New Teachers Must Control Three (3) Vital Areas
Updated: Oct 8
Every person, conscious of the fact or not, strives for ‘control’ of events in their immediate sphere of influence. ‘Control’ affords predictability and stability as well as more focus on outcomes in all aspects of our lives. Personally, I enjoy writing more than speaking since writing affords me much more ‘control’ of my intentions. I also diligently ‘control’ my personal finances and expenditures to allow me independence to engage in areas where I have a passion. With regard to these examples, I consider ‘control’ a positive attribute in my life.
When an airplane departs or lands at an airport runway, a pilot makes every effort to fly the plane INTO the wind – and NOT land the aircraft or take-off the plane in the same direction as the wind. Pilots fly aircraft in this manner to ‘control’ the air flow over the wings to achieve lift or descent. Aircraft travel is a dynamic process, and the pilot must possess ambient ‘control’ to safely operate the airplane under all atmospheric conditions.
Setting up classroom systems at public schools is an important exercise of ‘control.’ As any educator can readily convey, classrooms are busy places, and exerting ‘control’ of dynamic situations is a necessary and a valuable commodity. It allows an orderly and predictable process to take place throughout the instructional day from arrival to dismissal.
But, with so much noise at a school, what are the most important areas for teachers to control and procure better social and academic student outcomes? The three (3) areas listed below should greatly assist a new or relatively inexperienced teacher in a typical elementary classroom.
Three (3) Important Classroom Areas to ‘Control’
Emotions: Similar to a pilot guiding a plane, teaching in a typical school classroom is a dynamic process with many, many moving pressure points from August to May. As a principal at the onset of the school year’s professional development, I reminded teachers of the need for emotional control with the following statement, “Do you control your emotions, or do they control you?” I wanted to remind the staff that they were the adult and the professional in the classroom, and they should model composure and emotional control with their students in all situations.
Effective Classroom Management and Efficient Daily Routines: Once an effective student management system and efficient classroom routines are established, the core instruction streams effortlessly day-to-day within those parameters. A teacher can use student placement, behavioral contracts, proximity, and establish positive/trustful classroom relationships, etc. to ‘control’ the dynamics with challenging student behaviors. There is one guiding rule in both student management and daily routines: The more structure (i.e. predictability and organization) in a classroom system, the higher the performance outcomes in student behavior and learning.
Lesson and Activity Preparedness: Classroom teachers should always be aptly prepared each morning to control the work flow of their instructional day. Control and preservation of instructional minutes is key to social and academic success, but it does more than that. It allows the teacher to remain calm in lieu of interruptions of any kind that may occur in a normal school day. For instance, whether there is an expected emotional outburst of a student or there is a grade level scheduling change, it becomes a SINGLE event in a well-planned day. A teacher is reacting to ONLY one thing because they are mentally and physically prepared with their instructional content.
Teaching kids is a stressful job! No doubt about it. But, if the teacher controls the three (3) general areas listed above, then there is a soundly established classroom structure that easily allows for minor adjustments or disruptions. A teacher must recognize the paramount importance of controlling the factors that matter most in their daily work of heightening social and academic outcomes. However, special circumstances will arise each school year when a different group of children walk through their classroom door on the first day of school. Those infrequent events can be reasonably handled if there are rudimentary systems and sufficient lesson preparation and planning securely in place. Then, when a disruption occurs, isolate and identify its origination factors – trouble shoot as needed to resolve or eliminate – and positively move forward.
Caveat to Novice Teachers
Entry-level teachers need to be completely cognizant that no matter how much they plan and provide an equitable classroom of learning, there will always be one or two kids (minimum) in their classrooms that will misbehave (e.g. challenge the classroom routines and directions of the teacher) and say things that are not appropriate. It is going to happen in a normal classroom setting at some point in the typical 9-month school year. However, it is vital for a new teacher to understand: They can’t control a child’s inappropriate conduct. They can only control THEIR emotional reaction to that conduct. Again, if there is a structured classroom management system, clearly communicated behavioral expectations and their lessons are well designed and prepared, they can easily weather these ‘spikes’ from one or two children. These singular events can be handled and addressed with pointed actions to reduce and rectify the situation. If needed, seek advice and counsel from veteran teachers and administrators.
If the disruptive student’s inappropriate outbursts continue after troubleshooting with parents and administrators, then the administrator must take proactive action. All teachers must be able to work with students in a reasonable classroom environment. No student has the right to consistently and adversely affect the learning of others. At that point, an administrator’s priority must be to support a teacher and the remaining students in the classroom with removal of the disruptive child either to the office, another classroom for a controlled time-out or an appropriate educational setting. In general, student learning cannot be held hostage by one or two students’ continual inappropriate conduct.