Tracking & collecting missing work may just be the bane of many teachers’ existence. It can be so hard to keep everything straight & incredibly frustrating trying to hound students to get it turned in.
Aside from simply throwing zero’s in the gradebook and moving on, there’s no simple solution. But we do have some tried-and-true suggestions for how you can take this big problem and turn it into something much more manageable.
Get notes & download editable forms at www.teach4theheart.com/missingwork
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As teachers, we all experience the annoyance of those no-name papers. No longer!
Join us to discover 13 smart ways to eliminate no-name papers – or at least how to handle them without the stress.
Get notes & links at www.teach4theheart.com/noname
Get 50 Classroom Procedures that Will Save Your Sanity at www.teach4theheart.com/procedures
Angela Watson’s 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club is accepting new members now through Tuesday, January 9.
You CAN be a great teacher without letting it take over your life. Start your journey towards work/life balance and find a way to teach that is actually sustainable.
Join now (or find out more) at www.teach4theheart.com/40 *
In this special episode, Elizabeth Chapman join us to discuss how the 40 Hour Teacher Workweek is helping her finally stop the crazy, out-of-control overwhelm of teaching.
She also shares practical tips you can implement right now to save time and take a step towards balance.
Find out more about the 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club at www.teach4theheart.com/40hourteacher
Get notes & links at www.teach4theheart.com/stop
Angela Watson is hosting an amazing 5-day challenge for teachers: Goodbye, Teacher Tired: 5 days to doing fewer things, better.
She's teaching not how to cram more into your already jam-packed day - but how to eliminate unnecessary time-wasters & do fewer things better.
Join for free at www.teach4theheart.com/tired .
*This challenge may only be available for a limited time.
Find out more about her amazing 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club at www.teach4theheart.com/40
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If you give cumulative exams to your students, you shouldn’t be leaving them on their own to study for them.
Join us as we discuss 8 ways to help your students prepare for cumulative exams – ways that will not only help them excel on the exam but will also teach them valuable study skills so they can better learn on their own.
Get notes & links at www.teach4theheart.com/exams
Whether or not to grade homework (or classwork) is a hotly debated topic amongst teachers, one I struggled with myself for a long time.
However, I found a solution that worked great for both me and my students, an unconventional way to grade homework that I’m sharing with you today.
Get notes & links at www.teach4theheart.com/gradehomework.
Check out our books at www.teach4theheart.com/books
Has teaching left you stressed, frustrated, or even discouraged?
In Teach Uplifted Devotions for Teachers you'll discover how to...
But be warned: This is not a collection of light, fluffy feel-good stories. These powerful devotions will completely transform the way you view your life, your classroom, and your relationship with God.
Get your copy at www.teach4theheart.com/devotions
As teachers, we should create an environment where cheating is difficult and requires effort, not easy and constantly tempting.
Join us as we discuss 8 simple ways to prevent cheating in your classroom, especially during formal assessments.
Get notes & links at www.teach4theheart.com/cheating
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Ever struggle with whether or not spelling should be part of your students’ grade in non-language classes?
Join us as we discuss this tricky question – as well as a creative solution.
Get notes & links at www.teach4theheart.com/spelling
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Teachers are crazy busy & every little time-saving technique helps. Join us today as we discuss an easy time-saving hack that will make your life just a little bit easier.
Get notes & links at www.teach4theheart.com/hack
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Are you struggling to control your classroom? In this episode, we share how our premier program Classroom Management 101 will give you a complete, organized system that ensures you don’t miss any of the crucial elements of great classroom management.
Get more info or join now at www.teach4theheart.com/cm101
When it comes to discipline and classroom management, there’s an important question each teacher must ask himself.
Join us as we discuss this important question & the implications it will have on your classroom management success.
Get notes & links at www.teach4theheart.com/motive
Sign up for the free Classroom Management Solutions training at www.teach4theheart.com/training
Being consistent in our classroom management can be tough, but it is also extremely important.
Join us as we commiserate a bit about how hard it is to be consistent then jump into a simple plan to finally conquer this challenge.
Links & notes at www.teach4theheart.com/consistent
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Get more info about Classroom Management 101 at www.teach4theheart.com/cm101
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How should we as Christian teachers handle controversial issues like the pressure to promote the LGBT lifestyle? Join us as we discuss this challenging but important questions.
