We all went through it

I recently responded to a couple of my online students – early career teachers – about classroom management. Instead of focusing on tips, I thought I’d focus on the relative confusion I felt in those first years.

Dear Teacher,

I once taught German to native English speakers at a private school. The students were grades 6-8 and wild – out of control, basically. I tried things that didn’t work and some that maybe weren’t totally wrong.

1. I told them I would just wait until they got under control. Nope.

2. I brought fortune cookies and awarded them prizes if they were under control. Really bad idea.

3. I ran around outside the school with them to burn off some energy. Fun, but still out of control, and it was German class, not PE.

4. I ignored some of them who weren’t paying attention but weren’t causing a problem. Well, partial solution, but they weren’t learning German.

5. I called the parents. You’d think this was a good idea … maybe it helped?

6. I changed the seating. That helped some. 

7. I got them back up out of those seats and started doing active games that included German. This was better – at least I couldn’t tell they were out of control because running around and moving was built in.

8. We learned boisterous songs together, using call and response. This worked. Unfortunately I chose German drinking songs from Oktoberfest and that did not fit into the Waldorf curriculum.

9. I wondered a lot why this particular group of students should be learning German in the first place. Good question, but it did nothing for the behavior problems.

I don’t really remember how I got through the two years I was there – but I did. Pretty sure they didn’t learn much German. Sigh.

With all of that I’d like to say that as young teachers sometimes things seem really unclear – sort of a fog of “what is happening and why?!” that is pretty hard to see through. It gets better with time. You learn to create classroom management through the activities you are choosing and through developing rapport, individually and collectively, with the class. You can start to conduct like in front of an orchestra, where you don’t always have to be looking at everyone, where the music becomes a focus for everyone, where sometimes it’s the violas that need all the attention.

But this isn’t easy. It takes time and patience. It takes experimenting. Give yourself lots of time for that.

And … decide right now that what you will never do is yell at the students or shame any of them to exert your will. What you might gain for a moment you’ve lost for the rest of the year.

So don’t be hard on yourself. But experiment, ask others, observe classes when you can, get to know the students, don’t be afraid to have a laugh. You’ll get there.

2 thoughts on “We all went through it”

  1. Thank you for sharing your reflections on a shared experience. Your blog resonates with readers, fostering a sense of connection and understanding in navigating life’s challenges together.

  2. It’s all about relationships isn’t it Paul – and these take a while to develop. I also taught in a Waldorf School for three and a half years. I was not new to teaching, but it felt as if I was. It was a whole new world. After two weeks I thought I would have to leave as I had no classroom management and the students found it all hilarious. Once we had got to know one another, we had wonderful times learning together. Many still keep in touch 25 years later. It’s all about relationships.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *