behavior, they were more willing to behave appropriately.
Try to make connections with every student.
First and foremost, all students deserve your care and attention. I try to make a point of having one on one conversations with students in my classroom at least twice a week. We talk about sports or music they like or their pencil pouches. I also try to greet them in the hallways in the morning and when they walk in the room. If a student has been absent, I tell them I missed them. If a student thinks someone doesn’t like them, they aren’t going to be motivated to do well in their class. I knew I needed to make sure my students knew I liked and cared about them.
Things are much better now. They aren’t perfect. That class is still a unique mix of personalities, but we are learning and making things happen. This situation was hard for me because it really hurt my pride. Classroom management has been my things for years now, and I was worried I’d lost my touch. I believe now that I’d just gotten out of practice of doing things that I know worked in the past.