Get notes & links at www.teach4theheart.com/controversy.
Register for the free Teach with Faith, not Fear training at www.teach4theheart.com/teachwithfaith
Find out more about Christian Educators’ Association Intl at www.teach4theheart.com/ceai
Teaching can be overwhelming, but that doesn't mean you have to be perpetually frustrated.
Join us in Teach Uplifted to renew your passion for teaching by finding joy & peace in Christ.
Get all the details or join now at www.teachuplifted.com.
In this episode, we examine the difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset and discuss why a growth mindset is so important.
We then explore a simple 6-step framework you can use with your students to help them change their thoughts about challenging situations.
Get the growth mindset worksheet (as well as links & notes) at www.teach4theheart.com/growthmindset.
We teachers are no strangers to conflict - but it's even more challenging when it's with those who should be on the same team (parents, fellow teachers, administrators, etc.)
Join us as we discuss how to resolve this conflict & even use it to produce more meaningful relationships.
Get notes & links at www.teach4theheart.com/conflict.
We teachers are certainly no strangers to conflict. Sometimes it feels like we're more a ref than a teacher. Helping kids navigate their conflicts can be challenging, but it can also be one of the most rewarding aspects of the job.
But the kids' conflicts are not the only ones we deal with. We sure are in the middle of a lot of conflict ourselves, aren't we? Who of us hasn't been chewed out by a parent, criticized by a student, or butted heads with an administrator? And these personal conflicts are often even more difficult and frustrating because they are just that - personal.
Regardless of where the conflict is coming from, one of the biggest keys to handling it well is to think win-win.
The concept of thinking win-win is nothing new, but it sure can be revolutionary in a classroom. Stephen Covey talks about it extensively in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, but I started understanding the concept in a faculty meeting. (Yes, some good things can come of faculty meetings
I t took some time to really understand how to think win-win and how to flesh out that thinking in the classroom, and it's still definitely a work in progress. Too many times I forget about thinking win-win altogether. But, wow, when I do, it sure does make a difference!
So how exactly do you think win-win in your classroom? Well, I'm glad you asked. (Come to think of it, these ideas work pretty much anywhere.)
1. Realize you are all on the same team.
Teachers, parents, students, and administrators - we are all on the same team. It may not feel like it at times (okay, it definitely doesn't feel like it at times), but we are.
We have a common goal: we want the students to learn, grow, and succeed. Before we can resolve our conflicts, we have to realize this concept for ourselves. It's not us versus administrator or us versus a parent or us versus student. We all want the same thing at heart. We are on the same team.
2. Treat others like you are all on the same team.
Knowing you're on the same team isn't enough. You have to translate this into your actions & actually treat that parent who's criticizing you like you are on the same team (now here's the hard part) even when - especially when - they don't act like it.
When someone else is making it a them-versus-you situation, take a minute to give some perspective. Remind them that you are on the same team, that you have the same goals, and that you want to work together to find a solution. This disarming approach can open the door to a conversation that is actually productive, not destructive.
3. Don't get defensive.
I know our first inclination is to defend ourselves, but this is not the best approach. Instead, start by trying to genuinely understand the other person's concern.
In order to have a win-win, you have to first understand what the administrator/parent/teacher/student truly wants. Then, and only then, can you explain your reasoning and find a solution that will benefit all. (This is also the only way to figure out if it is all a big misunderstanding.)
4. Find the real issue beneath the surface problem.
Often the real issue is not the one that's brought to our attention. The real problem is something deeper - something that's making this issue seem much bigger than it is.
I remember one student-student issue where one girl was upset with her friend for taking her pencil. That seemed incredibly stupid, but when we talked about it, there was a deeper issue. I can't remember all the details of this particular 7th-grade drama, but the friend had said or done something quite hurtful earlier in the week, and that was the true cause of the contention. It just manifested itself with a pencil theft.
To resolve conflict, we must find the problem beneath the problem. Otherwise, we're just putting a Band-Aid on a gaping wound.
5. Look for creative solutions.
If you've followed the steps above, often the conflict seems to work itself out. But sometimes, a solution still seems elusive.
In this case, it's time to get creative. Think outside the box to discover a solution that will be the best for everyone involved. Invite the other person to suggest ideas, seek advice from someone wise, and spend time in prayer seeking God's wisdom.
