Part of how I’m prepping for the school year this summer is by reading and taking notes on some classroom management and subject specific teaching books. My teaching experience is kind of unusual–a year as a K-8 technology teacher, a year teaching a self-contained 6th grade class in a middle school, and then a year as a 6th grade English Language Arts/Social Studies teacher. The first two jobs I took because I needed them; this past school year was the first where I was teaching the grade level and subjects I wanted, and that made a huge difference.
It was also the first year I felt I was really starting to understand classroom management. In both previous jobs, I had been hired late and thrown in without time to prepare, so I was overwhelmed with adjusting to a new school and figuring out what I was teaching that adding classroom management on top of everything was a struggle. This year was much better, but there were a lot of things I would have done earlier in the year, and other things I want to try. Classroom management is tough: so much of it you really have to learn by doing, which includes learning by making mistakes.
My BTSA mentor recommended some strategies from Teach Like a Champion, which I quickly tried and which were really amazing to see in action. A lot of them were pretty basic, some of which I had already heard about, but the way the book explains the rationale behind techniques made them much clearer for me and won me over. I kept hearing that you should wait until the whole class is quiet and paying attention before giving directions or instruction, and I always thought that was unrealistic. But Teach Like a Champion explains that if you don’t, you send the message that it’s okay for not everyone to pay attention–you set the norm that it’s acceptable to ignore you and do whatever. Thinking about it in that light completely changed my attitude towards that concept.
There are some things in the book I’m not crazy about or don’t completely agree with, and I’m as a rule skeptical of charter schools–which are the basis and examples for the techniques in the book. But so much of what’s in the book are things I’ve heard from workshops and from other teachers, but broken down in a concrete way that makes me feel like I can actually implement them. I love teaching, and before I decided to be a teacher I’d been involved in high school debate and tutoring for a while, but I’m not someone who instinctively knows what to do in front of 31 12 year olds (assuming there exists such a person). I need specific, concrete strategies, and I need to know the rationale behind them, and I need clear instructions for implementation. This book delivers on all that. Taken together, the strategies support the idea of an organized, supportive, productive classroom that strives for excellence and doesn’t allow excuses. There’s a lot of ideas for how to keep the power dynamic in your favor, which is particularly useful for teaching middle schoolers, who are constantly trying to see how far your authority goes.
I know I’m not going to be able to implement all the techniques at once. Now that I’ve finished the book, I’ll be looking over my notes and figuring out how to roll them out, and what they will look like in my classroom. I start teaching at a debate camp in a few weeks, and I’m excited to use some of the strategies there.
I’m not sure how helpful this book would be to more experienced teachers. But if you’re fairly new like I am and are looking to introduce more structure into your teaching, this book is a great resource.