Looking back on my first year of teaching, I am kind of embarrassed. When I think of the mistakes I made and how disorderly my classroom was (or at least seemed to me), I just cringe. There’s just only so much you can learn in school before you experience the true learning curve of being a rookie teacher. I remember breaking down one morning while I was supposed to be monitoring morning devotions, crying in a back hallway and trying to pull myself together before I had to teach my first period class. One class in particular felt out of control, and I was really struggling to know how to be an effective teacher to those students.

Frustrated  first-year teacherClassroom Management Concepts I Wish I Had Understood as a First-Year Teacher

I am happy to report that the story did not end there. Through the help of fellow teachers, administrators, and The First Days of School, I learned how to effectively manage my classroom, and my frustration turned to enjoyment. Well, at least most of the time. We teachers know we’d be lying to say there’s not still frustrating days, but overall I can hardly even compare my first year to the following years.

While I learned so many lessons, three concepts in particular stand out in my mind as making the biggest difference.

1. You must deal with the first infractions the first weeks of school. I knew this one in my head, but I wasn’t ready to carry it out, and I sure paid for it. I remember letting little things go because I didn’t want to be mean the first week of school, but that was a huge mistake. The next year, I addressed everything – yes, even little things like whispering, running into class, or not following directions – and what a difference it made!

2. Addressing a problem doesn’t mean you have to be mean or hand out a punishment. One reason I didn’t address the initial problems in my classroom was that I didn’t think that a punishment was warranted. But I was missing the point. I didn’t have to give out a detention to the first person who talked (and that would’ve been a bad idea). All I had to do was kindly say, “Adam, please remember that talking is not permitted. Thank you.” Now, of course, if Adam doesn’t respond to this, I would have to go further, but during the first few weeks of school, these simple reminders are normally enough to develop an orderly classroom.

3. Confidence is key. The other reason I avoided addressing issues was that I lacked confidence. Somehow I had gotten through my student teaching without having to deal with many discipline issues, and I was simply scared to say anything or do anything. I literally had to get up the nerve to even tell a student to sit up in class. And I had no idea what I would say if a big issue came up. This lack of confidence came across loud and clear to my students as a free pass to try to get away with whatever they could. As I became more experienced, my confidence grew, and this intangible asset made all the difference in my classroom management. The tough thing about confidence is that it’s hard to gain if you don’t already have it, but my suggestion would be to write out responses to as many classroom discipline situations that you can think of. Then, practice saying them in front of a mirror and to a friend. This should help you develop confidence that you’ll know what to do when these situations arise.

I discuss all three of these ideas in more detail in my e-book Create Your Dream Classroom. You can find out more about its contents or download it today.

What other concepts do you wish you would have understood as a first-year teacher? Share what you’ve learned with a comment below.

Photo by Zach Klein

11 Thoughts on “Classroom Management Concepts I Wish I Had Understood as a First-Year Teacher

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  6. Emily on June 3, 2014 at 9:37 pm said:

    I wish I had known that you can call attention to an undesirable behavior by focusing on the behaviors you do want to see. By praising those who are on task, you gently let those off task know that they need to change their behavior.

  7. Anonymous on August 3, 2014 at 11:58 am said:

    I made the same mistakes in the beginning! I’m so glad I wasn’t the only one!

  8. Rina Paul on June 23, 2015 at 10:01 pm said:

    I also like to follow these cardinal rules:
    1. Thou shalt not take misbehavior personal.
    2. Thou shalt have a sense of humor- always.
    3. Thou shalt understand that in the beginning you are the “teacher” and on the other team. Slowly, as the year moves on, you will become an individual. But as of right now- you are suspect, my friend.
    4. Thou shalt keep your sense of humor- even if you have to fake it. Smile more than you feel like it.
    5. Thou shalt never let students say disrespectful things about others- other teachers, administrators or other students.
    6. Thou shalt have extra pens and pens available and will give them away freely. Even for the fifth time to the same student. Grace is a priceless memory and pencils appear on the floor as if by magic every day anyway.
    7. Thou shalt go to staff get together a to get together with other staff.
    8. Thou shalt always assume the best intentions but keep your common sense meter running at all times.
    9. Thou shalt always have more to learn- you will never know all there is to know about teaching.
    10. Thou shalt love what you do- even if you do t like the day, you make the most important difference in a students life and that is worth more than sleeping in an extra hour (on most days)
    After 10 years of teaching high school… That’s what I know:)

  9. Cindy on June 24, 2015 at 12:15 am said:

    Don’t wear new shoes!!

  10. It was a tough year for me, started out co-teaching, which was great….but then in late Feb I was put in a BMC…but I know in my heart it was all part of God’s plan. Those students needed someone, wasn’t easy, but i have no regrets.

  11. It was a tough year for me, started out co-teaching, which was great….but then in late Feb I was put in a BMC…but I know in my heart it was all part of God’s plan. Those students needed someone, wasn’t easy, but i have no regrets.

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