6. Speak the truth in love.
Throughout your conversations, speak the truth in love. Both parts are equally important. Speak the truth - be open and honest, and say the hard things that need to be said. But speak them in love. Kindness and understanding will go a long way.
When we're talking with students, we often revert to reprimanding. But it's much more effective to talk them through the situation. Help them see the why behind your decision, and listen and respond to their questions.
[Or course, this doesn't mean you have to tolerate backtalk. If that's been an issue, check out my post "Handling Students’ Complaints and Not-so-sincere Questions."]
7. Pray with & for the other person.
If the person you're having conflict with is a fellow Christian, take a moment to pray with them. Prayer can help unite our hearts and remind us that we have the same ultimate purpose.
And if you can't pray with them, pray for them. And watch how God will change your own heart and guide you day-by-day.
Is the start of class a bit hectic? In this episode, we discuss practical tips to get your class started without all the chaos.
Get notes & links at www.teach4theheart.com/startclass
Get the free classroom management minicourse at www.teach4theheart.com/minicourse
When I first started teaching there was only one word to describe the start of class – chaos.
I remember standing in front of my class as the bell rang wondering how on earth I was going to get their attention.
With half the class talking, 5 kids walking around the room, and 2 more coming in late, it seemed hopeless.
But it actually wasn’t as tough as I thought. There were just a few key things I was missing.
So whether your class is pretty much out of control or if it could just use a little fine tuning, here are some things I’ve learned about the start of class.
1. Have an assignment posted.
If you're not starting class with some type of assignment, you've got to try it. A start-of-class assignment truly makes such a huge difference because it gives your students something productive to do while you complete all of your administrative tasks such as taking attendance. Have a consistent place in your room where you always post the assignment.
Not sure what to use as your assignment? Keep reading - we'll give some tips for what makes a good start-of-class assignment in just a minute.
2. Teach your students to start the assignment without prompting from you.
Now, this is where I went wrong. I had an assignment, but if students don't start working on it, then it's not going to do you any good.
You have to train your students to sit down and get started without your having to say anything. If you're not even in the room they should automatically go to their seats and get started on the assignment before the bell even rings.
And, no, it's truly not impossible.. But it doesn't happen by accident. You have to be intentional about training them to do this. Check out my post "How to Teach Procedures that Your Students Will Actually Follow" for specific directions on how to make it happen.
3. Have a plan for what you'll do if students aren't on task when the bell rings.
At first, you're going to have to train your students to get right to work so that they're already busy when the bell rings. But after the class has learned the procedure, you'll need a plan for what to do when a few students (or occasionally half the class) are still talking or disruptive after the bell.
The most important thing is that the start-of-class assignment should need no explanation. I know, I know – there’s always a kid who wants an explanation. But it should be simple enough that you don’t feel guilty saying, “You need to read the directions and figure it out for yourself.”
It could be some review questions from the textbook, a journal prompt written on the board, or a separate worksheet with a quick exercise. Simply ask yourself, “What do my students need more practice/help with?” and then come up with a short activity that will help them master that skill. Keep in mind that you can use the same activity for more than one day and just give them 3-5 minutes at the start of each class to work on it.
If you're not sure what would work best for your class, ask a fellow teacher at your school or in our Facebook discussion group.
If you happen to teach middle school math, you can grab a set of the practice exercises I used here.
Start our free classroom management minicourse & regain control of your classroom in just 3 days.
No matter where we teach, we should be striving to show Christ to our students. Here's 10 ways we can do that each day.
Get notes & links at www.teach4theheart.com/showChrist.
Join the prayer challenge: www.teach4theheart.com/prayerchallenge.
If you're a Christian teacher, it shouldn't matter where you teach. Our goal should be the same - to show Christ to our students.
Some of us can be more open and apparent, but all of us can and should be intentional about showing Christ and His love in every way we can.
When I think about sharing Christ, the first thing that pops into my head is talking about Him. And while we should certainly take advantage of every opportunity we get to talk about God & His truths, just talking about Him isn't enough. Our students need to see Christ in us. We need to showthem who He is. And that's something every one of us can do - no matter where we teach.
I wish I could say I'm always a perfect model, but I'm not. None of us are. But with God's help we can continue to grow closer - in our personal walk, in our testimony, and in our portrayal of Him.
