Take Back That Class - How I Learned to Love Teaching All Over Again Darren Barkett
Classroom management is a challenge for every teacher working in today's schools. If only our students simply wanted to learn! Sadly, that is not the case. Today's 21st century students require an entirely different approach. If you've been struggling with motivating your students to learn, getting your students to listen, and encouraging your students to do their best, this book will help you. Darren Barkett of Helping Teachers Grow has been working with students from many different backgrounds for over 15 years. The strategies he uses with his students are the same strategies described in this book. They are strategies that will help you take your class back from the rowdy and disruptive students, strategies designed to maximize the amount of time you spend teaching and minimize the amount of time you spent managing student behavior. You became a teacher because you felt that helping these young people develop into life-long learners is one of the most important jobs around. Once you started, you realized how difficult that job was going to be. This book on classroom management will help you realize your potential as an educator while helping you learn to love you job all over again.
Why Can’t I just Teach?
The start of a journey…
I started my teaching journey way back when I was in high school. I was sitting in my biology class listening to my incredibly boring teacher stumble through various aspects of the human anatomy. I remember clearly having a single thought that was like a seed being planted in my psyche. I thought to myself with typical teenage arrogance, “I can teach this class better than him.”
And with that one thought, my journey began.
It wasn’t until much later that I actually got around to getting an education in how to teach. I made it out of high school, stumbled through various other majors before dropping out of college for a couple of years. And then I realized that unless I wanted to be stuck selling shoes for what amounted to peanuts, I had better get back on track.
I reenrolled in school as an education and English major. I finished in a couple of years, filled with how to teach grammar and reading and writing and all sorts of other subject matter I was excited to deliver to my students. I thought to myself, “How cool this teaching will be! I’ll get to sit around and talk about stories with my students!”
I had no idea what I was getting into.
Student teaching was quite the wake up call. Would you agree? There I was, fresh from college, idealistic and ready to change the world one student at a time. But do you know what I was totally unprepared for?
Managing student behavior.
As I struggled through a horrible student teaching experience, and said to myself that teaching might not be my thing, I realized how little my university education had prepared me for this one overwhelming aspect of teaching — classroom management. It seemed like a terrific oversight, seeing that so much of my time as a student teacher was spent trying to get students to do what I was so looking forward to doing.
I thought to myself daily, “Why don’t these students want to do this? Why don’t they want to learn?” What couldn’t I just teach them instead of dealing with all the other issues that were preventing me from... teaching?
I took another break from teaching, deciding to travel a bit before jumping into a teaching position. I wasn’t entirely sure that teaching was the right choice for me. It pained me to think that I’d spent so much time and money on my education, only to throw it out the door.
I eventually realized, through several transformative moments, that I had been called to teach, and to turn my back on that would be to deny so much of who I was. So, I began looking for a teaching job.
My early years of teaching were very similar to my experience in student teaching. It was really quite interesting when looked at from a distance. I did my student teaching with 9th and 10th graders, and I struggled with motivating them and keeping distracting behaviors to a minimum. My first three years teaching were with the fourth and fifth grades, but I was plagued by the exact same problems.
It was surprising all over again! The students didn’t want to learn what I was teaching in the way I was teaching it. Again I asked myself, “Why can’t I just teach? Why won’t they just learn?”
I found myself at the end of the day frustrated, stressed out, exhausted, and contemplating a career switch. Many times I told myself that I would never make it past my first three years of teaching, that I would become that statistic I’d heard in university about the third of teachers who quit before their fourth year of teaching. (That statistic has now gone up! Nearly half of our new teachers quit within their first four years of teaching.)
And then everything changed.
My principal saw that I was struggling, and she sent me to an intensive training that gave me much of the foundation of my classroom management systems you’ll be reading about in this book. She opened my eyes to the plain-and-simple fact that as a teacher, if you can’t manage student behavior quickly, efficiently, and respectfully, you’ll never reach your potential as an educator. You wouldn’t enjoy your job, and if you decided to stay in the teaching profession, you would become one of those teachers who was always grumpy, who suffered various stress-related health problems, and who eventually developed a negative attitude about so much of the teaching career–parents, students, other teachers, administrators and more.
I’ll admit. I was lucky. The timing was perfect. I knew I was struggling, and I knew I wouldn’t make it as a teacher if I didn’t learn how to manage student behavior. And I didn’t have a whole lot of bad habits to overcome yet. I was ready for change.
As are you.
You’ve found this book because you looked within yourself and owned up to the problems you’ve been having in the classroom. You’ve realized that the difficulties in your classroom aren’t simply “kids today” or an “unsupportive administration” or kids with a “terrible home life.” You know that there is only one thing that can change your future as a teacher.
