Monday, September 28, 2015

Classroom Management: Tip #1-Classroom Space

It is almost October and you are getting a little frustrated with some of your students.
Matter of fact, you are fretting going to that one class.

There are many roads to take to discover what the issue is and address it.

Keep in mind, You Can Do This!

One such avenue is taking a closer look at your classroom arrangement.

 Keep in mind that what you are trying to get good at is managing behavior so that you don’t have to revert to trying to discipline the class into doing what you want them to. 

(By the way, this never works. Have you ever seen the pirate flags and bumper stickers found in popular tourist spots that say something like, “The beatings will continue until morale improves?” This type of adult focus will fail as you might guess, so it is important to take a different path.)

I have visited many classes over the years and found numerous positive and supportive room arrangements just as I have found others that make you wonder where the kids are supposed to work.

Kids need space to move, work, and interact that doesn’t put them on top of each other. Here are three suggestions:

1.     On a Friday after school has let out, stop and look at your classroom. Is there too much furniture? Come on now, I was a teacher. Many of us are very good at finding that extra piece of furniture that we just can’t live without:  a lab table, a couple of filing cabinets, a rocking chair, antique book cases, one more puppet stage, an extra table and chairs, a large couch, etc. Too much furniture reduces the space that the kids and you have to move around. This can create a cramped feeling that makes kids on edge with each other. (This doesn’t mean that you can’t have that cool furniture, it just means that you should get rid of something when you add.)

2.     How about the actual arrangement of seats? Does it create deep rows that mean some of the kids are so far from you that they feel safe from being discovered for their off task behaviors? Have you placed the seats so that you can’t walk among the kids? Set-ups like these encourage misbehavior because there is a feeling of safety with so much (other kids, desks, and distance) between the teacher and the students at the furthest edge of the classroom.

3.     Think about where kid sits who is most likely to be off task and where you have the kids focus their attention most of the time. For example, do you talk from behind a podium at the front right of the room and your number one fidgety, off-task kid sits right near that podium. In other words, all eyes are on him? Maybe you placed the most unfocused student near the lab materials, tables, and equipment where the temptation is too much not to mess with stuff while he should be doing something else? If this is the case, it is time to change seat placement.

Classroom space can be a killer. The more students you have the more you should work to reduce the furniture that gets in the way of easy movement in the room.
As always, the number one key to classroom management is you.

You must understand that your behaviors have the greatest impact. So take a moment to analyze the use of the physical space in your classroom and make some adjustments.
You will be amazed how much it will help.

Here are some additional resources that can provide further suggestions.
Remember, you can do this!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

3 Strange Conversations I Have Had as an Educator

Art Linkletter was a radio and television personality. One his most famous programs was called House Party which ran from the 1940s through 1969. Arguably, his most famous routine was called Kids Say the Darndest Things. During this segment, he would ask a question of a child, usually somewhere between the ages of 3 and 8, and then work with what was said.

As an educator working with kids and adults, you never know what might happen. No matter what their age there are usually unique situations that arise. Some of these events would make you want to laugh and others cry, but no matter what there were many days where you might be wondering if you have been set-up by a hidden camera show (For those of you who remember Candid Camera -it has spawned many others- the situations could be quite funny).

Many of the comments were not funny at the time, but as you look back you wonder how you kept a straight face. Notice that I have included adults in this list. Here are just a few of the many that I remember. Do you have some that you remember?

·         Stripes and dots don't go together

I was a 10th grade high school world history teacher. One day during a lecture/discussion a young lady in the front of the class raised her hand. (Let’s call her Tammie.) I thought, “Awesome! When she asks a question it is usually right on the money and is excellent for keeping the class on topic.” She excelled at being insightful. She could talk with most adults about any topic, especially history. You want your topic to be connected to today? She would do that every time. I called on her, “Yes, Tammi?” Her response was, “Mr. Miletto did no one ever tell you that stripes don’t go with dots?”  The combination of my tie and shirt was evidently bothering her. So much for that wonderful conversation…

·         Sir, Please get down off the fence and pay at the main gate

During my early days as an assistant principal I was at a school that won very few football games. We were a new school and at that time other schools would pay you to come play them at their homecoming. Needless to say, when you have a consistent record of losing, your fan base dwindles instead of grows. Matter of fact, you mainly see parents of players, cheerleaders, band kids, and JROTC and fans from the other school and that is about it, especially if it is raining.

My career took me to a different environment. The new school was much bigger. Close to 2400 kids and was constantly going deep in the state playoffs. My new colleagues told me, just wait until the first game you have never seen anything like the number of fans that we have. I was thinking, “Yea-yea.”

I knew I was “no longer in Kansas” when we had to close down the parking lot two hours before school let out and make sure that no one had started placing their blankets and chairs inside the stadium. The parking lot was filled at least two hours before the game. A local church sold parking places. People were warned not to park in neighborhood driveways. I was amazed at the number of people. It got worse. As the game was beginning, we noticed that there were adults coming through the woods behind the stadium.  They were trying to climb the fence to sneak into a high school football game! Mind you…these were not kids. One gentleman was partway up the fence as I demanded, “Sir, please get down off the fence and pay at the main gate.” Wow, never thought that I would have to say that to someone. My duty station became that tree line for the rest of the evening.

·         And You Paid to Go To School, Right?

As a staff member at a high school, you may have duty throughout the school day. Often these stations are located at the bus ramps before and after school and in the cafeteria at lunch time.  The bigger the schools the more important it becomes to have an adult presence throughout the school campus to help prevent fights, smoking and other unwanted activities.

One wonderful September afternoon, I had duty in the cafeteria. This school was quite large. Matter of fact, there were 4 lunch periods and each had around 600 kids. On this fine day, I decided to stand outside the boys’ bathroom (the door opened into the cafeteria). This way I could smell cigarette smoke and hear what was going on in the restroom while watching the kids in the cafeteria.

As I stood there contemplating the earth, the universe and everything else, a young man came up and stood next to me. He didn’t say anything. He just planted himself against the wall next to me. I figured that soon he would say something and it didn’t take long.

“Mr Miletto, How many years did you go to college?” I answered, “I’m still going to school, but at this point eight years.” He commented, “And you pay to go to school right?”  “Well, yes.” “Ok…where are you going with this?” He noted, “So you paid to go to school for eight years so that you could watch us eat lunch?” Gee, “thanks for summing up my life like that,” I joked, and he smiled and walked away saying, “No problem.”  Yeesshh..

I have many more but let’s stop there.

Do you have any stories? 

Come on, I’ll be that you do.

Have a great week!