Let's look at a few ways, in particular, that we can model Christ in our classrooms.
Unleash the power of prayer on your students and school. Simply commit to pray for them for 21 days & see what God will do.
Are you nervous, even anxious, about the coming school year? Join us as Trish Lott shares lessons she learned through her "nightmare year of terror" - specifically, how to overcome back-to-school anxiety.
Download your free Who I Am in Christ Biblical Affirmations at www.teach4theheart.com/backtoschoolanxiety.
Join our free prayer challenge at www.teach4theheart.com/prayerchallenge.
Find out more about CEAI at www.teach4theheart.com/insurance.
When God wants to stretch me, He doesn’t consult me because if things were left up to me, my life would always be comfortable.
After completing my second year of inner-city teaching, urban education seemed way too challenging, so I applied to teach at a private Christian school because I thought it would be my dream job and let’s be honest more “comfortable”.
The truth is, I have spent most of my life seeking comfort while avoiding my long list of fears: you know, fear of embarrassment, fear of failure, and fear of not being liked just to name a few.
During my 3rd year in the classroom every one of my worst teaching fears came true.
My anxiety was so consuming that I wanted to give up nearly every day, but I couldn’t run this time.
I was forced to face my fears.
Thankfully, the Lord met me in that dark place, and I have never been the same.
As the school year begins, you may be battling feelings of inadequacy, fear and even dread, but I hope that my story and the lessons I learned will encourage you to push past fear and trust God like never before!
Let me tell you about the season I have nicknamed… “My Nightmare Year of Fear!”
Within the first 3 weeks of school, the principal’s son started a petition to get me fired and a third of the 8th grade class signed it before the boy felt bad and stopped. I found out months later, but the damage was already done.
Another teacher’s son spread a vicious lie to the parents accusing me of looking at inappropriate materials on the internet and cursing in class. The parents believed it and never checked with me. I found out by accident and was completely broken hearted.
Before Christmas break, I found out that my students created awful memes making fun of me and spread them throughout the school via social media. I was crushed to know that I was a joke to my students.
Hoping to build relationships, I shared my testimony with a few of my classes only to have some of the students invent graphic details that I never said and once again enrage the parents based on lies. I felt helpless in my attempts to build relationships.
The students were incredibly intimidating and challenged me publically day in and day out!
It seemed that their favorite game was “test the teacher!” Every “trick” I had learned up to this point just didn’t seem to work on these kids.
Each day felt like I was auditioning for my right to be a teacher at their school, and the “judges” were not nice.
I had students that were actually looking for me to make mistakes, so that they could tell their parents. When I didn’t mess up they would make things up. Many parents treated me cruelly—when they bothered to talk to me at all—and I cried myself to sleep most nights only to face more tears in the morning.
Sadly, I could go on and on about how I was lied about, made fun of, verbally attacked and intimidated by parents and students for a whole year while the administration did nothing but blame me.
The good news is God does not waste pain!
The Lord taught me some powerful lessons during that difficult year.
Sometimes as a teacher your worst fears do come true, but with God’s grace you will make it through stronger, wiser and more skilled!
1. Don’t be intimidated by anyone because God is your defender and your protector!
A teacher’s world is filled with potentially intimidating people and situations. Yet Proverbs 29:25 says, “Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but trusting the LORD means safety.”
Normally we fear people because of what we think they can do to us. The fears can range from the fear of being mocked to the fear of being fired.
During my Nightmare Year of Fear, it seemed like intimidation was lurking around every corner.
Parents. Terrified. Me.
Some parents would send scathing two page emails at the drop of a hat.
Other parents would skip right over speaking with me and go straight to the principal or even higher before I had a hint that anyone was upset.
A few parents ripped me to shreds face to face.
Since students were constantly lying about me for fun, I was never sure which parents were mad at me, and I didn’t know if the stories they were told were even true.
My school’s administration wouldn’t tell me about most of the complaints, but I constantly found out in odd little ways. (I believe God exposed plots against me time after time.)
I really had to battle fear of the future because I feared that lying kids, gossiping parents and an administration that catered to the whims of powerful families were ruining my dreams.
As crazy as it sounds, in spite of everything, I really wanted to stay and be successful at that school. I cared about the kids and wanted to make a difference.
Yet I had to surrender my desires to the Lord.
