Teaching should not be the running of the bulls.
Too often teachers let students into the ring (classroom) anyway they want to enter, and then try to get control of these raging bulls after the bell rings.
So in they come–energetic, wild, frenzied, talkative, distracted.
It is better to head them off at the pass. This means, you stand at your doorway, and monitor every student as they approach the door. Let’s make this a step by step process.
1. Watch the student as they approach: Do they have their materials? Do they look calm and focused? Do they look serious about starting some academic business? Does any of their non-verbal communication look like they may be disruptive? If everything looks okay, proceed to Step 2:
2. Briefly stop each student and explain exactly what you expect of them as they enter–to enter the classroom quietly, politely, and in an orderly manner, to go directly to their assigned seat without talking, to take out their materials and begin working immediately on the assignment on the board.
3. Step 3 here is what separates the pros from the amateurs. The amateur settles for having explained this to the student. The pro adds the following to step 2: Make sure they make eye contact with you when you are explaining. If they become disrespectful tell them to stand aside while you let the other students enter. Ask them if they understand–have them look at you when they say ‘Yes’. Do not settle for a quick nod when all of the non-verbal communication says ‘I’m going back to full speed as soon as I enter the room.’ Slow them down emotionally if they are hyped up by having them take a deep breath and wait at the door until they are ready to enter.
If students start to pile up at the door, let the ones in who look the most ready to enter calmly. All will observe your attitude if you are talking to one student about what you expect, and realize you are serious about classroom management.
A concept that I constantly try to get across to teachers when it comes to classroom discipline is the importance of non-verbal communication. As teachers we can often think it’s the words that count–so if the student says they are ready for class we let them in. I wait until everything about the student’s body language, breathing, and non-verbal communication is respectful and indicates that they are ready to enter class in an orderly manner.
Otherwise I tell them to stand aside, breathe deeply, and get their act together before entering.
When each individual student has been instructed to go quietly to their seat in an orderly manner, your whole class will start out with the correct atmosphere and anyone not complying will ‘stick out’, making it easier to pinpoint your next discipline step.
If, by chance, someone slips by and begins talking or disrupting, call them back to the door. Have them try again. And again, if necessary. This sends a tremendously strong message to the student and the class–your standards for behavior are high and must be complied with.
In fact, sometimes I have on the first day of school called the whole class out again to practice going to their seats properly.
If you want to be a pro at this you will ignore complaints and have them practice as many times as it takes until they enter as you would like. That’s a strong message about your standards right from the get-go.
As teachers we want to spend all of our time teaching, not disciplining. This kind of technique is what will get you there.