We’ve covered quite a bit about classroom management. Everything seems to center around systems, routines, and procedures, doesn’t it? Actually, there is one simple thing you can do right now to improve your classroom management over time. Create a mindset shift.
What Kind of Mindset Do You Have About Your Class?
Let’s think for a minute about your thoughts. What do you think about your students’ abilities to behave and learn? Which words do you say about them when you talk in the workroom? I believe that words have a great deal of power and do much to help us create our experiences. If you refer to your kids as bad (they may be), loud and noisy (probably true), or low every single time you share anecdotes about them, you are going to continue to have those experiences. Your brain is stuck in a defeated space.
Let’s flip the script. Let’s say you’ve had a terrible day with your students. One of them started the day by dumping an entire bottle of water on the floor. Two others were arguing over a pencil. A big group won’t stop talking. The group next to them got into a kicking fight. This was before 9:30. No one is denying the fact that this scenario happens all the time. It drains the life blood right out of you!
But what if, when you relayed the story in the lunch room, you made statements like, “We haven’t quite mastered the art of getting along yet.” Sarcasm is acceptable. “They talked the paint off the wall until 9:30, but they finally stopped when I offered up some extra recess to the quietest kids.”
Your day is no less of a pain today when you make those sorts of statements. I realize you can’t positive a tough group into submission. Your brain doesn’t know that, though. When you change the energy of your words, you pull yourself right up out of that pit of despair and into a creative space. From that creative space, you’ve opened the doors for ideas and solutions to come through. Something as simple a changing your words results in a mindset shift that can change your day.
As an example, I’ve come home some days so defeated by student behaviors that I just wanted to quit. I felt so miserable that I just wanted to go to bed. In those sink or swim moments, I forced myself to do something physical. I would go for a walk or a run. I’d put sunglasses on to hide the tears. Generally, solutions didn’t come at first, but the endorphin kick helped enough that I showed up the next day.
I ran again the next afternoon. And the next. Until the creativity hit. It may have been in the form of a seating arrangement. I could have gotten an idea for an activity to help with some of the social emotional problems we were having. For instance, these mindset prompts came from a long run, and they ended up really helping. Some of the behavior incentive ideas in this post came to me in this way, too.
Running works for me in this way. I’m not fast. But I’m not racing anything except my own crummy thoughts. Physical activity changes our brain chemistry; when we move, we give ourselves the chemicals we need to shift our mood. If you have been sedentary most of your life, then taking an intentional walk to your mailbox might be enough for a small mindset shift. I’m not pushing an exercise program. What I’m inviting you to do is take control of the doubts swirling around in your head in whatever way works for you. Science tells us that exercise is a quick way to do that, but you may have a hobby you like better that does the same thing.
I can hear all of you right now saying that you don’t have time for self-care. I get it.
But here’s the thing. It’s fall of 2022. We are in the midst of the worst teacher shortage I have seen in 28 years because this job is hard.
You were called into education for a reason, and we need you. If you burn out in September, that does no one any good. Your admin may complain that you went home and crocheted a blanket instead of grading papers one night. So be it. If someone is worried that you’re not getting the job done, then explain what you’re going through in your classroom and ask for help. There is no shame. Some people may be critical of your concerns. Let them criticize. Keep asking for help. There are people on your staff that will listen and will offer incredibly effective advice. Find them.
If you have walked into education post pandemic, then you may be dealing with behaviors, academic struggles, social media attacks, bizarre school board meetings and policy changes, and random weird issues that come from the craziness of the past few years.
On the other hand, you are here in a time of incredible change and opportunity. Some of us are literally recreating all our ideas about what school can be. We’ve seen that some level of flexibility in content delivery is possible and effective. Your creative brain is here for a time such as this. Take care of it.
The next time you feel defeated by this profession and want to quit, try to shift your mindset. Your impact may not yet be visible. You may think you’re doing all this work and your classroom vibe is no better. Remind yourself that you showed up. Some kids may be bucking you at every turn. Think about the ones who you’re reaching. Celebrate your small victories. Embrace your wins. I promise you that you are winning, even if you don’t see it.
Before You Go:
Check out my positive behavior incentives here.
Teaching sight words using the “heart word” method? Check out my heart word flashcards for daily review.
Working on letter and sound recognition? Check out this bundle of activities for teaching the alphabet!
Need some decodable readers? Here are some to get you started.