God taught me that my future was in His hands and that mere mortals could not ruin my destiny—especially a bunch of mean spirited 7th and 8th graders. (Thank goodness!)
God was so faithful to shine light on the schemes of my enemies and vindicate me in so many ways, and He will do the same for you as you trust Him!
I encourage you to surrender all your dreams to God afresh, and don’t fear what any person (or group of people) can do to you—especially when you know you are doing your best before God and man.
2. Perfect love casts out fear, so don’t be afraid to speak the truth in love!
Because of the fears I have battled, confrontation has always been difficult for me.
In addition to fearing the parents and administrators, I found myself very intimidated by the students. I felt like a baby bunny in a room full of hungry vultures.
Due to the dynamics of the school, the power balance fell in favor of the students which left teachers on the bottom. Sadly, the students were very aware of the impact their parents had on the school, so they felt empowered to intimidate teachers.
My attempts to discipline students was a joke to them. When I tried to give consequences, the parental responses were so outrageous that I became afraid to hold students to high standards knowing that I was unsupported.
When parents spoke to me in hurtful and unacceptable ways, I felt powerless to speak up.
I knew I needed God’s strength to help me overcome my fear of speaking the truth because it was eating me alive and allowing grievous sin to go un-confronted!
I learned that in order to overcome fear, I had to ask God to help me love the parents, students and administrators.
1 John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For God has not given us a spirit of cowardice, but of power, and of love, and of wise discretion.”
Although it was way outside my comfort zone, I chose to hold students to high expectations, and tell their parents the truth about their children’s behavior whether they chose to listen or seek revenge.
I had many conversations with the administrators about what I was experiencing with the parents and students and how it was affecting me. I also lovingly spoke with my superiors about the ways I felt unsupported and blamed.
That year God have me courage to speak to many intimidating parents (who happened to be board members) about their children—even though they were NOT happy with me for it.
God gave me the boldness to speak with the Head of the School after literally dozens of attempts to get help from my Principal and the Dean.
Even though it was hard, I reminded myself that telling the truth and confronting sin is the most loving thing to do—especially when you are in a school that is representing Jesus Christ!
In tough situations, seek guidance from the Lord! There is definitely a time to speak and a time to hold your peace, and as you seek God He will give you wise discretion regarding what to do in sticky situations.
However, never let fear be your motivation for staying silent—especially when you need to discipline a student or speak with a parent! Remember speaking the truth kindly and gently is an act of love.
3. Walk in humility; seek continual growth, and make excellence your goal.
As a teacher our mistakes are often public. This reality lends itself to teachers getting lots of criticism — sometimes constructive and sometimes... not so much.
During that tough year, God actually exposed a lot of areas of pride in me and it hurt!
Due to my fear of embarrassment and the mean spirited culture of my school, my goal for each day was to make it through without any major instances of humiliation.
To make matters more stressful, I was still relatively new to teaching, and I had jumped up 4 grade levels (going from 4th grade to 8th grade). I went from having 19 students the previous year to 103!
I struggled to learn the unfamiliar content, teach it and be organized.
I was also transitioning from an urban public school to a ritzy private school, and it seemed like every instructional strategy and classroom management tool I had been taught was opposite of what the students were used to.
It was a hot mess.
As you can imagine, I had people lining up to tell me that everything I was doing was wrong, wrong, wrong!
The torrent of criticism felt unceasing, and some of the messengers were filled with such spite and anger that I simply shut down.
I became defensive because I felt attacked, and I could not separate good suggestions from attempts to hurt me because it was all coming at once.
Eventually I was able to pull myself together and sort through what people were saying.
I had A LOT of room for growth, and I truly needed to improve. Some of the criticism I faced was warranted even though it was done in the wrong spirit.
I set out to learn my content better, be more prepared and read awesome books on teaching.
By my 4th year of teaching all the learning and growing paid off. I switched schools and received the highest evaluation score possible and was promoted to team lead for the next year! (So, there is a happy ending. Yay!)
I still struggle when receiving criticism, but I have found that the place of humility is the safest. When you humble yourself, God promises to be the one to exalt you!
1 Peter 5:6 says, “So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor.”
One of my favorite motivational speakers always says, “Fight fear with a plan!”
The plan I recommend is prayer first! Ask God for strength, and ask Him to lead you to the right people, places and materials to help you grow as a teacher!
