Back in my back to school post, I left a footnote that should've started a fire:
90% of my classroom management takes place outside my classroom, seven minutes before class starts.
I thought for sure those who knew what I was talking about would've chimed in huge and those who didn't get how class management could hinge so tightly on seven minutes outside and before class would've raised a hand. Neither group did so I'm forced here to call my own bluff. Thanks a lot, people.
Now see here: unless I'm swapping rooms and stuck scribbling an opener on the board during passing period, greeting students at the door is now my default and primary classroom management technique.
Not just because …
- it kicks tardiness in the head. (Kids get to class quickly 'cause only in those seven minutes do they have anything close to autonomous control over their classroom. During those seven minutes they don't have to censor themselves, their speech, or their behavior in the same way they do once I walk inside and get it going.)
- it lets me differentiate my relationship with each kid. (I'm not sure which is harder. Differentiated instruction or differentiated relationships.
I pointedly ignore the too-cool-for-school crowd until they're right at the door, at which point I issue an unhurried, hey, what's up?
However, the sort of kid who adores her teacher, learning, and school, craves affirmation. I see her coming from a distance, smile, say, hey, how are things? how was lunch?1)
- it starts class on a casual, informal note (letting them know I'm not just about the backbreaking, start-to-finish labor).
rather because …
- when we're the middle of a disciplinary situation, the knowledge that tomorrow I've gotta look you in the eye and exchange pleasantries forces me to take my finger off the trigger.
Way off the trigger.
Knowing I'll say hello to you tomorrow means I've gotta find a solution that dignifies both of us.
You get in the pattern of addressing the students in your plus-sized class socially as a group ("hey, guys, really good to see you today, hope lunch treated you well") you can go days without interacting socially with individuals. Then, suddenly, you're mixing it up in a disciplinary situation with nothing friendly to fall back on.
I've got three high-impact classes this year. Zero referrals, zero after-school detentions, zero disciplinary phone calls home.
We didn't do a syllabus. We didn't talk about rules.
I just say hello outside.
- Anyone horrified by such a calculated rationing of affection is urged to speak up. This technique (commonly called "personality mirroring," I think) has had a profound effect on my teaching. The cool kids who want a cool teacher think I'm cool. The nice kids who want a nice teacher think I'm nice. In fact, I'm neither but that's why they call this a "job."