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Classroom Management - The Rules and a Rhyme

Do you ever wonder why good teachers quit?  Why dynamic, energetic teachers decide they would rather work at McDonalds than mold our future leaders in the classroom?  I must admit, I’ve thought about it more than once.  When talking with teachers that were reaching their limit or considering walking away several issues were mentioned including too much testing and needless paper work, lack of administrative support and their inability to motivate and control their classes.

Classroom management is something that experienced teachers think very little about.  Fred Jones calls those teachers the "naturals".  They are the ones that just intuitively do what needs to be done in the classroom.  They always seem to get the "good kids" and they always seem to cram a couple of years worth of learning into one.  When interviewed, these teachers may not even realize that they are doing all sorts of strategies that keep their students on task.  Natural.  They just get it.  If you aren't familiar with the work of Fred Jones and are struggling with classroom management, I highly recommend his material.

For the rest of us, we may need a little more direction.  As a music specialist, I don't get several hours a day to work on procedure and routine.  I get mere minutes a week.  Classroom management is also quite different than it was twenty years ago.  When I started teaching I was told that I needed to have classroom rules and consequences for each one.  I was also told not to smile until Christmas and never, ever, raise my voice.  

Uhm…what?  I teach music.  That means that sometimes my room is loud.  Good loud.  Productive loud.  Musically loud.  Awesome loud.  I have to raise my voice to get attention, because clapping ta ta titi ta can’t always be heard.  Don’t smile?  I teach MUSIC!  Do you know how joyful that is?  Do you know what an impact music can have in the lives of the students we teach?  Don’t smile?  Honey, I can’t stop smiling!  I love what I do!

So I started with three rules that I have used every year.

Classroom Rules by Mrs. King

Simple, right?  Here’s how I break this down with students:

1.  Respect Yourself
If you walk into music class and knock over all of my chairs are you going to get in trouble?  *wide eyes and lots of nodding here*  If you come in and smack your neighbor in the back of the head are you going to get in trouble? *gasps and more nodding*  Those are not smart decisions are they?  We can respect ourselves by making good choices and not doing things we know are going to get us into trouble.

Another way to respect yourself it so not put yourself down.  Some people in here are already amazing singers.  Some people in here can already play an instrument or dance like a rock star.  Most of us aren’t like that yet.  We are still learning.  There are somethings that we will be great at and other things that we will need to practice before we are good.  I don’t ever want to hear you say “I’m stupid!” or “I can’t get anything right!”  Respect yourself by thinking positively and not putting yourself down.

2.  Respect Others
Remember that I said that some of us are already good at things and the rest of us are still learning?  Well, it is not okay to put your neighbor down either.  Find a way to be encouraging, not insulting.  If someone is singing too loud or not very well instead of saying “You sound like my hound dog!” you could say “Maybe you could sing a little softer.  Keep trying.  I know you’ll get it!”  Respect others with your words.

Other ways to respect others is to respect their personal space, their time to talk and their ideas.
Mrs. King is ALSO an “other” person.  Don’t touch her things without permission, in fact, the only things you should touch in music class are the carpet and your chair.  Everything else needs permission.

3.  Respect the Property of All
If you look around the music room you will see some pretty amazing things!  Beautiful instruments, puppets, drums, books, craft supplies, games and…oh my goodness…it is a very exciting place to be!  Unless you have permission you shouldn’t touch anything.  Mrs. King’s property and the school’s property are just as important as yours. 

Respect the property of your classmates.  Don’t move their supplies, touch their jackets or take their things.  Treat your neighbor like you would like to be treated.

At the beginning of every school year (and sometimes mid-year) I go over these rules with my students.  With some classes this conversation lasts just a few minutes.  With other classes we might spend 10 minutes or more talking about them.  Is it worth it?  Absolutely!  Classroom management starts with a plan.

When I first started teaching, my principal was a big fan of using writing as a punishment.  Sentences, paragraphs or definitions were all favorites.  I was a little worried, because I really wanted my students to love writing, but that was their recommendation for students in 2nd grade and up. Instead of sentences I created a poem about the classroom rules for students to copy.  Three hundred and thirty one words of pure poetic magic!  Well, that’s what I told my students.  After we talked about the rules, I would read this poem (or project it and have them read it).  When they got in trouble, this is what they copied.  (This is actually an edited version of the classic poem.  I took out the section about rocks and tire from the playground.)

After a couple of years I moved to a new district and this kind of fell to the wayside as a punishment, but I used it each year as an introduction to my expectations.  One year I had a group of boys beatbox and rap it for me!  LOL.  What fun!

I hope that you’ll join me for the next few blog posts on the topic of classroom management. In my next post we will dive into consistency, routine and organization-the backbones of great classroom management.

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