Then I would recommend spending 20-30 minutes per day learning (or brushing up on) your content so that you feel confident to teach it.
I’d also recommend reading or listening to something motivational for teachers daily. There are so many great blogs and podcasts (like the one your reading) to encourage you when you feel beat up or afraid as a teacher.
4. Give yourself grace, and don’t see failure as final!
Most would agree that teaching is one of the hardest professions on the planet. Anything difficult takes time to master.
Movies often give the impression that brand-new educators routinely walk into their first year of teaching with legendary skills that transform the toughest students instantly!
The truth is that champion teachers have mastered a complex set of skills that often took them years to develop. Don’t get discouraged (especially as a newer teacher) if you feel like you still have so much to learn and achieve.
Admittedly, administrators, parents and your students will probably have super high expectations for you (which is understandable), but you must give yourself grace when you make mistakes (because many people don’t think to give teachers grace).
Give yourself permission to learn and grow, and don’t think that failure is the final verdict on your teaching ability.
See failure as evidence that you are learning and remember that mistakes are normal.
Challenge yourself to learn from your missteps. I recommend keeping an informal journal where you write down mistakes that you don’t want to repeat along with the goals you want to implement next year.
5. Place your identity in Christ and refuse to let anyone or anything define you but God!
I have battled with insecurity since childhood, and I found that the teaching field can be brutal on my identity if I’m not careful.
You may feel the temptation to see yourself through the eyes of parents, administrators and even students. There is pressure to make sure everyone thinks well of you. You may even want to be popular or everyone’s “favorite” teacher. I know I did!
When lots of people are affirming and encouraging you, it feels great, but the danger comes when you feel shame and accusation coming at you from all directions. Whether it is due to low test scores, a less than stellar evaluation, catty coworkers or critical parents and students, it is easy to internalize disapproval and wear condemnation and failure like a cloak.
This is why we should see ourselves, first, as a son or daughter of God! We will experience healing of our identity as we choose to dwell on God’s love for us!
We are declared righteous in God’s eyes because of Christ’s perfect report card given to us, not because of our own perfect works.
Head to www.teach4theheart.com/backtoschoolanxiety to download a PDF of Biblical affirmations that will remind you who you are in Christ. Read them aloud every day or meditate on them during your quiet time.
Join thousands of Christian teachers in committing to pray for the new school year. We can't wait to see what God will do not only in our classrooms but in our own hearts as well.
Starting at a new school can be intimidating and present a unique set of challenges. But with a little effort, administrators and teachers can make the transition a whole lot easier.
Join us as we discuss 8 ways administrators and teachers can help support new teachers at their school.
Pass along this episode to your principal: www.teach4theheart.com/support
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The first day of school sets the tone for the whole year. Here are 10 things to avoid on the first day of school.
Get notes & links at www.teach4theheart.com/firstday
Get the free classroom management minicourse at www.teach4theheart.com/minicourse
The bell rings and the students come pouring in to the first day of school. Excitement and a bit of chaos fill the air as well as some nervous anticipation – not just from the students but also from the teachers.
Yes, the first day of school is extremely exciting, but those first few hours with your students are also critically important. In fact, they can actually make or break the entire school year.
Your goal should be to actually teach something in each class
Our FREE classroom management minicourse will help you prepare for the best start-of-school yet. Click here to start the minicourse.
The first week of school can make or break your entire year. Start off right, and it's (relatively) smooth sailing. But if you make some of these common mistakes, you'll pay for it all year long.
Listen as we discuss 5 common back-to-school mistakes - and how to avoid them.
Notes & links: www.teach4theheart.com/mistakes
Classroom Management 101: www.teach4theheart.com/cm101
Christian Educators' Association International (professional liability insurance & more): www.teach4theheart.com/insurance
Classroom management is possibly the most challenging aspect of teaching today. But you don't have to end up with a disaster on your hands!
Join guest teacher Latrisha Lott as she shares 4 simple steps she's learned to help prevent classroom management disaster.
Get notes & links at www.teach4theheart.com/disaster
Join our free Back-to-School Classroom Management Solutions live training at www.teach4theheart.com/backtoschooltraining
It can feel like you’re navigating a maze blindfolded while carrying a 100-pound backpack and getting hit with paintball pellets (Ouch!).
