As an aspiring teacher, and a current childcare center employee, classroom management is always the most apparent educational aspect to me. All teachers implement different, effective techniques for their classrooms, and I usually focus my attention on the variety of strategies that I, too, could try out someday. Of course, improvement is never a bad thing, nor is shaking things up a bit and experimenting with potential management skills that could work equally as well, or better for you! In my field placement, however, this is not the case. I have noticed more often than not, the struggles my Co-op teachers face daily when it comes to managing a classroom full of 4 and 5 year olds. Rather than learning new skills that I could someday use as well, I often notice that the preschool classroom I am currently placed in does not have much of a management system at all.
Like most preschools, both the students and the teachers begin the morning with carpet time. During this period, we outline the daily schedule (which does not change, it’s more of a reminder for the students), we discuss and update the calendar, and then we read a story before it is time for centers. As I stated before though, without classroom management, this daily morning routine always turns into a longer, more stressful carpet time than it should be. For example, on the daily schedule, morning carpet time is only supposed to take roughly 15 minutes to complete, but without effective management skills, it takes nearly 45 minutes to settle the students and catch their attention, before even beginning the lesson. Taking the time to try and redirect a handful of 4 year olds causes the obvious loss of valuable class time, and can also cause the students who once had your attention, to act out as well. With that being said, how do we know what management strategies to use? How do we know when to use them? How do we know they will be effective?
We all know it is especially difficult to hold the attention of 20+ preschoolers. We also know that not all classroom management techniques will work for the same age groups. Many management strategies advise that you create and maintain meaningful relationships with your students in order to prevent inappropriate behavior because “students won’t listen to a teacher they don’t like”, or for more accuracy, a teacher they aren’t as comfortable with. For preschoolers though, many of them are very accepting and couldn’t care less whether or not you’re a one-eyed troll, they will be your friend. Under this circumstance though, you may need to experiment with a management approach that isn’t so obvious. Between this article by Megan Ruesink, or this article by Allison McDonald, they have provided 20 different examples that could potentially be your answer!
After reading about the different approaches that you could experiment with in your classroom, and learning when the right time to implement them is, our remaining question still stands: how do we know that these strategies will be effective? The truth is, the only way to know is by doing! All students respond differently to certain approaches, so it is up to you as the authority figure to find which ones work best with your specific classroom, and to stay consistent with them!
It is definitely a bumpy ride trying to gain control of a classroom full of preschool students, but I leave this article with you in case you’re ever in need of a few extra tips or a boost of confidence. Don’t worry, we’ve all been there!