Today on my Twitter feed I read a quick bit about a new book soon-to-be-released by Harry Wong. Does that bring back memories? When I was in teacher training The First Days of School, How to be an Effective Teacher, Harry’s famous classroom management book was the go-to text for understanding how to prepare and what it would be like, inside a real classroom.
Fast-forward 20 years and although an elementary class of students is still primarily sitting inside 4-walls, the “management” is far from the same, and yet so vital to the success of the children. For me, it is the first and sometimes most important item I notice when I observe teachers. When the management of the classroom environment breaks down, kids are unengaged, the tools and systems they need to access aren’t readily available, and the teacher is increasingly ineffective at reining them in and helping them learn. Add to that our new classroom design: readily available technology access, an emphasis on independent work time instead of whole class lectures, and a classroom environment which often sees students sitting where they are most comfortable so they can best learn, and you have a whole new model to manage.
That said, I know I was never given guidance in how best to manage this new environment. What I learned I took from others because I knew what I was doing wasn’t working. (Thank you Sarah Toa.) I watched, I tried and I stole ideas. I believed organizing and managing the room in a way that provided the best possible learning environment was the necessary, professional thing for me to do. But I can promise you, professional development on the subject would have been helpful.
The question is, does classroom management require PD? Is it PD? To me, the answer is an easy yes. Developing as a professional is not just learning the “what” of your subject area or grade level. It is also learning the “how” of teaching. The practice of organizing and effectively managing a classroom environment is a huge piece of the puzzle. Especially when there are teachers who we know struggle with creating a classroom environment conducive to student learning.
There is often talk about the classroom of the future. I have no idea if we will ever actually get there. However, what is true is that the classroom of my childhood doesn’t exist anymore. Four rows of desks, the teacher at the front of the blackboard talking, me sitting still and listening or opening the same book as everyone else and working. That’s my memory of school and to a large extent, what I learned how to manage from Mr. Wong’s first book.
I’m glad you are back Harry Wong. It’s time to reemphasize classroom management for today’s teachers.
Are you interested in learning more about effective classroom management in today’s 21st Century classroom? Until Mr. Wong’s book comes out, here is a set of links via Education Week. You will need to sign up, but they are worth checking out.