Monday, August 5, 2013

Managing the classroom

            Managing the classroom is a skill that is a combination of a teacher’s knowledge, a student’s willingness to conform, and simple luck.  I stumbled upon this great quote that pretty much sums up classroom management, “no one pays attention to classroom management until it is missing” (Santrock, 2009, Pg 501).  A single student can disrupt an effectively managed classroom creating chaos.   Learning how to deal with these situations can make or break a teacher’s career.

            I present you with a scenario: Adam, an attention starved student is acting out in Mr. Potter’s fourth grade class.  Adam is one of six children and more than likely does not get the attention he deserves at home.  When Adam feels neglected he seeks attention in the only way he knows how, and that is to stand out.  He must make his presence felt so he disrupts the class.  Adam craves attention, even if it is of the negative sort, and although Mr. Potter holds firm for a while, he finally lashes out at Adam.  Adam has achieved his goal.

            Adam is sent to the office due to his behavior, and much like his life at home, the office is a busy place making Adam feel right at home.  Adam chats it up it with anyone he can and is happy in this environment.  Shortly after completing his “punishment”, Adam is returned to his class where the cycle is repeated.  So what did Mr. Potter do wrong and how can he break the cycle?

            Mr. Porter was conducting this lesson in a permissive style of classroom management.  He was placing few demands on Adam and Adam was enjoying the freedom this style allows.  What Adam really needed was for Mr. Porter to take an authoritative style.  An authoritative style of classroom management is when a teacher presents the students with clear statements as to what is expected by the students and how they are expected to behave.  Adam was allowed to carry on with his disruptive behavior and Adam did not understand where Mr. Porter stood on this behavior.  As this behavior went on un-checked Adam only thought it was allowable.

            Adam was simply crying out for attention, if Mr. Potter disciplined him when he first acted out the problem would not have gotten out of control.  According to Dr. Thomas Phelan in his article Teaching Style and Classroom Management “the authoritative teacher is ideal, though this approach is easier said than done” (Phelan, 2011).  Dr. Phelan goes on to say that an authoritative teacher establishes a supportive, yet business like relationship with their students.  This approach energizes both the students and the teacher and creates a safe and capable environment for the students. (Phelan, 2011)

            Perhaps the outcome of Mr. Potter’s actions or in-actions if you will can best be laid out by looking at the Kounin Model of Discipline.   This model states that classroom behavior depends on effective management to include individual accountability.   In Kounin’s model, Mr. Porter, or the witness, needs to be in control of all areas of their classroom.   Perhaps, Mr. Porter failed to keep the class busy and that was one reason Adam acted out.  We are not really shown what the root of the problem was just what the outcome was. 

            In accordance with Kounin’s model Mr. Porter failed to correct Adam’s inappropriate behavior when it occurred, hence the situation escalated out of control.  While I am sure it was not Adam’s intent to disrupt the entire classroom, he simply wanted attention.   On the surface it appears that Adam’s actions were responsible for this escalation.    While that holds true on the surface, it was the failure of Mr. Porter to control the situation early that allowed for the escalation and until Mr. Porter addresses the problem accordingly this behavior will continue.

             While it is obvious Adam was crying out for attention, the classroom dilemma it caused was preventable.  Had Mr. Porter managed his classroom in more of an authoritative style Adam would have known that his behavior would not have been tolerated.  Additionally if Mr. Porter had followed Kouinin’s Model for Effective Classroom management, the issues would have been addresses right away and would not have escalated the way they did.  With a few adjustments to how Mr. Porter manages his classroom he can become a more effective educator and present his students with a better learning environment.

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