I’m glad you’ve found me, this book, my videos, and our community of learners at HelpingTeachersGrow.com. Together we can grow into the empowered and effective educators our schools need and our students deserve. Together we can become the teacher we always knew we wanted to be.
Are you ready to take those first steps on your journey to becoming a better teacher?
Two Different Classrooms
Let’s take a look at two different classrooms.
A middle school classroom in Anywhere, USA. As the bell rings to signal the start of class, the students are chatting loudly. Some are out of their seats, walking around or sitting on top of other students’ desks. The teacher is nowhere to be found.
Three or four minutes later the teacher comes into class mumbling an apology for being late, heads behind her desk, looking frantically for today’s lesson plans, finds them, and then looks up at the students who have barely noticed her presence in the classroom.
For the next five or ten minutes, this teacher tries various means of getting the class started. She starts with some simple statements of “Class, let’s get started.” or “It’s time to get to work, students.” A few students look ready to begin, but a majority of the students are more interested in continuing their conversations with their friends and peers.
The teacher begins to get visibly frustrated. She starts increasing her volume, hoping to be heard over the students combined voices. The students just get louder. The teacher starts to issue threats at the students if they don’t get settled. “I’ll kick you out of this class right now mister if you don’t sit down and get quiet.” This gets several more students’ attention, who then decide to actually sit and watch the upcoming confrontation.
Having focused her frustrations on one student, this student turns to face the teacher, the disdain clear on his face. “Did you say something?” the student asks, dripping with disrespect.
“Young man, you heard me. If you don’t sit in your seat and quiet down this instant I’ll send you to the office.”
“Oh no! Not the office,” he says full of sarcasm. “I’d hate to miss this incredibly important lesson I know you’ve got planned for us.”
“That’s it young man. I’ve had enough. Get out of here this instant!”
“Fine!” he replies as he slams the door on the way out. The rest of the class has become dead quiet by this point, watching with great interest this drama. Once the student leaves, many students break out laughing, replaying out loud what had just happened.
“Did you see how mad she got?”
“That vein was popping out in her head again!”
“That’s the third time this week he’s been sent out! “
The teacher takes a moment to catch her breath and let her heart rate slow before addressing the class. “I hope the rest of you don’t have any bright ideas. As you can clearly see, students, I am the one in charge of this class, and if you don’t like it you can just leave right now.” No students leave, but several hide smirks behind their hands. The teacher looks at the clock. Fifteen minutes of her forty-five minute class have passed.
“Ok. Let’s begin.”
By the end of class, the teacher had barely covered even half of what she had planned in her lesson. The students had to be constantly reminded to pay attention. She was threatening kids with detention frequently, and the students just didn’t seem to care. Towards the end of class, she found herself focusing on a few attentive students at the front of the class while ignoring the off-task students in the back of the room.
She found herself thinking as she watched the students dash out the door without even a good-bye, “Why don’t these students want to learn? Don’t they know how important this is for their futures? If only I didn’t have to deal with these trouble students. It seems like every year they get worse and worse. I’m not sure how many more years I can do this.”
Dejected, she took a few deep breaths before the next class trudged noisily into her room.
Another middle school classroom in the same building as the previous class. This time, as the bell signaling the beginning of class rings, the teacher cuts short her casual chat with a student in her class and moves to the front of the class. By the time the bell is done ringing, all students but one are in their seats.
“John, you’re not in your seat. That’s a mark for being tardy.” John sits quickly without a word and faces the teacher.
“How was your weekend everyone? Did you have a good weekend?” The teacher takes less than one minute to let a few students mention a highlight of their weekends. All the other students are quietly looking at each student as he or she told their brief story. After no more than two minutes have passed since the bell rang, the teacher continues.
“Great! Here’s what we’re getting into today. I know you’re listening because you’re looking at me.” She pauses, waiting for a student in the back row to turn and face him. “Thanks! Alright. We’re headed down to the computer lab to work on typing our poetry into the computers. I want to cover a few things before we get down there. You’ll probably hear me say these things again once we’re there, but it’s easier to address your questions now before we get into that hot room.”
The students laugh at the teacher’s pantomime of being incredibly hot and tired. She continues. “I need your eyes please.” A brief pause while she scans the class. “You will get to choose your computer to start, but if you find it difficult to keep your hands to yourself, I will have to assign a new seat for you. It is ok to help your friends with their word processing, but don’t do it for them. Simply point to the screen, showing them where to click to do what they need to do. That’s the difference between teaching and spoon feeding, right?” The students chuckle again.
She continues. “Our goal by the end of class, and I’ll give you a five minute warning, is to have word processed two of our poems, making sure we spelled everything correctly. We also want to make these look as pretty or stylish as possible. Please change your fonts and colors, but make sure everything fits on one page.”
