Being a manager

How things start is how they continue, so if you can have a good first 5 minutes, you can have a good hour.

Children raise their hands in a classroom. Photo by Nicole Honeywill / Sincerely Media on Unsplash.

Where things go wrong

If they need to raise their hands and wait to be called on, then this is how it has to be. Every. Single. Time. Especially right after you’ve explained it. It’s too confusing for them to differentiate between when it’s okay to shout out, and when they need to refocus, so just do the hand raising, and stick to it.

But here’s what people do: they give the explanation about needing to raise hands, and then they ask a question, and someone shouts something out, and they go with it, and other people shout out, and class continues.

And 5 minutes later, they’re giving the same lecture about raising hands.

You can see what happened. And they know what they were supposed to do. So why is it so hard to make ourselves do it?

Instead, do this

Give a consequence — right then — to whoever said the comment. And then ask the question, and pause, and watch for hands. Each time you ask a question, pause again.

A lot of classroom management looks like slowing down, holding attention, and making sure they realize who is in charge in the room. 

I still feel weird about saying “Who’s in charge”…like, no, it’s a shared learning space! But that doesn’t work. Trust me, it will 100% fall apart. In contrast, the strategy above will protect voices, and help ensure the air is shared.

You have to be in charge, you have to know it, and they have to know it. 

Aside: Yes, there are other (maybe pedagogically “better”) ways to allow sharing in the classroom, but they require a refined skillset to facilitate. This is the first step. You have to be able to walk before you can run.