My first year of teaching, I had what I thought was a horrible class. Every day I would dream those awful kids were gone, and a brand-new set of kids was in their place. Nice kids who would listen and not taunt me all day long. I wanted a new class.
Then one day the counselor had to take over because my students had gotten out of control. Within seconds she had them all sitting up straight, quiet, and listening with respect. Wait! Why wouldn’t they do that for me? They were like a new class, but with the same students.
Why the big difference? Human beings (aka our students) will respond differently depending on the situation. In the case of the counselor, they had an ongoing relationship with her that was different than their relationship with me. She knew what they were interested in. She knew their families. And she even knew their secrets. So they acted different when she was in charge.
This brings me to the first thing that needs to change if you want a new class: interactions.
If you find your interactions with your students have become a list of to-dos and not-to-dos, try talking to them about non-school things every once and awhile. Ask about their interests. Let them feel that you notice them as people. While I can’t guarantee that changing your interactions will instantly transform your students into a whole new class, I have seen this strategy work when nothing else will.
Secondly, change the physical environment. Rearrange the seating. Change the colors. Change the lighting. Add in music. Add a carpet. Take away some clutter. People (including our students) respond to their physical surroundings. When those surroundings change, chances are their behavior will too. It’s like a whole new class!
Systems and Routines
And finally, change up your systems and routines. If the old way isn’t working, it’s time for a new way.
I recommend two exercises from my book The Take-Charge Teacher: “What’s Bothering You?” followed by “The Ideal Class Activity.”
The “What’s Bothering You” activity isn’t hard: make a list of anything that’s bothering you in your class.
Then for the “Ideal Class Activity,” imagine what a perfect class would do, step by step. This will then turn into your new systems and routines.
Would you like templates for these two activities? You can get them here, along with all the other resource materials from The Take-Charge Teacher, totally free. Just let me know where to send them, and they’ll be on their way.
Instead of spending the rest of the school year wishing and hoping for a new class, why not try new interactions, a new environment, and some new routines? Things will almost certainly improve, at least a little. And who knows? Maybe you’ll even get that brand new class you’re wishing for.
Now go create a great day for yourself and your students!
Katrina Ayres, Positive Teaching Strategies
Additional Awesome Teacher Nation Resources
- Create a Great Day for Yourself and Your Students
- 5-Minute Classroom Management Hints
- The Take-Charge Teacher
- All The Ways I Screwed Up My First Year of Teaching
- The Classroom Teacher’s Coloring Book
- The Classroom Teacher’s Coloring Book, Volume 2
- Why Threats and Punishments Don’t Work
- Saving Time on Paperwork and Grading
- 7 Strategies to Deal With the Pencil Sharpener
- What’s the BEST Classroom Management Strategy?
- Taming the Chaos: How to Create and Effective Classroom Routine
- Making Money as an In-Demand Substitute Teacher
- A Day in the Life of a Substitute Teacher
- The Substitute Teacher’s Troubleshooting Guide