An Ounce of Prevention

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Ounce of Prevention

School Counselors and Classroom Management

Classroom management is a major aspect of effective teaching and learning.  The type of classroom management that a teacher has will set their classroom tone and make or break student learning.  The best kind of classroom management is preventative, where the classroom environment it set up so it is hard for students to disrupt or avoid learning because most of the opportunities for them to make trouble have been removed.  School counselors are often called upon to provide advice or resources for teachers struggling with classroom management issues.  This article will provide several management resources for school counselors to use in their own guidance lessons as well as resources to pass on to the teachers they support.

Classroom Management Support for Counselors

Managing the classroom is an important part of the school counselor’s guidance or counseling lessons.  When I first started out as a rookie school counselor back in 2008, I thought I’d alleviate some teacher work load, and tell them they didn’t need to stick around to discipline during my guidance lessons.  Mistake!  I realized pretty quickly that while the kids followed my rules and accepted my consequences for misbehavior, they lost sight of how I could support them.  My (inappropriate) role as classroom disciplinarian, even in a short monthly 30 min lesson, seriously compromised the way that students interacted with me as a counselor.  In short, they weren’t always comfortable coming to me for counseling help because they saw me as their disciplinarian, not as the non-judgmental, always-on-their-side school counselor.  The moral of my story is that the teacher should stay in the classroom during school counseling lessons and manage student behavior so the school counselor doesn’t have any discipline conflicts of interest.

Classroom Management Support for Teachers

School counselors are often called upon to support teachers by providing effective classroom management resources and ideas.  Sometimes these supports are needed for a challenging classroom and other times supports are needed for a challenging student.  If you are a school counselor, there are many classroom management ideas that you can pass on to the teacher.  The key in collaborating with teachers over classroom management issues is to wait to be asked and then give the teacher what they request.  Management struggles are a sensitive topic for any educator, so it is better to wait for the teacher to seek out help, than to rush in with all types of unsolicited support.  In certain situations, it is fine to very gently offer support to the teacher, but leave the unsolicited-but-necessary classroom management issues to the school administration- the role of the school counselor is to support teachers, not to supervise or order teachers.  In the same vein, it is important to provide the resources in a manner best suited to the teacher’s needs.  After the teacher seeks support, the school counselor can ask the teacher how they would like the support to be given- in the form of a classroom observation to help diagnose the management challenge, in the form of a technique or article to be shared, or in the form of a demonstration to model the technique in the classroom.  Speaking of techniques, in my work with teachers, student teachers, and counseling interns over the past 20 years, here are the most common and helpful tips I have found on classroom management.

Managing the Classroom
  1. gamesStart off (especially during your first week with students) on a positive and engaging note to give learners a super-positive first impression of the class so they are excited to come future classes each day.  Don’t be afraid to jump right in with fun games!  Remember, you have enormous power to set the emotional tone- if you are excited, they will be excited.
  2. Also start off your first lessons going over the classroom rules and consequences to set the tone.  Have just 3-5 hard and fast rules, no matter the age of the learner.  A well-constructed rule might be, “Raise your hand to share your ideas.”
  3. playgroundMake sure your students are physiologically ready to learn- meaning, if they are not fresh as a group (because they have been in another class for many hours, or are tired because it is the end of the day, etc), let them have a snack and 15 minutes of movement (preferably outside) and/or chatting so they are physically ready to focus once you start teaching.
  4. Always wait until you have everyone’s attention (they are looking at you and listening to you with no talking) before you address the class to give directions, announcements, instruction, etc.  Go as slow or fast as the class requires- nothing sends a classroom into chaos faster than rushing students through content they are not ready for or boredom because the pace is too slow.
  5. When giving directions, follow these steps:  say one direction at a time, then point to the direction in writing (on chart paper, on the whiteboard, etc), then randomly select a student to repeat the direction to the class in their own words.  Repeat these steps with every direction and try to limit an activity to just 3 or 4 directions at the most.
  6. behavior planHave a simple, tiered approach to consequences for breaking a rule; for example, first- a verbal warning, second- a private conversation after class, third- a parent phone call or points taken from grade.  Be sure you follow it every time there is a breach, which can be difficult.
  7. Start every new activity after a transition with students clearing the old materials off their desks and having the entire class get quiet before starting the new activity.
  8. Speaking of transitions- limit them as much as possible.  Bundle your teaching activities and topics so that students can focus uninterrupted on one topic at a time with minimal distractions by other activities or topics.
  9. Give a 10 minute break every hour where students can stretch, stand up, put their head down, chat, use restroom, etc.
  10. Circle TimeGive young students assigned spaces in line, assigned spots on the floor during Circle Time, assigned desks/seats, etc.  This eliminates a lot of non-academic conversation and time.  It also reduces student squabbles.
Managing the Individual Student

While these ten tips will steer most classrooms into management bliss, there are some students who will always need a bit extra, a bit more than just the regular classroom rules, consequences, and procedures to show successful, positive behavior.  For these students, I recommend a behavior chart.  The key to a successful behavior chart experience (where “successful” means that the student uses the chart to change their negative behaviors into positive ones), is student buy-in and a high percentage of success with the chart for the first 2-4 weeks. (Free behavior management chart plus tips for getting student buy-in and early success with the chart).

behavior chart template

In conclusion, effective classroom management is one of the great challenges and great rewards of the school environment.  School counselors can play an invaluable role in helping teachers create the best classroom environment for their students.  As a final set of resources to assist in this role, below are some links to fun and super-informative resources that will round out any teacher’s or counselor’s management toolbox.  Happy Managing!

Bilingual Learner

This article was written by Stephanie Lerner, a bilingual school counselor at a Title One middle school in Texas.  She has taught and counseled for over 20 years.  Visit her Bilingual Learner TPT store and her Bilingual Learner website, for more teaching and counseling resources!


An Ounce of Prevention: School Counselors and Classroom Management