Beginning on the Right Foot
Effective behavior management begins before the first day of school, when you start preparing for students and devise your discipline plan. Many students will test you from the beginning, so every action you make during the first few days of school will set the tone for the rest of the year. This is not meant to put an inordinate amount of pressure on you, but it is a fact that you need to face. Therefore, you should be as organized as possible before the first student walks through your door.
Attitude and Demeanor
You must begin the year with an attitude of self-assurance. Always remember that you are the teacher and are in charge. Your attitude must be positive and full of high expectations. You should be friendly, but make it clear that you are ready to enforce your class rules.
If a teacher does not enforce the class rules strictly and consistently from day one, she will find it almost impossible to control her classroom. It is very difficult to become stricter, but this is the situation most new teachers get into during their first few years of teaching. New teachers usually follow this pattern:
They start off with the desire to have kids like them.
They lose control of their classroom environment.
They decide to tighten down on the rules.
They lose their sense of humor.
They lose their students' attention and respect.
A much better prospect is to start the year in a stern manner. That way, you can ease up as the year goes on. Students will appreciate a more relaxed atmosphere. They will also realize that if they do not follow the rules, a working system is already in place to curb their misbehavior.
You Are Not Your Students' Friend
In the secondary school setting, probably the biggest mistake that new teachers make is trying to befriend their students. If you have not taught before, you might be wondering why this is a mistake. The answer is that when your students lose the respectful distance of the student/teacher relationship, you lose control. This is especially true with older students. Remember, your job is not to get the kids to like you. It is to get the kids to respect you and to motivate them to learn.
Your school district will probably have a discipline plan based on the Student Code of Conduct. However, many times the day-to-day discipline issues you experience will not be included in that plan. Even so, make sure to review a copy of the discipline plan before the school year begins.
Keeping the above in mind, it is important that elementary school teachers especially understand the importance of creating a warm, loving environment. Many young children need that extra bit of comfort from their teachers to help them realize that they are in a safe environment.
This does not mean that elementary school teachers should coddle or baby their students. It simply means that younger children will respond better to approachable, comforting teachers than ones who are too stern and cold.