As September approaches, thoughts of content, new faces, and faculty meetings flit through the minds of educators as they sip their Mai Tais and dream of a life in paradise.
But for these educators, paradise is nothing compared to the vigor and reward that teaching can invoke. The beginning of the year is one of the most important times for teachers – one that could determine the amount of reward felt during the rest of the year.
Setting up classroom management practices is essential for maintaining a healthy learning environment and therefore should involve students as much as it affects them.
Student input is pivotal during the first days of school. Students are unbiased in terms of classroom management because they have yet to misbehave. This is the perfect time to ask students to determine fair rules and consequences for themselves and fellow classmates.
Involving students in the creation of classroom rules will help hold students accountable and remind them – when they are feeling singled out, they determined fairness, not the teacher.
Brainstorming classroom rules, norms, and consequences can be difficult for students. Teachers may encounter student pushback if students are struggling to see the relevance of the activity. Instead of asking students to conjure classroom guidelines without inspiration, consider providing relevant scenarios for students to respond to.
Scenario One: A student walks into class after breaking up with her boyfriend. She refuses to complete the assignment and insists on being able to use her phone to text her friends about the breakup, even though the classroom has a no-cell-phone policy. How should the teacher respond to this situation? Could the student have done anything differently?
Scenario Two: You trade places with your teacher for a week and suddenly you are in charge of four classes and 120 students. What guidelines do you set for your classroom and how do you enforce them?
Scenario Three: It’s time for a class discussion and today’s topic is controversial. You’ve been in class discussions before where your fellow classmates have yelled at one another. What guidelines should your peers follow today to make sure every person has a voice and that every opinion is respected?
Scenario Four: It’s the beginning of class and the same group of students is talking over the teacher while he tries to explain the day’s task. What should the teacher do? Are the students wrong for talking over the teacher?
Asking students to respond to scenarios is an effective way to gain insight into student behavior. It also gives students an opportunity to consider plausible situations from every point of view before the conflict becomes a reality. Students have an innate interest in morality, fairness, and conflict. If educators can call upon this need to be just, then they can involve students in one of the most important aspects of their learning.