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Classroom management is never easy, but it is a vital part of what you do as a teacher. Without a well-run classroom, your kids will miss out on far too many opportunities in art. In this episode, Cassie addresses the most important aspects of her classroom management system. Listen as she talks about her struggles with consistency (4:30), how to bring calm to your classroom (8:45), and why she keeps her rewards and consequences as simple as possible (13:00). Full episode transcript below.
I’m curious to know if you’ve had one yet. I have had several and each one has been more terrifying than the last. They cause me to wake up with night sweats and I’m deathly afraid to try to fall back asleep for fear I have another one. Can you guess what I’m talking about? The back to school nightmare. Is this something that all of us experience? Please tell me I am not alone. My hands are actually sweating just talking to you about my back to school nightmares. They look almost exactly the same every single time. If they made a horror movie based on my back to school nightmare, it would probably outdo Saw as far as scariness goes. In fact, that’s pretty much where it looks like my nightmare plays out. Imagine this, yes, I’m going to talk to you about my dreams.
Let’s hold hands and soul gaze, shall we? It goes a little like this. I’m in what looks like an abandoned auditorium with about 40 to 50, maybe 60 kids. I don’t know where the teachers are. It also appears there’s no heat and maybe a flickering of the lights. You know, true horror movie style. I’m standing there and I cannot get their attention, their focus or their respect to save my life. It usually is me saying, “Hey, guys. Hey, guys. Hey, guys,” getting progressively louder and more anxious without a single child even putting their eyes my way. It’s usually about that time when the zombie administrator starts to lurk in, getting ready to do their observations of course. Not just any observation, but the one that’s going to set the tone for the rest of your art teaching life.
It’s usually then that I wake up from the nightmare. I know. It only happens at that certain time of year, late July, early August when I’ve got teaching on the brain. I think you guys can all relate to my back to school nightmare. This is Everyday Art Room and I’m Cassie Stephens. What is the one thing that we all have in that back to school nightmare or I should say what is the one thing we don’t have in those back to school nightmares? Classroom management. Every time I have one of those nightmares it’s always because I have zero control and classroom management. I think that kind of nightmare speaks volumes because without classroom management and without control, you cannot teach. You most definitely cannot enjoy teaching.
Even though it might appear as though you’re out of control, students are having the very best time of their lives, they’re not. They’re getting gipped out of a quality art education. Today we are going to address classroom management. Now in the last couple of episodes we’ve chatted about routines and rules and consequences. You’ve heard me say over and over again that you need to think about the three S’s, your set up, your situation, and your students before you start thinking about your approach to teaching art in your art room. I’m going to throw another S your way and I feel like this S is super important, self.
You need to think before establishing anything in your room about yourself and what your new established routines, rules and consequences will look like coming from you. For example, I think it’s important to know yourself. I know myself well enough as a teacher after almost 20 years of teaching art to know that I am not consistent. That is something that I struggle with in my everyday life, but especially in my art room. I also know that being consistent is vital in an art room and it’s something that your students need and crave.
Knowing that I’m not consistent means that when I’m establishing routines, rules, consequences and my classroom management plan, I can’t have a lot of things happening, meaning I can’t designate certain jobs to certain students or certain tables because I know that I’m not consistent enough to stick with that and to continuously remind students to do those jobs. I think that whenever you are listening to another art teacher speak like me or you visit another teacher or art teacher’s room, you might see some fabulous things happening, but also take it with that S grain of salt of self, will this work for you? Yourself? That being said, let’s talk about classroom management and today I thought I would share with you my three C’s of classroom management.
These three C’s are important no matter what your set up, your situation, your students and yourself. Here it goes. Calm, consistent and chaos free. Those are my three C’s of classroom management. Let’s talk about those three C’s. Let’s start off with calm because that is something that sometimes I struggle with. When you consume as much coffee as I do, calm is not something that comes easily, but it’s very important to your classroom management. We were talking in the last podcast about when you’re delivering your consequences to always do so in a consistent way, meaning using the same verbiage, and in a calm voice. Never raising your voice, never let your irritation at a behavior show is vital to having your students respond positively to you.
Now I know what you’re thinking. We want art class to be fun and exciting and joyous. Calm sometimes gets a bad rap for being the opposite of that. Take it from me. I can be pretty silly and pretty animated, but it surprises folks I think sometimes when they come to visit my art room, they’ll pull me aside and say, “You’re so calm.” It’s really amazing considering the amount of coffee that I take in, but here’s the reason why. Your students when they’re sitting in front of you or creating with you, imagine them being like little mirrors. They’re reflecting you. They’re reflecting your behavior. If you’re silly, they’re silly, which is great if they’re a good group of students that understand when to turn the silly off, which as you know is a little bit sometimes of a struggle.
If you’re calm and consistent, you might find that your students are the same. Now I know what you’re thinking. “Not always, Cassie. I mean sometimes my students come to my art room and they are a wild bunch.” Oh you all, trust me. Mine too. My students come to me from PE where they’ve just had a lot of fun and great activity. Sometimes no matter how calm I am, my little mirrors are broken and I need to fix them. There are some ways that you can bring a lot of calmness and soothing to your students, which will make your classroom management a lot easier and a lot more smooth for you to teach. Let me share my favorite one. This is called palming.
