Teachers who believe students are not supposed to be “managed” are correct. The manner in which they carry themselves in our classrooms; however, must be. I cannot (effectively) teach and the students certainly cannot learn if everyone is talking at the same time or vying for my attention. For those reasons, I need to implement some classroom management strategies that work. Even if they only work for 2 days, they are successful in my opinion.
No; I did not use them to clip any mouths shut, like Rhee did when she was
in over her head teaching in a predominantly Black school. Instead, I used those tiny, multi-colored paperclips to extinguish some disruptive behaviors.
I teach 6th grade Math and Science, with my largest class having 15 students. Teaching middle school is challenging enough for General Education Teachers, especially when class sizes are 28 or more students. Although my classes are much smaller; I still face other challenges. For example, my students may be two or more grade-levels below their peers; but, they are still expected to perform on-par with peers on state tests. Also factor in behavior issues that disrupt class in a myriad of ways. But, I refuse to let those things stop me from teaching Math. Two days before Spring Break, I had to think on my feet because the students were filled with anticipation and were unable/unwilling to focus on our lesson.
Anyone who teaches in Special Education knows that some of our students are accustomed to having their hands held for everything. I am the anti-handholding teacher. I am the anti “Dont ask me to check everything you do to see if it’s right” teacher. I am the “Everything I teach you will not be found in a book” teacher. You get my drift…I am a little different. I expect more, so I push them harder.
Ok, ok…exactly how did paperclips change my classroom management and spare my last nerve? We did a quick overview of perimeter and area before the break. Students complained about not “getting it” daily. I knew they had likely seen perimeter, but area is tricky if your previous Math instruction was limited to basic operations. I knew this because they had never seen a variable until I showed them in January.
Knowing that I was teaching the concepts very slowly and providing a whole lot of examples, it was time to curb the interruptions. On Thursday after finishing the ‘modeling’ portion of the lesson, I projected an image of a triangle on the interactive flat panel. Then, I instructed students to draw and label it. That’s when I started walking around to check work and drop paperclips on desks. As you probably guessed: They starting asking me about the paperclips; I kept moving with the lesson. For the calculations phase, I added a timer. This was done to remind them of the task at hand, rather than trying to rush them. Again, I walked around to check calculations and drop paperclips; still no explanation.
We continued with our lesson in almost complete silence. Do not get me wrong: I believe talking should occur during learning, but the talking cannot be counterproductive to the learning. So, while area and perimeter were the standards-based lesson on those days, my students also learned some more valuable lessons:
- If I want to ‘get this’, I have to pay attention;
- There are appropriate times and situations where I can ask questions/discuss with a neighbor;
- I am capable of figuring out some things on my own;
- I don’t always have to be correct; effort is just as important.
And yes, they were able to exchange their paperclips for candy. That’s the kind of teacher I am.