I'm talking about classroom management - one the most challenging aspects of teaching today.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t think my teaching program did a fair job of letting me know what I would be facing as a teacher.
Textbooks and teacher preparation classes painted a picture of compliant, well-behaved students who couldn’t wait to learn. This may have been the experience of teachers 75 years ago, but it sure hasn’t been my experience or the experience of ANY teacher I know that is currently in the classroom.
I think it is time we be honest.
Now I am not saying you can't get your students to that place, but in my experience, a peaceful, focused on-task, classroom, filled with quality learning requires hard work and EXCELLENT classroom management that is applied with godly wisdom.
Let’s face the facts.
Society has changed.
Students have changed.
Parents have changed.
Sadly, teachers don’t always have the trust and respect of those they serve, and as the morals and values of a society implode, public servants like teachers are often left to clean up the mess.
It is not your imagination.
A huge number of young people are more disrespectful and rebellious than ever before. Parents often want to excuse their kid's wrong-doing and blame you! Administrators are often pressured to avoid disciplining students, so they might place those pressures on you. The workload is heavier than ever.
You're not alone in these observations.
Teaching. Is. Hard.
I have taught in a charter school, a private Christian school and a public school. I have taught primary and secondary school. I have taught students of millionaires and students that did not know if they would have dinner each night. The classroom management challenges have been very similar in each situation.
But there is hope!
If you are in the classroom now, you have a reason to believe that God has called you to be a teacher for such a time as this.
Students need godly teachers more than ever (in Christian schools and public schools), and He has called YOU!
You can be a better classroom manager. You can build more trust with students, parents, and administrators. You can touch and even transform lives.
However, there are some pesky roadblocks you may encounter, and it takes wisdom to avoid crashing into them!
The roadblocks are often both internal and external depending on your circumstances and environment, but being prepared for them will help your year run smoother and save you lots of time, energy and potential conflicts down the road.
Here are 4 simple steps I learned the hard way that will help you avoid classroom management disaster!
1. Don’t let students manipulate you with their emotions.
Have you had a student start bawling when you gave them a detention? Have you experienced a student’s explosive anger when they don’t get to go to recess?
Ever have a student protest vehemently that they should have been the student of the week and that you always pick the same kids for everything—hurtfully accusing you of showing favoritism?
When you give consequences or withhold rewards as a part of your classroom management plan, you will likely encounter pushback intended to cause you to feel guilty, second guess yourself or give in to the student’s demands. And this problem can be compounded when students band together against you.
Second guessing and giving in to demands are big mistakes, though, because students will realize they can turn on the waterworks, throw tantrums, or rope you into an emotional debate and control you through the sheer force of their feelings.
Many times the student’s emotions are genuine, but often times students will play up their emotions to see what you will do. The trick is to remain calm and stick to your consequences and rewards.
Once your students see that you will remain calm, resolute, and unshaken in the midst of the storm of their emotions, students will typically try those tactics less and less.
Use prayerful discernment to decide whether or not to console students in the moment or acknowledge their wounded feelings, but don’t by any means let their hurt or upset feelings change your pre-determined set of consequences or rewards.
Of course, there are rare circumstances where you truly feel led to cut the student a break or give them another chance, BUT this should be a rare exception. Otherwise, students will be confused and not know what to expect from you.
The goal is not to become an unfeeling automaton but rather a consistent leader that does the right thing for students even when it is unpopular.
Students ultimately respect someone they know they cannot manipulate.
2. Document everything you can, and let the world know you are keeping track of everything!
A wise veteran teacher once told me to document everything, and this little gem of wisdom has proven true every time.
Sadly, your word alone as a teacher is often not enough. In our society, everybody wants proof, proof, proof! Oddly enough parents will often believe their kids over you (and kids lie….a lot)!
Surprised? I was! It's a strange day we live in, so we must be prudent!
When you call up little Johnny’s mom, it's better to say, “…this week I counted 37 blurts…” rather than “Johnny is being a little too chatty…”.
It is more effective to let the parents know exactly how many assignments their child is missing instead of merely saying their child is not getting work in on time.
Did a student say something (CRAZY?) —write it down word for word. Believe it or not, you will likely forget exactly what they said which leaves room for the student to deny it ever happened, and when you are in that parent-teacher conference, you are going to want to know exactly what was said and when.
You can document in any way that is easy for your personality type, organization level, and style. Just have a system!
