Back to School
By Kate Ortiz, a retired teacher from Iowa
There are some classroom management
basics that work regardless of grade level
(with a little tweaking in the presentation
due to the different developmental levels).
Here is a brief list of behavior basics:
Teach people first, subject second. This means that
you work to build respectful, caring relationships
with your students while maintaining a position
of authority. Learn names as quickly as possible.
Greet students every day when they arrive. Provide
a means of “visiting” with students without using
Praise work (product) and effort vs. ability
and intelligence. This helps students develop
their own self-labels and allows them to risk error in
order to learn.
Prepare well. Organization, variety, and purposeful
use of time are essential. Kids know when they
are learning and when they are wasting time. If
educational time is not used well, their instinct will
be to entertain themselves and that often results in
Show enthusiasm for learning. Use mobility,
proximity, and facial expression (raised questioning
eyebrows can work wonders) to prevent
misbehavior and when redirecting behavior; talk
less. Address specific student behavior as quietly,
privately, and briefly as possible.
Know your triggers and disengage emotionally
when your buttons are pushed. Act purposefully
rather than reflexively.
Be what you want them to be; teach behavior
by modeling. You can’t be perfect, so when you
mess up, continue to model by acknowledging your
error, apologizing, and doing better next time.
Rookie Mistakes You Shouldn’t Make
By Bridget Zick, kindergarten teacher, Nevada
The number-one mistake is not getting to know
your peers. I got so caught up in getting to know
my students that I failed to get to know everyone in
my hall! Now I realize that other teachers are a new
educator’s greatest resource — not just for advice
about school, but also for sharing recipes, thoughts
on relationships, and life in general. I work with some
people that I truly believe are some of my greatest
Another common mistake is thinking you will have
enough time. I plan, plan, plan and it always seems
like there is never enough time in each day. Even on
a day when everything goes amazing, I find myself
thinking, “If I only had one more hour….”
MORE NO-NO’S TO AVOID:
Skipping lunch! You are given a lunchtime for a
reason. We all are guilty of working through lunch, but
you need energy for the rest of the day. Your class is
depending on you, and being hungry is a distraction.
Thinking every day is going to be perfect… I
don’t have bad days; some are just better than others.
Those days that are not so good are what I consider
Assuming parents are the enemy. Don’t be
scared of parents. They are your greatest supporters,
with many talents and ideas to offer. When you form
positive relationships with your classroom parents,
great things can happen.
Not keeping a teacher journal. Some are good
and some are not so good, but memorable moments
occur each day. I write about my teaching, behaviors I
observe, and interactions with my students and peers.
It helps me too — after all, the key to the future is
learning from the past.
Not having a change of clothes at school. Yikes!
This is a lesson that I learned the hard way. I wish
someone had told me (especially as a kindergarten
teacher) to keep an extra change of clothes and shoes
at school. Live and learn!
Ignoring community connections. I think a lot of
new educators feel like they need to do everything
solo. Reach out to your city councilman, your county
commissioner, your senator, etc. If you do, someone
will likely adopt you. One of our Las Vegas City
Councilmen adopted my class my very first year and
was an incredible community partner to my classroom.
Giving up! It is so easy to get frustrated and feel
overwhelmed. Take some time to stop and smell the
roses. If you don’t, irreplaceable teaching moments
just might slip by. You are doing an incredible job!
You are igniting an educational fire inside children by
making them think, hope, and dream every day. Who
else gets to help build dreams when they go to work?
When you start to feel down, look at every face in
your classroom — 32 kiddos smiling at me = a very
14 | KNOW • Volume 17 Issue 2