Inside: A podcast episode discussing the best ways to enact classroom management and why managing your classroom is a vital act of self-care for teachers.
Whether you’re a new teacher, an old pro, or you’ve just run into a particularly difficult set of students, it’s vital to have a solid classroom management strategy in place. Cindy talks about the importance of experimenting, finding support, protecting your energy in the classroom, firm routines and procedures, and making sure you and your students are engaged.
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Classroom Management as an Act of Self-Care Podcast Transcript
Hello and welcome to the Art Class Curator Podcast. I’m Cindy Ingram, your host and the founder of Art Class Curator and the Curated Connections Library. We are here to talk about teaching art with purpose and inspiration from the daily delight of creativity to the messy mishaps that come with being a teacher. Whether you are driving home from school or cleaning your classroom for the fifteenth time today, take a second, take a deep breath, relax those shoulders and let’s get started.
Hello and welcome back to the Art Class Curator Podcast. This is Cindy Ingram, and I hope you are enjoying our brand new format for the podcast, which is basically me clicking record and talking. Today I want to share with you a little story. It’s about when I was a student way back in, I don’t know, 1994. When I was in middle school, it’s the first time I took art. I’ve always loved art but it didn’t really have it as an elementary student back then. I was in a class, and I’m not gonna name the teacher, I don’t know if she’s still a teacher or not, but that teacher in 6th grade and in 7th grade, I had the same teacher, had really zero control over her classroom.
I’m a rule follower. I have always been a rule follower. I was teacher’s pet. I was always doing what am I supposed to do. That’s how I always was as a student. I loved art. I loved being a star student, and I’m in this class that is complete chaos. I’m a rule follower, but I also have always been very sensitive to the quality of teaching and the teacher. I think all students probably are. I’m in a situation where I love art, I want to make art, I want to do my work, I want to work hard, but probably at least a fourth of the class was a bunch of really rowdy boys. The teacher had zero control of the classroom, and so instead of figuring out a way to give consequences to that group of boys, it was full classroom punishment. We all had to spend days and days copying from the art dictionary in the back of our textbooks. For as an elementary student who didn’t have art coming into this classroom, where I loved art but I didn’t get to do it, I was being punished. We’re in a group. It’s just chaos. It really was. Fast forward to the next year, 7th grade, still the same situation—complete chaos, teacher has no control over the classroom.
Then I go into the 8th grade. All of the exact same kids were in the 8th grade class. It was not this sort of brand new things where all of a sudden it’s just the advance kids in 8th grade. No. It’s the same kids because those kids were really good at art. They just were not well-behaved. In that class, everything was fine. The teacher knew how to keep control of the classroom. She knew how to have multiple differentiation on projects so that the kids who are more advanced and who really wanted to work hard got a little bit of an extra challenge. We learned about some artists, not a lot, it was still very studio focused, but it was a completely different experience. Same group of kids, same school, completely different experience.
The same thing happened at my last teaching job. I went into a situation. It’s a very, very small school, and I taught everybody in 6th to 9th grade. I would come into a class, and they would be amazing. They would be so good. We would have a good time. They would be learning. They would interactive. Then I will hear from a different teacher on campus about how those same students, how horrible they were, how horribly behaved they were. I don’t think any student is horrible because they behave bad. How can it be that the same students can be so different, and it really does rely so much on the teaching, the teaching of the classroom management more so than the classroom management.
I get a lot of questions about classroom management in my inbox. It’s not necessary my specialty I felt like that was something I was good at most of the time. When I first started, I was decidedly not good at it, but I figured out what works for me through trial and error, but I really wanted to kind of step back and give you a little bit of encouragement to keep trying and keep experimenting, and also some places that you can go to get help if there is some struggle in your life, because there’s nothing that will kill your day worse than having a few really hard classes. It’s hard to get over that. It’s hard to take that energy and remove it from yourself, so I have some self-care tips too that are kind of related, but we are going to talk about the classroom thing now. I’m going to do a different episode on self-care.
I think the biggest thing I want to encourage you to remember is that this is completely normal, that every class is different and every teacher is different. If you are to reach out and ask me what do, I can give you some tips, but if I’m not actually in your classroom and knowing the exact specifics on what’s going on with your students, it’s really hard to give you good help, but there are people that do help with classroom management. I want to point you to Michael Linsin. He did a podcast, episode number four. I love Michael’s approach. His website is smartclassroommanagement.com. His approach comes from a place of really keeping the teacher happy, and he’s written several books about classroom management, some specifically for special teachers. He also has a book called ‘The Happy Teacher Habits: 11 Habits of the Happiest, Most Effective Teachers on Earth’.