It can be as informal as a documentation notebook you carry around everywhere to jot notes down. It can be as fancy as an excel spreadsheet with student names and different columns representing various behaviors and the number of times they occur.
I personally like carrying around a red clipboard with student names and boxes to give "checks" for the most common misbehaviors like talking without permission. When the students see me pick up the clipboard they know I am tracking and documenting their behavior, and it calms them down.
There are also amazing online programs and apps like Class Dojo that make tracking these things a cinch.
Time is in high demand for teachers, and it can feel too tedious to document, but this is one investment that pays dividends.
And the beauty is — students will behave better when they know you are tracking their behavior and documenting what happens day to day. There is instant accountability, and when you follow through with consequences, students will think more closely about their actions!
3. Keep your expectations high, and don’t apologize for it!
This one is tough!
As a teacher, there are so many pressures that might tempt you to lower the bar, but don’t do it! Students may complain when you have high standards and parents may even complain, but true leadership involves holding on to godly principles that remain strong, time-tested and true in the face of adversity!
As society drifts farther and farther from God, the world’s standards and expectations sink lower and lower.
This naturally makes Christians seem all the more peculiar, which is a good thing, but also a challenge at the same time. You see, the most basic Christian standards look like high expectations to the world, and truly high expectations look impossible to the world.
So if you have high moral standards for your classroom, then you might find yourself at odds with a lot of people—even in a Christian school. (This happened to me, but that’s another story all together!)
But don’t give up!
Don't feel bad about expecting students to talk to you respectfully. Don't feel old fashioned when you stop students from using inappropriate language or off-colored jokes! Teach students the importance of honesty, hard work, and integrity!
Encourage modesty and enforce your school's dress code. You may be the only teacher that you know who's calling kids up higher, but you will be a massive blessing in a child's life, even if they are not yet a Christian. Even if they never become a Christian, you will have served them by speaking Biblical truth into their heart and mind.
This same principle remains true if you teach Christian students. Many Christian students are so inundated and brainwashed by the world, that Biblical truth sounds foreign. Christian students need strong, fearless teachers that won’t bend the truth of God’s Word. Speaking the truth and upholding truth might put you on a path of conflict, but don't shy away.
Truth is desperately needed in Christian and secular environments, and God has placed you at your school to be a beacon of light and a proclaimer of truth!
4. Pray without ceasing!
Last but definitely not least, pray!
I have seen God do amazing things through prayer, but sometimes when we are the most stressed prayer seems like the last thing our flesh wants to do! In Matthew 26:41 Jesus says, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak."
One teacher’s temptations will be different than another's. You may be tempted to avoid disciplining certain students out of fear of their reaction or even their parent’s reaction, while another teacher may struggle with taking vengeance on a certain student due to their behavior.
On some days you may be tempted to yell and scream at your students while other days you may be tempted to simply disengage, hand out a worksheet and sit at your desk browsing your favorite online magazine with a mocha.
Often we are tempted to simply give up and coast until the end of the school year, but with the Lord's help, we can overcome all of these negative emotions.
I would recommend two types of prayer.
First, I believe it is important to have a daily prayer time where you pray over a list of things that are going on in your life and the lives of those you care about.
Second, I find "5-second" prayers throughout the whole day to be a lifeline! This is sometimes called "practicing the presence of God" popularized by Brother Lawrence. This concept mirrors the scriptural principle of praying without ceasing. (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
You simply talk to God all day.
Ask Him to help your observation go well. Ask the Lord to help you be patient today. Ask Him for more energy and focus.
He wants you to pray and walk with Him throughout your days. Ask Him to make you a better classroom manager and ask Him for courage!
God is more than willing to help you with any and everything you struggle with, and there is nothing too big or too small for him.
If your journey is anything like mine, God will often use teaching as the fiery furnace to burn off things that are displeasing to Him, so don't be surprised when yucky stuff rises to the surface.
Finally, don’t be discouraged by slow progress in your classroom management, and try not to make comparisons between yourself and others. Look for help wherever you can find it; then pray and ask God to help you implement what you learn.
You may not always feel like you are making a difference, but God is using you in the classroom even in spite of your weakness.
Need more classroom management help? Join us in our upcoming FREE Classroom Management Solutions live training where you'll learn how to start the school year off right - and the incredible difference it will make!