The First Year Teaching: Classroom rules and routines
Student defiance is a particularly unpleasant experience for all teachers, new and experienced. As a new teacher, you might be tempted to take the belligerent actions personally but it’s important to approach such situations with a rational, non-emotional stance. You want to avoid a chaotic classroom atmosphere where the actions of one (or a few) students lead the others to believe that defiant behavior is acceptable. It is common for new teachers to worry about defiant students, but by insisting students have control over their behaviors, you can avoid this unpleasantness. Here are some ways to approach the issue of classroom rules and routines and keep a peaceful classroom.
Don’t wait for the first defiant student to decide how you will handle the situation. Aim to start your teaching career by establishing defined routines and rules, which you can work on together with your students in the first few days of class. When your students are involved in defining these aspects of classroom life, they will be more likely to adhere to them as they will understand why each aspect is important.
Encourage collaboration in your classroom by helping students to work with and help each other. One example of good cooperation would be if you and your students work together on developing a reward system. Let us assume there are a maximum of 50 minutes in a school day which a student could have as free time. You and your students could make a chart to list “good” behaviors, focusing on how the 50 minutes of free time could be earned. “Helping a classmate in need” might be agreed to deserve 10 minutes, “organizing my desk” deserves five minutes, and so on. Alternatively, students could be divided into groups to discuss the matter, and come up with a poster outlining their ideas. Students could present their posters to other students and decide which ideas to include.
Active participation, including group work with other students and social environments, is essential when it comes to students’ learning. Avoid thinking that silence in the classroom means students are concentrating and perfectly absorbing the new materials. Indeed, discussion and group work helps students delve deeper into their learning materials. Some students might find it easier to ask questions to just a few of their classmates rather than speaking out in front of the whole class. An interactive classroom enhances learning for everyone, and you should be open to gaining new insights from your students. Active participation contributes to enhancing the thought process in students, since participation cannot arise without personal reflection on the topic.
It could be said that most classroom activities are governed by routines. From taking attendance to jumping out of seats at the last bell, students are to follow the routines made by the school, as well as individual teachers. You should aim to find ways to cut down on time needed for simple routines, such as initially having your students grouped in alphabetical order early in the year to make taking attendance easier. Although students might make changes regarding their seats after the first few days, consider distributing a seating chart diagram and having students write down their names on the corresponding spot. Have a seating chart on your desk and also a pocket size one which you can carry with you when moving around the classroom.
The earlier you set the routine and allow your students time to adjust to it, the more time you will save in the long run. Before deciding on the routines, to save students from confusion, consult with other teachers or an official school handbook to know the basic protocols. Most schools will have the basic set, so asking these questions is a good idea:
- How are attendance checks conducted and how should they be reported?
- What are the steps that need to be taken in the following cases: tardy students, sick and/or physically hurt students, students who cannot return home due to parents’ tardiness and/or missing the bus, students who have to be dismissed early, and seriously misbehaving students who need further discipline actions?
- How does the hall pass system work?
- How should failing grades be reported?
- What are the procedures for using common school items and/or booking special rooms?
- How should teachers deal with serious misbehavior such as cheating or stealing?
- How should individual parent visits and parent-teacher meetings be conducted?
Routines for checking attendance and collecting or distributing assignments need to be well established too. To get the students settled quickly at the beginning of the class, it is recommended that you give short tasks to students. One good way is to have a question on the board when students enter the room, then request that the students take their seats and start working on it quietly.
Why rules benefit students
Students appreciate knowing what actions and behaviors are allowed and which are not. Make consequences evident to your students so that they are able to appreciate the potential seriousness of their actions. Although these limits will prevent students from misbehaving, too many strict rules are unnecessary. Adjust your rules for each class to take into account the various characteristics of individuals. Just like routines, teachers should discuss the limits with the students and make applicable changes when they make sense.
It is more convenient to have a several rules that are general, instead of making numerous detailed ones. Some examples could include the following:
- Teachers should ask students to be ready to learn, just as teachers are ready to teach. That includes actions from students like discontinuing talking when the class is about to begin and to always be prepared with their supplies.
- When students come in, they should take their seats and start working on warm-up exercises.
- Be polite and respectful to others. This includes things such as not disturbing the class, not stealing other’s property, and not making fun of other students.
Teachers have to make sure that students know and fully understand the rules and then teachers should give a clear explanation of the consequences. In some cases, teachers may administer a test to check the student understanding of the rules. To remind students of the rules, teachers could have a copy hanging in the classroom where every student can see it, and should give copies to students and/or their parents as well
When the rules and consequences are determined and understood by students, the first step to a well-managed classroom has been put in place.