Thursday, February 3, 2011

How do I establish procedures for my class?

Ms. Dorothy,
I am almost finished with my teaching practicum, and though I won't be starting my own class till the Fall, I've been thinking about all the little routines of the classroom.  How do you go about teaching all those daily things about bathrooms and snacks and pencil sharpeners at the beginning of the year? I'm nervous I won't be ready.
- Student Teacher

There was a great post recently on Edutopia about this with some decent suggestions.

Something to keep in mind is that if you start out by teaching some simple procedures for these routine situations, they won't become a problem for  you later.

There is a wonderful book called The First Six Weeks of School for the beginning of the year that many brand new teachers have found extremely helpful - it's also useful for teachers who need to re-group and establish procedures that weren't there before.

Keep in mind that it isn't just about having rules and regulations in place, it's about establishing rapport and making sure that needs are met in the classroom.  Students shouldn't feel the need to "escape" your class if you are focused and prepared and the learning is engaging.  

If you begin from the assumption that what you are doing, what you are having them do, is engaging and interesting and worthwhile work, then you can also assume that a request for the bathroom comes from genuine need. 

When in doubt, consider an office situation. Would you have regulations in place about the use of the bathroom or watercooler in your office?  What might they look like? Would you have a set time when all the female workers could use the rest room?  Would the entire office staff wait outside the bathrooms and go one at a time because it was "bathroom break time?" Would you limit the number of times each staff member could use the bathroom in a day? Would you time their trips to the bathroom?

If the bathroom or fountain is a place to meet an actual need, it should be used when it is needed.  
Try keeping a pass by the door that students can take as they exit, so you will know when someone is out.  

If you are concerned about interruptions during teaching, consider again the office. Would someone be comfortable to get up in the middle of a presentation and exit to use the bathroom?  Would they raise their hand and give a signal to do so? Would you expect them to have gone before or after the presentation?  

Consider presenting these questions to your students when establishing routines of respect for your room. Chances are that students will understand the need to remain in the room during a lesson and to discretely exit when necessary during an independent work time. 

If you find that students are racing to grab the pass when it is returned, stop what you are doing and re-group.  They are simply not engaged in whatever you have them doing and you need to do something differently.

You've already figured out that if you spend the time up front on creating how things are done in your room, you will have more peace long term.  You're going to be fine!

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