To me, your happiness as an art teacher, your overall energy during the day, is something to be protected at all costs. If you don’t protect your own energy, it is very, very easy to be completely sucked away by this job. It’s really a hard job to be around all of that energy—all of those students all day long, all of those emotions—and not let it affect you. So if you have a good classroom management system in place, if you have a good way to protect your energy and keep the joy in your classroom, that is of utmost importance. And as a teacher, not only for longevity, just to keep you sane through all this time, but also to keep you happy—and if you’re happy, if you’re enjoying your job, if you have joy in your job day to day, that is going to impact your students. They are gonna get what they need. Michael Linsin does do coaching for teachers. I think that is a really good option. I’m just gonna click on his website here and say see what that price point is. I’m just curious. OK. $215. That is $215 very well spent, I would say, to get your life back.
Another person I would recommend for classroom management advice is Anna Nichols. She was on the podcast, episode number 29. She runs the blog Managing the Art Classroom, which is a really great resource for all sorts of procedures, classroom management, and stuff, as well as teaching materials too. But she really excels at classroom management. She also does coaching for art teachers and because she is an art teacher, she’s worked with a variety of different ages of students. She’s really good at helping you come up with classroom management plan, and then has some good procedures on her website. I know I used a lot of materials from her website when I was going into the classroom. She also very much supports Michael Linsin as well. So those are two resources. If you really want to dive deep on one on one help. I really recommend you check out those two podcast episodes as well as those two blogs—Managing the Art Classroom and smartclassroommanagement.com.
So, it’s really one of those things that teachers…. Teaching can be very, very isolating, especially the art teacher. You’re often the only one in the school who has the role that you have, and reaching out and getting support is just about the best thing you can do. I’ve learned that in my life, running my business. I would be nothing if I didn’t have the support of the people from my support system in my life. Figure out who those support systems are for you personally—teachers at your school or at your district or online that you can buddy up with, that you can talk to about those sort of things. We live in a global community. Now that you can find that support system that you want.
I do have a few tips when people do come to me and say, “I’m having this crazy class, what do I do?” I have a couple tips that I normally give. I’m going to go ahead and give those, and you can see what you make of it. I always like to say that a good lesson—passionate, joyful art teaching with a really engaging lesson, with really interesting artworks that you choosing to study…. You have the best content to teach of all the content. We’ve got amazing things to teach as art teachers. If you if you choose really awesome artworks, really engaging lessons, when you are passionate about it, you can create a little bit more buy in from the students. Another thing too is kindness above all, like above all, because a lot of times when you have a bad class it can be hard to stay in control and kind to the students when you’re so frustrated. A student that knows that you care about them, a student that knows that you see them as a person and not as this rowdy class, is going to be more likely to want to be good for you. So forming those relationships one-on-one with your students is really important. Let them know that you see them. Smile at them when you see them in the hallway, joke around with them if that’s your personality. Have a good time with them, but also you still want to remain firm with your rules and your procedures, so they know that you’re kind and caring but that you’re also there to teach. You’re there to run the room, so it’s really important to strike that balance. It’s a really hard balance to strike and that balance has to be different a little bit with every single class because each class is so different.
I always start the year being much more strict in terms of where they sit, what music I play, how we get our supplies. Then I will give privileges based on how I’m seeing them do that, so start the year with really strong procedures in place. The classic for this is Harry Wong’s ‘The First Days of School’. Remember what you’re getting onto them for. If there’s a particularly rough class, make sure these are things that can be fixed with procedures. If they are constantly getting up out of seats, figure out why are they doing that. Maybe they need more pencils on the table. Maybe it’s just something easy to fix, something we can teach them. Like, “OK, we only have this many people get up at a time because of blah, blah, blah.” It’s all about creating procedures that work for you and your classroom.
It’s so different for each person. I am more of a sort of controlling teacher in my environment. I talked about that before on the podcast. I’m very highly sensitive, so a lot of movement and a lot of sound is really hard for me. I don’t often go to places where there’s people running around chaotically or there’s a lot of noise because it really does impact my anxiety levels. This stuff is really personal to you. I want you to feel the freedom to create this environment that works for your personality. So if you have a more controlling personality or you are sensitive to the movement and sound, you get to choose how much you allow in your classroom. I’m kind of all over the place here, but those routines and procedures are super important. Creating rules, routines, and procedures, getting support and being kind and creating great lessons—those are my tips.
