Written by Russ Gadzhiev, PhD
“Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
“Mistakes are a fact of life. It is the response to error that counts.” – Nikki Giovanni
“Learning by making mistakes and not duplicating them is what life is about.” – Lindsay Fox
As you probably know, mistakes are a fact of life (just like one of the epigraphs above says). Therefore, mistakes are also unavoidable when we are talking about classroom management. No matter how experienced or knowledgeable you are, you are still not protected from making mistakes altogether. In this short article, we are going to examine the most common mistakes that teachers make when trying to manage a classroom. Read this article to avoid making them yourself.
Not Enough Classroom Management Strategies to Deal with Certain Situations
Classroom management is one of the most important skills that every teacher should have. And if you are lacking classroom management skills, then your classes are likely to be fraught with problems. Classroom management is essential. Remember, as a teacher you must deal with a variety of personalities, traits of character and so on. Sometimes problems do arise in the classroom. So, you need to have a few classroom management strategies up your sleeve to deal with them. If you are not sure where to start learning about classroom strategies – you can read about them on our Shiminly blog.
Shun Children’s Parents and Avoid Contact with Them
This is a very unproductive strategy. As teachers, we must remember that relationships between teachers and parents are crucial for students’ academic success. The more you know the parents of your children, the more favourable, welcoming, and conflict-free the environment in your classroom will be. So do remember that parents are your allies. And indeed, if students are supported both in the classroom and at home it will lead to excellent academic results.
Research also suggests that if teachers cooperate with students’ parents, then the likelihood of misbehaviour of that child is very small. And this is exactly when teachers need a stress-free child who comes to school to learn rather than disrupt the class and make teachers upset.
Being A Perfectionist
We are all guilty sometimes of trying to be perfectionists. However, when it comes to teaching such an approach does not help at all. Of course, we all want our students to learn, behave and succeed. We expect them to be conscientious, hard-working, and diligent. We hope they will always come to class on time. However, the reality is very different of course. Real teaching is far from being flawless. As a teacher you are dealing with humans, which means that anything can go awry at any time! Even if you have prepared your class, there is still a chance that something will go wrong (this is not to suggest that class preparation is unnecessary, quite the contrary).
So, if there is something in your class that you think went on a particular day, do not get upset. Do not reprimand yourself for that. Just accept that sometimes deviations from your plan and unexpected situations are possible and move on. If you beat yourself up over every little imperfect thing, you will ruin your mental health. So don’t expect perfection.
Another side of unnecessary perfectionism is the desire to call out any minor infraction that takes place in your class. This is especially true if we are talking about inexperienced teachers. It is something that many educators may not wish to admit, but misbehaviour is often a part of one’s healthy development. So, if one of your students misbehaves and it does not really disrupt the class, there is no need to be extremely negative about his misbehaviour. If someone in your class briefly talked in the class, there is no point in punishing them or telling them off for that either.
Researchers have found that such strict attitudes can have more negative consequences rather than positive ones. Students engaging in minor misbehaviour and called out for that may feel more disconnected in the aftermath, which can only increase the likelihood of their misbehaviour. Researchers even argue that teachers’ negative attention towards such minor infractions, can only exacerbate the tensions between the teacher and students.
So, perhaps, instead of calling students out, as a teacher you may rely on your non-verbal communication to draw their attention if they become distracted.
Not Identifying Reasons for Misbehaviour
We fail to identify the true reasons for students’ misbehaviour. If a student is misbehaving it may possible that he or she is a problematic student. But if two students in your classroom are misbehaving, then there is likely a reason for that. An underlying reason which is not that easy to detect at first sight.
There are many reasons for student’s misbehaviour in the classroom and teachers should be able to identify them. Apart from medical issues and basic needs being not met, one of the common reasons for students’ misbehaviour may be their poor relationship with the teacher. If a student does not have any connection with the teacher, he or she will have no interest to do what is being asked of them. So, make sure that you establish a solid rapport with your student (you can check our articles devoted to that topic).
Some students misbehave because they are simply trying to seek the attention of their classmates or adults. Some kids may have not enough confidence – this is also one of the reasons why they may act out. Likewise, the environment in your classroom also may predispose some students for misbehaving. If the pace of your class is too slow and you have students whose personalities are more suited for fast-paced learning, they may also act out to express their feelings of being bored.
Whatever the reason for your students’ misbehaviour, instead of being reactive, try to understand what causes their bad behaviour. Such a strategy will help you to make sure that students in your class are attentive and respectful to one another. It will also help you deal with misbehaving students in the future in a more effective way. Of course, it may take you some time to develop that useful skill – understanding what is going on with your students behind the façade of their bad behaviour – but the more experienced you become, the better you will be at it.
Taking Everything Personally
True, the beauty of the teaching job is that you are dealing with humans all the time. But dealing with humans every day can be extremely taxing. Of course, it is easy to give someone advice like “don’t take things seriously”. But very often our ego can be really hurt if we have had a negative interaction with a student or school principal. Our mind can create a powerful story, a scary narrative, which may convince us that we are being perceived as not professional or simply horrible employees. Most of these stories, however, are simply not true. However, we are convinced that everything our mind is telling us is reality.
It is very important to be emotionally intelligent when it comes to processing negative interactions with students or authority figures. Make sure you can understand your emotions and their meaning. Are you sad? Anxious? Angry? Or all the above? If you are feeling that the person who you had a negative interaction with simply wanted to attack you, then you need to let it go. In situations like these, you can only control your feelings and not your emotions.
Remember to be kind to yourself. Take care of your mental health. It is very important to learn how to take feedback in a constructive way. But you also need to do that in a way that does not make you question your self-worth. Remember practising self-care is as important as having a good lesson plan.
In this short article, we have talked about the mistakes that teachers may make throughout their teaching careers. Again, it is important to note that these mistakes are fine and if you make such mistakes, it does not mean that you are a bad teacher. Not at all. But knowing these mistakes are common, will help you avoid them in the future.
Russ Gadzhiev obtained his PhD in history and politics from University of Melbourne. He also holds a master’s degree in International Relations from Moscow State University of International Relations, a top-ranking diplomatic school. Russ is a strong education professional with a history of working in the higher education sector of Australia and effectively communicates with learners from diverse cultural backgrounds. He is enthusiastic about teaching and mentoring, writing, curriculum development, research, information management and public speaking. He is fluent in Russian, English, Spanish and Portuguese.