An example theme
‘A teacher who can’t manage the classroom is only fun during the first lesson, after that it is a nightmare.‘
Some teachers are naturals at teaching. They are not authoritarian, never yell nor threaten to punish if not necessary. They do not have supernatural gifts nor are they more charismatic than their colleagues. Often they are people who do not accept disorder. They do not talk to pupils who make no effort to listen to them, but they wait until it is quiet. They are at their best in an orderly classroom setting and create that setting themselves. These people communicate their customs and ground-rules, and they set rules that are acceptable to everyone. These teachers see order as a style of managing. In their class there is order right from the start.
Fear of discipline problems, of disorder and chaos is on every teacher’s mind. Sometimes this fear results in a situation in which the teacher takes the highest place in the pecking order and rules as a despot. For fear of detention no one dares to open their mouths in these lessons. A teacher like this has all power, and in his class you feel a tense order. How very different to the atmosphere in the class of a teacher who creates a relaxed order. He creates a situation in which everyone agrees to the distribution of power and roles; to behaviour; to who is in charge; and to how the class is managed.
Pupils feel comfortable in these classes as there are ways of interacting that everyone can agree with. Discipline, agreements, customs and ground rules are not empty words here. This is how the pupils live outside the school. Pupils also follow ground rules outside the school walls: in their jobs, sports clubs and during their driving lessons.
A lot of research has been put into defining the characteristics of effective schools. Results clearly indicate that order is one of the most important ingredients. High on the charts are also discipline, a tidy environment, exemplary behaviour, interacting decently with each other, structure, qualified leadership and making best use of class and study time.
The time issue is directly related to order. A teacher with discipline or authority problems loses out immensely on effective time-keeping in class: often more than half the time is lost, and sometimes one can barely see any teaching taking place.
Your pupils also find order important. ‘A teacher who can’t manage the classroom is only fun during the first lesson, after that is is a nightmare’, pupils remark. ‘Never despair’ is the message for teachers with potential discipline problems. It is a common problem in all schools and it is comforting to know that there is little relationship between order and the age and or the cognitive level of pupils. Order in the group mainly depends on the teacher who is in front of the class. That teacher himself can reaffirm authority and ensure that there is order and a pleasant atmosphere. This may not be easy, but fortunately creating order can be learned through class management.
Teachers can do something about this themselves.
Ingredients for class discipline
A realistic self image
An appropriate self image contributes significantly to the ability to create order. It is important for teachers to know themselves and to know how pupils see them and what they think of them. Try to find out. Establish contact with your pupils and your colleagues!
Order is certainly related to rules. Every school has general ground rules about, for instance, chewing gum, eating and drinking in class, wearing coats and caps and listening to music.
Unambiguous body language
Walk upright, maintain eye contact, and use a certain amount of facial expression and gesticulation. Talk with your eyes, your entire face and with your hands. Strut with guts but do not be arrogant. You are initially identified by your body language. Relaxed rules on dress codes in schools are not reason to look shabby. If you feel that you look good, your self-confidence gets a boost!
Order also has to do with leadership that is accepted, and your personality is the source, or basis, of that leadership. Every group needs a leader. If the teacher does not take the lead, the pupils will. And once they have the lead, they do not want to relinquish it.
If I am talking to you, and grab my cell phone during our conversation to start another conversation, what would you think? You would find me rather rude. So why accept it in class? Fundamental rules of decency state that two people never talk at the same time. This is the rule in class as well. ‘We agreed, ‘the teachter says, ‘that you would not interrupt me.’ ‘We never agreed that,’ is the cheeky puils’ reply. And the pupils are right. You called it an agreement, but is in in fact a requirement or rules, which are not negotiable.