Classroom Management: Presence is Everything…

Posted: July 17, 2012 in For Educators
Tags: , , , , , ,

For new teachers, creating a classroom environment that is safe, structured and focused on learning is one of the most challenging tasks. You will walk into new classrooms with unfamiliar faces and be expected to be in charge from the first bell. For some of you, establishing your presence may be easy, but for many others, it may take more time than you’d like. Establishing your presence can be done in many different ways.

You can be under 5 feet tall and command your students’ attention better than someone who is 6 feet tall. You can have an accent, a gentle voice, a kind face or a nurturing way… and still exude a presence that demands deference and respect. Being an expert at your subject area helps, but no one can tell you exactly how to become the most powerful person in the room. And to ensure that learning happens, you do in fact NEED to be known as the most powerful person in the room. It’s not simply a volume thing, a power thing, an aggressive thing or an intelligence thing. Establishing your authority must revolve around your commitment to teaching and your unwavering expectations regarding student conduct. Eye contact is vital with young people. While many other elements of establishing your presence are subjective to you and your strengths, eye contact is a non-negotiable. If your students do not see that you mean what you say in your eyes (even though many of them avoid eye contact), they will not believe that you are in charge.

Addressing every small violation of your expectations is also vital to establishing your authority. You do not need to remove a student from your room every time they speak without raising their hand, however, you need to address it immediately and label it as “not how things are done in your classroom”. Simply saying “please raise your hand if you’d like to contribute” and waiting for them to do so can do wonders with that student, and with every other student in the room. If you overlook small violations of your expectations, your students will quickly begin to feel too free and comfortable and your credibility will go way down each time you choose to ignore the small misbehaviors that should be unacceptable. Remember that every moment and every interaction either makes your future in the classroom less, or more stressful. The more attentive you are to the subtle ways students will challenge your authority and test your capacity for taking control, the more likely you’ll be able to focus on instruction more than classroom management. And know, with absolute certainty, that once you establish your presence, and prove to your students that you’re the ONLY authority in the room, then and only then will you be able to fully enjoy the texture and personalities of the wonderful kids sitting in front of you.

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