Ground rules for better classroom management
Teaching is generally viewed as one of the risk-free and easy professions in this world. When compared to the tensions borne by a dedicated doctor or a busy executive, the teacher is comfortably placed with very few deadlines of syllabus completion, answer book evaluation or a target subject average. But teaching is one of the most challenging professions in the world.
Though the teacher and his ‘clients’ are not directly involved in any kind of monetary transactions, they contribute to the country in a major fashion.
Teaching is also one of the most responsible professions in the world. Hence it is imperative for all teachers to make their classes as effective as possible and how a teacher manages his or her class decides the quality of the work substantially, sometimes even more than his knowledge and qualifications.
Abiding by the code
Establishing a set of ground rules at the start of every academic year will help the teacher manage his class effectively. Though the expression ‘ground rules’ is borrowed from the field of sports, it now refers to a set of accepted rules for any system to prosper. In education, the ground rules are the golden rules of the class, by the class and for the class – for the teacher and the students, so that both can comfortably participate in the process of learning.
‘Experienced teachers don’t deal with problems, they prevent them occurring’ – these words by renowned educationist Geoff Petty throws light on the concept of setting ground rules. These rules can function as a contract between the teachers and the students. While it gives the teacher an opportunity to express his priorities before the group that he has to handle for a considerably long period, it ensures order amongst the students.
Understanding between the parties is the key element that makes any communication effective and meaningful. Once the teacher expresses his expectations, the students will be prompted to follow the pattern. Being the grown-up member of the group, it is the responsibility of the teacher set the limits and the children should be made aware of the consequences of crossing the boundaries.
But rules should not be imposed aggressively. Though the teacher enjoys an upper hand in the classroom, children generally prefer a flexible stand. When the students are given a chance to establish a set of customised rules for their class, they will be motivated to follow them.
Practise what you preach
Once the rules are established, the teacher must strive to be a role model in following the rules. For example, if the teacher fixes a rule that states that all students should be present in the classroom on time and if he is late himself, he will be setting a bad example and will also make it difficult for the rule to be implemented.
Even experienced teachers sometimes find it very difficult to manage a highly heterogeneous group with children coming from various social backgrounds. In every group, majority exhibit high grade of civility, but there will always be a few unwilling to fall in line. But once the ground rules are agreed upon, every child becomes accountable for his or her behaviour in the class thus providing a safe learning atmosphere.
Ground rules can help in establishing better relationship among students too. Every child should feel comfortable in the class and not suppressed. In other words, the opinion and viewpoint of every student should be given due importance. This impartial atmosphere can be ensured with the support of some ground rules.
For example, we can insist that only one student can speak at any given point of time. When one feels like a fifth wheel, he cannot participate in the activities of the group wholeheartedly and this will affect their understanding and consequently the performance.
The important thing here is it is never too late to establish rules. If needed, new rules may be introduced or the existing ones modified. It will be helpful if the rules are displayed in the form of a chart made by the students in the classroom so that the rules never appear to be imposed upon them. Further, the students themselves will discourage those who break the rules once they understand their relevance.
Every teacher can create rules according to their subjects. There might be some common elements in the rules set by a language teacher and a mathematics teacher, but there should be specific rules for every subject because the expected behavioural patterns of students vary in different subjects.
One shouldn’t be too idealistic while setting the rules. Setting them is easy but the most important part is their implementation. Thus, the parties should analyse the practicality of the rules while making them. For example, if the teacher says he will check the notes every Monday and he doesn’t, it will adversely affect his image and the studious, punctual students feel disappointed while the lazy continue to enjoy. Besides, too many rules will dampen the spirits. Fix limited and reasonable rules that can be followed by all.
Setting ground rules helps the teacher manage his classes in a number of ways, the most important one being saving time. One need not waste time for giving the same instructions repeatedly if the ground rules are already established. So, set some good ground rules and manage your class better.