While supervision and interactions in the classroom are imperative, positive classroom management techniques will move any early education teacher from zero to hero! Keep in mind that every classroom is different, yet simple and easy management techniques will make your day smooth and full of excitement.
Get to know your children
Remember the famous quote, “You have to reach them before you can teach them.” Children must have a strong sense of security and trust before any learning can take place. At the beginning of the school year, teachers should spend six to eight weeks doing nothing but getting to know the children. Learn their likes and dislikes. What are their strengths and weaknesses. Learn what excites them, and what turns them away. Refer to Gary Chapman’s “Five Languages of Love.” What fills each child’s love tank? What are their emotional triggers that instantly send them into a high range of emotions? One of the best classroom management techniques is to be proactive. Early childhood teachers must be one step ahead of every child, anticipating and predicting their every move. By doing so, you are able to prevent children from hitting triggers by distracting them with a activity that fills their love tank. Prevent the child from downshifting into their “fight or flight” mode when emotions get high. Getting to know your children is necessary for active calming.
The power of observation! Listen to what children have to say. Watch interactions during different times of the day. How do children enter learning centers? How to they exit learning centers? All children and adults have unmet needs. These needs must be met before learning can fully take place. Most of the time, the mystery behind the unmet need is right in front of our faces! One thing that is for sure about children, they are very predictable. By paying attention, you learn the patterns and sequences that make up each child’s personality.
Keep your Word
In order to have classroom management, you must have trust and respect. Trust and respect is not something that is instantly given, it has to be earned. Research suggest that children lose trust when adults fail to keep their word. Teachers and parents tend to make promises that cannot be kept. When adults do not keep promises, we sometimes expect children to “understand” the reason why. In order to maintain a positive classroom, teachers must see the world through the child’s eyes. We have to understand their version of reality. Whatever the reason why a promise was not kept, you need to ask yourself if the child has the appropriate skills to understand and comprehend the reason. In most cases, you will see that they do not. Once the trust is broken, it is very difficult for the child to maintain respect. Simply because they have become too familiar with disappointment.
Rather than making promises that you have no control over, teach the children about cause and effect. Let them know in a way the child will understand what needs to happen in order to get a particular result. For example, “if it starts to rain outside, then we will go to the gym to play.” Focus on what will happen, rather than what will not happen. Saying, “if it starts to rain, we cannot go outside to play” is a phrase the child may not understand the way you would think. You must tell children what they can do, not what they cannot do.
Everyone loves to be surrounded with positive energy. Positive energy is contagious. If you want a positive classroom, you must see yourself as the role model. The excitement starts with you. As soon as a child is born, they have the ability to feed off of adults emotions. They also have the ability to make adults feel what they are feeling. For example, when a infant starts to cry, they are letting the caregiver know that they have a unmet need. When the caregiver hears the crying, they have a change in emotion. Because of this, the caregiver meets the needs of the infant. This is the great thing about human interaction. We all have this ability. When feelings come from the heart, they can be felt by everyone around them. When you look at classroom management in this way, it becomes very easy. Your excitement, passion and love feeds the classroom!
Be a leader
Every early education teacher has leadership characteristics. If you didn’t, you would not be in this field of work. Children, families, and co-workers are looking to you for leadership. Your confidence will set you apart from other individuals in the world. Early education teachers must always see themselves as role models. You are always on stage and you have the most captive audience. Think about your favorite teacher you had while growing up. Why was this individual your favorite? What did they do, or not do, that made that lasting impression. Now think about yourself and your classroom management skills. Many times we see that the favorite teacher became your model. You have become that teacher. So now look at the children you are leading. Where will they be in 20-30 years? Now do you see it? You are a leader!
Mistakes are opportunities for learning. Statistically, adults make more mistakes each day than children do. Rather than getting frustrated with children’s mistakes, look at these as opportunities to teach! Teach children that when they do make mistakes, to accept responsibility for their actions. As we go through life, it is not the mistakes we make that define us, it is the way we recover from them .
Be in Control
When I say, “be in control,” I am not referring to who is in charge. Being in control means that you have self-control. You are role modeling attitudes and emotions. When aggression enters the classroom, you do not get emotionally hijacked. Remember, you are in control of your feelings and emotions. No one can make you upset or angry without your permission. When you say things like, “You are making me upset,” or “Look how you are making me act,” you are giving away your power. You are letting the children know that they are in-control of you. You cannot give this power away. Not only do we want to teach children active calming techniques, but you must be the pro at active calming!
