Social Sundays: Controlling the Chaos

My first year teaching I started with a new class three months into the school year.  The teacher who had started in the classroom had suddenly left to start graduate school, and the school was in need.  I had three preps, no curriculum, sixty kids and a classroom that was literally falling apart.  Chairs broke nearly daily.  The class was chaos.  I spent the first months just trying to corral kids every day and surviving.  I was miserable, and the students weren't learning anything.  Something had to change!

One day at my limit of frustration, I just stopped and asked them about them.  I asked them to write me a letter about themselves, what they were interested in, what they expected from me, and what they were committed to do to be part of the learning community.  In short I got to know them.  And they got to know me.  They were so excited to share that they forgot to be a "nightmare."  I was so happy that I took a whole week on get to know each other activities.  It was like a first week of school but halfway through the year.  

Getting to know my students transformed the classroom.  We were in this together for the first time.  They allowed me to make mistakes (many!), and I worked with them to create an environment in which they could learn.  The last few months of school were calmer, more effective, and even enjoyable.  

What I learned in that first year is that:

  • Getting to know your students is ESSENTIAL
  • If your classroom management is ineffective, change it.  
  • It's better to stop and get an effective working class than to slog through the curriculum.  In the end more learning will take place.
  • Do not underestimate the value of treating students as individual people not just another group of students.
Whether you are starting the year off or are halfway through, take a moment to get to know your students.  It will make every day after a little better.  For specific ideas and activities for getting to know your students and classroom management, check out the following: 

Social Sundays is a bi-weekly post sharing tips, ideas, resources, and products for teaching social studies.  If you have questions or think there is something I should share, you can leave me a message in the comments below or at the store in the question and answer section.



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