My next tip is do not go into a place of power struggles. The minute that you get into a power struggle, that is a hard thing to get out of. That’s a really hard thing to get out of. Say you have a student who you give a rule and then you tell them “please sit down” or whatever and immediately they come back at you with “no”, “she’s up”, or “I was doing this or that”, and then you banter back and forth and it becomes this annoying battle of wills. Realize that in that situation, you are the teacher. You have the ultimate say, so do not engage in those power struggles at all costs, because that really does… One, it teaches the students what pushes your buttons, and then it’s just not great for your relationship. One way to get out of a power struggle with a student is to just not engage. I used to do a little bit of reading on Love and Logic, and I don’t really fully know the whole program, so I can’t say I support it or don’t support it, but what I do like about Love and Logic is that when those power struggles are being attempted from the student, Love and Logic is a really good way to shut it down. So it’s like your student comes back at you and says something back and then you just say, “I’m sorry, please take a seat.” And then they come back at you and say something else, this and that, and just, “Oh, I’m so sorry. Please take a seat.” You just keep repeating yourself and eventually they go and sit down, so I think it’s really important to not engage in that, look for places to alleviate that. Sometimes giving the students a choice. Instead of just telling them one thing to do, they get to choose this or that, that’s going to then take the burden off you telling them to do something, and it allows them a little bit of choice. It can be really simple choices, but that can make the students feel like they are a little bit more in control over their situation, which could diffuse that situation a little bit more, so do not engage in power struggles.
My last tip really is just to experiment. You tried the procedures and rules, it’s still not working, you’re trying all the things. You want to experiment, but you also want to try to remain consistent for your student. So one day you’re deciding OK, we’re just going to go all in with freedom, you get to do whatever you want, and you can try that and see how it goes and then that didn’t work on one day. So the next day you’re doing something totally different and the next day you’re doing something different, that’s going to cause you some trouble because they are just not going to know what to expect. You want to remain consistent. You want to remain consistent in your mood and you don’t want to get angry. You want to still try new things.
One of the things I use to try that I got work really well…. I think I actually found is on Anna Nichols’ blog somewhere and if I find it I will put a link to it, but she did something called the behavior quiz….. Maybe I found that on Incredible Art Department. I cannot remember. I’m going to Google it and see if it pulls up. So essentially, you have a situation where half a class is not going well and then half the class is doing fine, and then in those situations it’s really hard to figure out who is the instigator, who is really having bad behavior, and who is just stuck in this situation just like you. That’s where the behavior quiz comes in. Oh, I found it on Incredible Art Department. On that behavior quiz, there are like 20 statements, like: I raise my hand to speak in a group. I listen politely to others. I gather what I need to get busy. Then rarely, or never, sometimes, most the time, and always. I have to tell you that one worked really, really well for me. I keep thinking of this one class, 7B. It worked really well for 7B because I had a lot of good students in the class but there were a bunch of people who were acting up, so it was really hard to see who was instigating it. I had them take this self-assessment. Then I can look at it and I can see, like, do they know they’re doing this. This also reinforces your routines and expectations, so I didn’t use the one on Incredible Art Department, I changed it to fit my procedures. It was a really good way to stop and for the students to assess their own behavior in a really safe, non-threatening way, because they could say yes, I always goes straight to my desk and get ready. They could say that and then they could see which areas that they don’t, so I really like that. I recommend you to try that out if you’re having any issues, but those are really are my main tips of classroom management.
Again, I’m not an expert in classroom management. When I first started, it was not cute. I did not do well with that. It was really, really hard for me. That first year was pretty rough, and then I got better. Depending on which groups, it got better quickly or it got better slowly, but I do know your struggle and it is hard. It’s rough.
I’m just going to summarize my main tips here. One, that every class is different and to experiment and try new things, figure out what works for those students because what works for one student is not going to work for another student, so really look at your situation. My second tip is to get support, find someone who can help you whether it be getting a coach like Anna Nichols or Michael Linsin or whether it is just someone in your district that you know. We’re taught in this world to do things on our own and to be independent, but you know what that’s not the way to live. We need support. We need people to lean on and even if it’s just someone to vent to, that’s really important. My other tip is to protect your energy at all costs. Don’t engage in power struggles don’t engage in arguments. Don’t take anything that the students are doing personally, whatever they’re doing. Don’t take it personally because it’s not about you. Again, I will talk about that again in a self-care episode. Then, of course, routines and procedures. Read Harry Wang’s ‘The First Days of School’. Lastly, remember to just have fun, create engaging and exciting lessons, show artwork that is exciting and do fun things. And above all else, have a really positive attitude going in, even when it’s hard. Knowing that it’s fixable, that you can do it, you’ll make it through the day, everything will be fine. Then, I think that was all the things. Yes, that was all of my tips, so there we go. Good luck. I hope it’s going well.
How do you manage your classroom? I want to hear about it! Leave a comment under this episode on artclasscurator.com. What are some of your favorite tips? Let’s start the conversation there. Thank you so much. Have a wonderful day, and I will look forward to hearing from you about your classroom management tips. Bye!
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