While managing your classroom, you also want to continuously work to improve children’s awareness of themselves. When children feel good about themselves, and they are comfortable in their environment, they are less likely to act out or cause disruption. Both children and adults are more cooperative when they are in a positive environment that makes them feel good about who they are. Accepting children for who they are is very important to classroom management. When a child feels indifferent, they feel as if they do not belong. They feel that something is wrong with them, and they are unlike the other children in the classroom. When working with young children, you should always provide patients, understanding, cooperation and acceptance.
Have a positive greeting
The way you greet children first thing in the morning will define the entire day. Unlike adults, children often do not hold grudges. Everyday is a new day. Forget what happened yesterday and focus on a new day. Greet the child with nurturing love and encouragement that today will be exciting and fun day. Avoid using comments that refer to previous incidents. Focus on the here and now!
An early childhood center should always be a happy and cheerful place. When parents and children enter the center, they want to enter a warm and inviting environment. One of the greatest skills one can master in life is the ability to laugh at yourself. Encourage laughter through-out the day. Being funny doesn’t mean you are cracking jokes and making funny faces. A cheerful personality who looks for reasons to laugh brings joy to a classroom.
Love your student
Your students are your legacy. Everyday that they are in your classroom, you are making a lasting impression on the child and the family. Enjoy every moment of this. Love the child and what they bring to the classroom. Have compassion and empathy through-out every day. Let your children know that you love them through words of encouragement, your actions, and time.
Engage children with respect
If we were teaching a class strictly on respect, I would point out that with respect comes confidence. Once you trust each other, and the confidence is flowing, respect comes naturally. Keep one thing in mind. Respect is hard to earn, but very easy to lose.
“You have to reach them before you can teach them”
This is so important, I decided to throw this in here twice! Making the connection between student and teacher is imperative to classroom management. There has to be a mutual understanding of each other. When there is a absence of communication, the void is filled with negativity.
Here are some simple, but important items to remember when managing a classroom
Know their names
Sounds simple, right? Calling someone by names releases a feel good feeling. Calling someone by name also creates trust. Using a common nickname, such as “sweety” or “buddy” could make the child feel as if they are not as important as the children being called by their actual names.
Learn more about them
Go beyond the classroom. Learn about favorite toys, favorite vacations, favorite relatives. How is their bedroom decorated? What are their siblings names?
Choices help children build self-confidence. Respect the choices that children make. Ask open-ended questions about the choices they make each day.
Let them make decisions
Manipulate situations where children can make decisions in the classroom, encourage this process and praise the child for the decisions they make. This can be something as simple as where they sit at the lunch table or who they choose to play with on the playground.
Share personal information
No, you do not sleep in the classroom at night, you also have a family and a life outside of the classroom. Share with the class your family and your fun experiences. Let them know when you share fun things in the classroom with your family at home and how they responded. This helps build that self-concept mentioned above.
Speak with respect
No one likes to be yelled at, especially the children in your classroom. Watch yourself in the mirror, how would you feel if you were spoken to the way some teachers inappropriately choose to speak to children. This poor judgment and lack of self control does nothing but make matters worse. A respectful and assertive tone of voice will show the children you have control of your emotions, and will model the appropriate behavior to the children.
Praise Praise Praise
Your praise must be meaningful and true. Both children and adults can tell when affirmation is fake and unjustified.
Stop what you are doing when something remarkable happens
Remember a time that you met a goal or milestone and no one noticed. How did this make you feel? Not important I am sure. You probably felt less likely to strive to meet the next goal. You are working with children who are in the phase of self discovery. When they accomplish a goal, show your enthusiasm!
Don’t try to make children like you
This is something that comes naturally through actions and words, not through gifts and empty promises. Ask yourself this important question, would you rather be liked, or respected?
Don’t give in
Children are testing limits. Once you give in, they now know it is possible and will continue to push you further and further in the future.
Let me rephrase this one with one word… “compromise!” Compromising is a important skill that must be taught in early education.
Ask for parent involvement and keep parents informed
Make sure that everyone is on the same page. Strategies must be in place that are consistent between home and school. Remember, you are the teacher and it is your responsibility to recognize that mistakes are opportunities to teach, and that children have unmet needs. Telling a parent that their child is “misbehaving or not following the rules” is the same as telling the parent that you are not doing your job as an early educator.