Routines and Procedures
“An ineffective teacher disciplines. An effective teacher manages.”
So says classroom management expert Harry Wong, who attests that discipline shouldn’t be necessary in well-managed classrooms. But what’s the secret to effective classroom management? Wong believes it’s all about routines and procedures. I would include expectations. For most students (and believe me, I am not discounting some of the aberrant behaviors teachers encounter these days), if they know what is expected of them, they will do their best to live up to those expectations. (Witness the classic “Pygmalion Effect” study where classes of pretty average kids excelled when their teachers were led to believe that these students were gifted “late bloomers.”)
The first week of school is the best time to establish the routines and procedures that will lead to more effective classroom management and more productive learning. One simple but amazingly effective routine is greeting students individually outside the classroom door. Some teachers have special handshakes with their students, others simply welcome students by name. Evidence shows that when teachers greet students outside the classroom, it makes a big difference to behaviour and learning inside the classroom – from preschool right through high school. In fact, a 2018 study of middle school students reported that “academic engagement increased by 20 percentage points and disruptive behavior decreased by 9 percentage points – potentially adding ‘an additional hour of engagement over a five-hour day.”
There are many things we need to do in the early days and weeks of school. But establishing key routines and procedures upfront might very well prevent having to discipline later.