Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Can classroom management be learned?
Two teachers stand out in my memory of ninth grade. Mr. Posthuma and Mrs. Saenz (not their real names). Their remarkable traits were that neither had any control of the classrooms. Mr. Posthuma was the worst. Utter pandemonium. He was my homeroom teacher so we weren't expected to learning anything in there. But Mrs. Saenz was my Spanish teacher and teacher-student faceoffs, tirades against the class and disruptions among the students cut deeply into instruction time so must have had an effect on how well we learned Spanish.
In ninth grade we migrated from teacher to teacher for different subjects so it was obvious to us where the problem was: with the teachers. Sure, it was we students who misbehaved but we didn't misbehave in other classes like we did in theirs.
I don't know if they continued to teach. It must have been terribly frustrating and unrewarding to them both. The inability to control a classroom is one of the most common causes of teachers leaving the profession.
But can classroom control be learned? Certainly there is a body of knowledge about classroom control. It benefits many teachers. But more difficult is to assume the attitudes and behaviors, the confidence and personal presence, that are required for classroom control. If a teacher is lacking these they probably will require personal coaching to acquire.
It's done in other fields. Army drill sergeants, prison guards, lifeguards and police are coached extensively on their personal presence. Of course, the most common application of coaching to learning is in athletics...no one achieves high levels of athletic performance by simply learning the theory. Teachers often are not coached. Typically, teachers who "haven't got it" are encouraged to find another line of work.
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