My name is Carol Dinsdale. I am the teacher of 2nd and 3rd grade students with Emotional and Behavioral Disabilities (EBD) at Mount Vernon Elementary School in St. Petersburg, FL. I am honored to have been chosen the 2005 Clarissa Hug Teacher of the Year, and I am a National Board Certified Teacher in the area of Middle Child Generalist (MCG). Many people ask why a teacher of exceptional children would pursue certification in this general education area. My job is to get my students (as much as I love them) out of my classroom and back into the general education environment. With the regular education MCG certification, I am confident my students are prepared to succeed when they leave my ESE room!
Since my background is in behavior, I’d like to start by addressing “classroom management.” According to Marzano, classroom management is mentioned in some form in practically every major study of factors affecting student achievement (2003, p. 88). It involves establishing and enforcing expectations and procedures, carrying out disciplinary actions, maintaining effective teacher/student relationships, and maintaining an appropriate teacher mind set.
Let’s start off with some basic classroom start-up strategies. Be proactive! Before students arrive, mentally walk through the day and try to anticipate the activities or situations in which problems could occur. Transition times, for example, tend to lend themselves to hands-on experiences (pushing and shoving) and wasted instructional time. Have a procedure in place for lining up to go to PE, the lunchroom, library, etc. My students know they are to be in ABC order. There are set procedures for passing out and collecting papers, coming to reading groups, etc. The line leaders as well as other classroom jobs rotate daily providing every child a chance to participate as a “manager” of some sort each week. Check your room arrangement. Our desks are in a U-shape allowing me easy access to each student. Inspect traffic patterns. Is your frequently used pencil sharpener too close to student desks?
Establish classroom expectations with student input. Humans strive toward a genuine sense of belonging. Listen to the students’ suggestions and discussion. Encourage the feeling of ownership: our class, our expectations, our jobs, our purpose. Why not rules? A “rule” is usually something imposed upon someone. An “expectation” involves looking toward the individual as a responsible party. The expectation list (no more than five) should be signed by each student implying there is a promise involved.
It is extremely important to model the behavior expected! For example, your students may have voted to “Be respectful of people and equipment through words and actions.” A discussion and possible role-play should follow covering specifics – tone of voice, inflection, gestures, as well as actions which are considered acceptable in one environment , but not in another. I received a phone call one morning from the grandmother of one of my students. She was taking him and his twin brother to Disney and before leaving the house asked them, “Now, boys, what kind of behavior am I expecting on this trip?”
“Good behavior, Grandma!” answered the brother.
“Vague terminology. Use specifics,” my student responded.
“Well, I know which twin is in Mrs. Dinsdale’s class!” chuckled Grandma.
Next week: Teacher attitude!
Marzano, R. J. (2003). What works in schools: Translating research into action. Alexandria, VA:
Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.