A student asks, “What’s word processing?”
The teacher asks, looking around the classroom, “Did someone have a question? I didn’t see a hand.”
The student who asked the question raises his hand.
“Oh, John. Thank you for raising your hand. What was your question?”
“What’s word processing, Mrs. Jones?”
“Good question. Word processing is what we call typing. Only we don’t use typewriters anymore. Has anyone ever seen a typewriter? No? Boy am I getting old...”
The students laugh. One student jokingly says, “Ancient, Mrs. Jones.”
“You always know just what to say to make me feel better Angela.” The students and teacher all laugh together.
“Ok, real quick, because I want to give you as much time as possible in the computer lab. Are there any questions?” The teacher waits for a full ten seconds scanning the class, looking for any raised hands. “What happens if we can’t keep our hands to ourselves?”
Brittany raises her hand and waits to be called on. “You’ll give us an assigned seat.”
“Correct. Can you help your neighbors?”
Billy raises his hand, and waits to be called on. “Yes, but show them what to do. Don’t do it for them.”
“Exactly. What a smart class this is! You must have such good teachers!” The class laughs. “Ok, let’s quietly walk down the hall, past Mr. Simmons’ room out the door at the end and down to the computer lab. Make it happen!” The class instantly responds, quietly following the teacher’s directions.
The computer lab runs smoothly. John had difficulty keeping his hands to himself and compliantly moved to the seat Mrs. Jones assigned him after telling him that if he worked well for fifteen minutes he could return to his original seat. The rest of the students worked well, occasionally raising their hands with questions. More often, the students helped each other with problems they were having. The class wasn’t quiet, but it was clear from the tone of their conversations, that most of the talking was about their projects.
Mrs. Jones ended the class five minutes early and told the students that since they had worked so diligently all class, they could take the last five minutes to search online for some song lyrics they wanted to share with the class that Friday. The students chatted pleasantly for the remainder of class about the different songs they were reading and planning on sharing.
When the bell rang, a couple of students looked up surprised. “This class always goes by so quickly, Mrs. Jones.”
“That’s exactly the way we like it, isn’t it?”
“Can’t I just stay in here Mrs. Jones?” John asked.
“I’m sorry, but you must receive a well-rounded education, John. But thank you for your hard work today. You did a great job that last twenty minutes in here.”
As she watched the students leave the room, Mrs. Jones couldn’t help but smile to herself at how much she enjoyed these students. It seemed like each year the students got better and better. What a great job, she thought to herself as she straightened up the computer lab and turned off the lights.
Which class had more in common with your classroom? Which class would you rather teach? Which class would you rather your child be a part of? Which class would you rather participate in?
These mostly rhetorical questions are designed to help you gain the perspective that all of us as teachers need- the perspective that if you wouldn’t want your own child in your class (even if you don’t have any kids), then you need to do whatever it takes to change whatever’s going wrong with your instruction. If you are battling your students daily, badgering them to learn and threatening them if they don’t do what you tell them to do, something needs to change.
And it needs to happen now. Don’t wait. Don’t put this off any longer. Your survival as a teacher literally depends on this.
Are you ready?
Printed with permission from Darren Barkett
Take Back That Class!
How I Learned to Love Teaching
All Over Again...a book by Darren Barkett
| After struggling through student teaching and nearly quitting the teaching profession before even getting started, Darren found himself in the mountains of western North Carolina working a part time job teaching fourth grade Language Arts. Halfway through that year, though, Darren was dealing with many of the same issues countless other teachers were dealing with on a daily basis. The students just didn’t seem to want to learn. Knowing how important an education was to these children’s future, Darren often became visibly frustrated and occasionally lost his temper with these young students. Feeling defeated and ineffective, Darren began contemplating a switch of careers. Luckily, his principal saw that Darren was suffering through a lack of classroom management skills, He was promptly bundled off to attend an intensive seminar in how to manage student behavior with a group called “Taking It All Back Home.” Little did he know that this would be the defining moment in his young professional career. Years later, that same training would still be the defining force in helping Darren through his 13 years of teaching. Even now, he finds himself enjoying the next group of students more than the last one. He comes to school every day knowing that he can face any challenge his students might choose to throw at him. In addition, Darren enjoys more and more the opportunities of working with other educators and helping them through their issues of managing difficult student behavior. Darren attended the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he achieved his Bachelors of Arts degree in English. He also received a Master’s Degree in School Administration from Western Carolina University. Living in Asheville, North Carolina, Darren still teaches as a middle school teacher. His website, www.HelpingTeachersGrow.com continues to provide online and offline training and support for teachers looking for better ways to respectfully handle student behaviors. Darren can often be found playing with his two young daughters or walking his four little dogs with his wife Lesley.