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7 Classroom Management Tips for Surviving the October Lull
Put the spark back into your routine with these fresh ideas.
With all due respect, T.S. Eliot had it wrong when he said April was the cruelest month. When it comes to classroom management, October can be brutal. The back-to-school excitement has faded, the next vacation is months away, and students are ready to test your limits. Here are some helpful hints to maintain classroom management and make it to Thanksgiving.
Simplify Your Systems
We all have grand ideas in September of how organized, ordered, and structured our classroom will be. Last year, I wanted to break down all my students' work according to the standards and keep it in color-coded portfolios. Yeah—that lasted about five minutes. It also didn't do much to enhance my teaching or aid my students' learning. Get rid of systems that slow you down or are unnecessary, and then you can focus more on exactly what's going on in your classroom.
Further reading: How to Encourage Participation in Your Classroom
I live in New England, and I love taking advantage of our gorgeous falls. Taking students outdoors for a poetry reading or class discussion is a treat they'll definitely look forward to. I know my students' behavior will be angelic afterward because they enjoy the experience so much. Plus, studies show that learning in an outdoor environment has positive effects on students (and teachers).
Embrace Themed Activities
Why not get into the spirit by creating classroom activities that reflect the season? I know an elementary school teacher who uses pumpkins to teach her students about fractions. Like many teachers, I explore the poetry and prose of Edgar Allen Poe at this time of the year, and I often challenge my students to memorize "Annabel Lee."
There are also many writing assignments and presentation topics to choose from across grade levels that can spark students' interest and keep them on task. Prompts about the Salem witch trials, the origin of superstitions, ghosts and the supernatural, or local mysteries can get students excited about learning.
Start to Triage Problem Students
Relationship building is the key to strong classroom management. Take time to meet with each one of your students for a personal conversation about their work, their conduct, and their effort. If a student is veering off track, now is a good time to help them refocus with an action plan that clearly delineates your expectations. When you meet one-on-one with a student and work to build a relationship, students are less likely to act out in class. They know you believe in them and are on their side.
Keep Your Rules Consistent
It's easy to start to let things slide as the year goes on, but it's important to stay consistent and fair with your classroom rules. Students are hyper-aware of what happens in the classroom, especially as it relates to classroom management, and if they notice that rules and policies are only randomly enforced, they will react.
Go Ahead and Play Catch Up
It's easy to fall behind during the month of October. Do yourself a favor and carve out a chunk of time to grade, organize, answer emails, and get prepared. While it might be a buzzkill for your weekend, the stress relief will most definitely be worth it.
Give Yourself a Break
An exhausted and overworked teacher will be impatient and cranky with students. Make sure to take some time for yourself, especially since you've probably been going nonstop since the first day of school. So go on a hike one weekend or treat yourself to that cocktail night with friends. Whatever activity you choose, spending time decompressing pays huge dividends in the classroom.
Further reading: Stress Management Strategies
If you follow these simple steps, you'll be able to sail right through October unscathed. And now I'm off to work on my Miss Havisham costume—in addition to being an awesome intro to the reading of Great Expectations, it's sure to net me the best costume prize in our school's Halloween contest!