In order to create a safe and successful classroom, it is crucial that teachers employ effective classroom management strategies. This is especially true at the high school level, where older students can prove more difficult to manage and educate. Extensive research has been done on the subject, with experts in agreement that creating positive student relationships is the key to creating a productive classroom environment.
The importance of effective classroom management cannot be overstated. In fact, one study conducted by Marzano and Marzano concluded that, “of all the variables, classroom management had the largest effect on student achievement” (200, par. 1). Therefore, it is vitally important that teachers research and implement proven classroom management techniques, especially when grouping high school students of varying age. One successful way to do this is to create a space where students feel a sense of connectedness to their school and classroom. This starts with creating “an environment in which adult and student relationships are positive and respectful” (Blum 2005, p.2). Gone are the days of educators as disciplinarians and enforcers. To create a positive and effective classroom environment, teachers must make clear to their students that they are important to them, and that they take the task of educating them very seriously.
It is also crucial that teachers employ the right mix of authority and sensitivity. Students need structure and rules, but also understanding. This can be perfected “through exhibiting appropriate levels of dominance; exhibiting appropriate levels of cooperation; and being aware of high student needs” (Marzano & Marzano 200, par.1). In striking this balance, teachers can ensure that students feel safe and cared for, yet also challenged. This is especially important for students who experience challenges in their lives outside of school. By providing clear expectations and a supportive environment, students will have a greater chance to succeed.
Students in every environment bring to school with them the issues they face in their lives at home. One way that educators can create safe environments is to use Culturally Responsive Classroom Management (CRCM). In this structure, “teachers, as culturally responsive classroom managers, recognize their biases and values and reflect on how these influence their expectations for behavior and their interactions with students as well as what learning looks like” (NYU 2008, p.2). Teachers using CRCM take time to get to know their students and their backgrounds so that if there is anything that may impede the student’s education, they are prepared to support the student and help them deal with it. These educators also invest themselves in the local community and school culture, striving to understand what motivates, conflicts with, and challenges their students.
Classrooms with a CRCM structure typically have students who are more invested. This is because “when teachers make learning meaningful and relevant to their students' lives, students develop a stake in their own education” (Blum 2005, p. 2). Without this investment on the part of the student, educating them successfully is a challenge. Clearly, creating this connected environment works, as Marzano and Marzano found that “on average, teachers who had high-quality relationships with their students had 31 percent fewer discipline problems, rule violations, and related problems over a year’s time” (2001, p.1). This drastic decrease in discipline issues highlights the importance of relationships to effective classroom management.
Educators who create connected and supportive school and classroom environments enjoy a host of benefits. More than simply spending less time on discipline, teachers in well-managed classrooms enjoy positive and rewarding relationships with their students as well as the shared enjoyment that comes from student success. Learning in a well-run classroom can inspire and empower a student to reach new levels of success in their education.
Blum, R. (2005). A case for school connectedness. The Adolescent Learner, 62(7), 16-20.
Marzano, R.J., Marzano, J.S. (2001). The key to classroom management. Educational Leadership, 61(1), 6-13.
New York University Metropolitan Center for Urban Education. (2008). Culturally responsive classroom management strategies. Retrieved from http://steinhardt.nyu.edu/scmsAdmin/uploads/005/121/Culturally%20Responsive%20Classroom%20Mgmt%20Strat2.pdf