Samuel Gonzalez is a second grade teacher at Eleanor Roosevelt Elementary School, part of the Pennsbury School District in Yardly, Pennsylvania. He is also a contributor on Teacher's Corner. He began teaching in a virtual classroom during the height of the pandemic in 2020. He is is now in his second year teaching, this time in a physical classroom.
As a new teacher it is so exciting to see your first classroom space, receive your curricular materials, and meet everyone that will be beside you in this new season of your journey. Once you are settled in your new space, you will find that one of the biggest challenges of your teaching practice will be the management of your new classroom.
My first classroom, as it happens, was a virtual classroom. I began my teaching career during the COVID-19 pandemic, and virtual classroom management was very different than it is in-person. Whereas one can keep all students muted online to avoid disruptions, in a physical classroom the students must be carefully introduced to class expectations and norms.
Classroom management practices vary in many ways and truly are subjective depending on which educator you ask. Among my earliest lessons were to use the statement “please stop talking” rather than the question “can you please stop talking?” I've also learned to create a classroom reward system for students to be able to earn prizes.
However, now that I am in my second year, I have found that there are a few classroom management strategies for new teachers that are imperative to ensure that you can maximize student learning in the classroom from the very beginning.
Classroom Management Tips for New Teachers
Distinguish rules from expectations
One of the most basic yet powerful elements of classroom management is the terminology you use in the classroom.
I challenge you to never use the word “rules” in your classroom practice. In lieu of having “rules,” have “expectations.” This allows students to begin to consider which behaviors are expected in the classroom, and which ones are unexpected as well. Rules, as they say, are meant to be broken, but expectations translate into common practice in the real world. An understanding of expectations can help students acclimate in their future jobs, educational experiences, and life experiences.
If you prepare students to meet classroom expectations, there won’t be any “rules” for them to break. Instead, there will be expectations to maintain that will provide a better educational experience for both your students and those around them.
Let students help establish and reinforce expectations
Encourage all of your students to help you build classroom expectations. This will generate more buy-in than simply telling them what they’re not allowed to do. This may be accomplished by prompting conversation with the following questions:
- What kind of learning environment do you want to learn in?
- What are some expected behaviors that you want to see from your classmates in our classroom?
- What are some unexpected behaviors that you do not want to see from your classmates in our classroom?
This may seem like you’re setting yourself up for failure, but you may be shocked at the strictness of some proposed expectations students will bring up at any grade level. For example, in my second-grade class, students have come up with some of the following expectations:
- Treat others the way they want to be treated (the platinum rule).
- Listen when others are speaking.
- Always be responsible in class by doing your work.
- Be respectful when someone thinks differently than you.
- Show kindness to others.
Regardless, having a discussion should lead to a cohesive set of four to five expectations for your classroom culture. By hanging it up on the wall, it will serve as a reminder of the agreement made between educator and students.
Model ideal behavior
Make a habit of demonstrating behavior you want to see, as modeling effectively teaches students how to act in different situations. For example, during curricular teaching moments, model what to do with a question you have and how to navigate the classroom with that inquiry. Setting up a classroom reward system for positive behavioral demonstrations will also help to bring light to examples of expected behaviors.
My classroom management system is based on the book My Mouth Is a Volcano! by Julia Cook, which I read to my students on the first day of school. Each student starts with three volcanoes. Students take off a volcano after receiving a warning for unexpected behaviors. At the end of the day, they get a point for each volcano that remains. They can also earn points for showing accountability, responsibility, compassion, and engagement throughout the day. They can also re-earn their volcanoes by correcting behaviors before the end of the day. The three volcanoes reset each morning. In the end, students can exchange their points for prizes or rewards.
Whether you are modeling or redirecting student behaviors, be sure to:
- Use polite language
- Maintain eye contact
- Explain clearly what your expectations are
- State when unexpected behaviors occur and what you hope to see from students moving forward
Ultimately, when it comes to classroom management for new teachers, your modeling and rapport with the students will be the deciding factors in making you a more effective educator.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of HMH.
Sammy Gonzalez is a contributor on Teacher's Corner—a treasure trove of on-demand, bite-size PD for educators—available to all users of Ed, the HMH learning platform. Teacher’s Corner gives you the support you want with an ever-growing library of professional learning resources from authentic classroom videos to tips from other teachers and our team of experienced coaches.
Learn more about Samuel Gonzalez's teacher story on our podcast Teachers in America, and reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you or someone you know would like to be a guest on the show.
Dr. Sue Chapman
Professional Learning Consultant, Heinemann