Imagine you have your students seated with you in your room whether that be at their tables or if you’re like me, they come in and they sit on the floor. If I notice that my little mirrors are not being as calm as I’m trying to be, then I know that I need to bring them to an activity called palming. Why don’t you do it with me right now and I’ll help you walk through palming. Take both of your hands and put them thumbs together so that the palms of your hands are facing away from you. Now, and I’m doing this with my students as well, what I’m describing to you is exactly how I would say this to my students. Now bring both of your hands together slowly and calmly as if you are clapping, but do not clap. Now slowly start to rub your hands up and down.
They should start to feel a little bit warm because of friction. When I say two, rub your hands together just a little bit faster so that that friction creates more heat. When I say three, stop rubbing your hands together and place the palms of your hands that are now nice and warm over your eyes and keep them there until you hear me say three again. Three. It’s at this point where your students are sitting with our little warm hands on their eyes. While they’re sitting this way, I deliver my message to them. I say to them the behavior that I’m going to expect when they take their hands off their eyes, what we’re going to be talking about when they take their hands off their eyes and how I want them to take their hands off their eyes.
I simply say, “When I say three, please put your hands calmly in your lap. Three.” When my students are finished calming, there is a huge difference in their behavior. It’s like they just finished meditating. They’re a lot more calm and it’s a lot easier for you to progress with your lesson. Another thing you can try instead of calming, which would be the opposite. Sometimes I’ve noticed that if my students are really a ball of energy, it’s difficult to do palming with them. They’re a little bit too hyped up. For that reason, well, sometimes I say, “You just got to ride that wave.” I’ll have them walk in and we’ll do a little controlled dance activity shall we say. I have them repeat after me. I always have my students repeat after me.
My signal to them when I want them to repeat after me is me to simply clear my throat like this, ahem. They all do the same and then they also know that anything I say or do as far as what action I do they will do the same. It’s at that point that I will say, “Let’s dance,” and they all say, “Let’s dance,” and I’ll show them a short movement of my body like let’s do the twist and I do the twist and they’ll follow suit. We do this for maybe two minutes where I’m doing just silly little dance moves or hand jives or anything I can think of just to help them get the giggles and the wiggles out. When we do the last one, we sit down. It’s usually at that point that they’re pretty calm.
They’ve worked those wiggles out, but if you noticed that they haven’t and they’re still a little giggly and wiggly, then you might want to try palming, but all that to say keeping your room calm will really help with your classroom management. I have noticed that if I start out on a calm note at the beginning of the school year and even at the beginning of the class period, I can still switch to silly, but I can bring it back down to calm a lot easier if that kind of tone has been established during the first few weeks and months of the school year. Now the second thing we talked about which I admitted I’m pretty miserable at is consistency.
Consistency is definitely not my strong suit, but it is vital to teaching and knowing that I keep such things as class jobs and rewards systems super duper simple. I cannot stick with sticker charts or having designated seats, be for designated jobs. That’s just not my bag, especially when I have 30-minute art classes. Those kind of things are very difficult for me to be consistent with. However, consistency is extremely vital and I build it into my routines. In the very first podcast, I chatted with you about my eight routines that I establish at the beginning of the school year. I am very consistent with those routines and my students know that. Being calm and consistent is extremely important with your classroom management.
What those two things will do is they will keep your art work chaos free. Now I know sometimes when I hear myself say these things, I sound like I’m sucking all of the fun and life out of my art room, but the flip side of that which I have lived is a cluttery and disastrous mess of an art room. I have noticed that if I’m not consistent and I’m not calm, then my room erupts into chaos and nobody enjoys that. It’s difficult to reign your room back in and make it a fun joyous creative space when there’s clutter everywhere. When there’s clutter everywhere, suddenly the students start appreciating and taking care of the art room and the art supplies.
Keeping your art room chaos free by being consistent and calm is very important to creating that wonderful environment where your students can really flourish and explore. It’s a struggle. I’m not going to lie. Like I said, I’ve been teaching for 20 years and I still have those nightmares that are all based on classroom management. The good and the bad thing about teaching is that you’re always learning. It’s the good because it keeps us constantly growing and engaged in bettering ourselves. The bad is that it feels like we are always learning and always growing and we’re never going to get to that point where we are the master teacher and that’s okay. Think of your art teaching as creating a work of art.
A masterpiece is never finished and trust me, my art room is far from a masterpiece, but with calmness, consistency, hopefully I can keep it chaos free and create a fun environment for my student’s art education.
Tim Bogatz: Hello. This is Tim Bogatz from Art Ed Radio. Thank you for tuning in to the podcast. We appreciate everyone that has listened, left positive comments and left reviews on iTunes. All of those things help us build momentum and build an audience for this great show. Also, check out the podcast on TheArtofEd.com and get signed up for the Everyday Art Room weekly mailing list. Last week I talked to you about Art Ed PRO, the subscription service that provides on demand professional development for art teachers. You can check it out at the TheArtofEd.com/pro. However, I want to tell you that a lot of administrators are supporting the service and a lot of schools have funds to pay for your professional development.
Just ask. You can send your administrator to ArtEdPro.com where they can click on a PRO for Schools to see if it’ll work for your school. It doesn’t hurt to try and who doesn’t want to have control of their own PD? That’s your job in the next week. Make sure your admin checks out Pro for Schools at ArtEdPro.com. Before you do that, let’s go ahead and finish the rest of the show.
Cassie Stephens: Now it’s time to take a little dip into the mailbag. This first question is one I actually get quite a bit. It goes like it is, “Cassie, you make a lot of videos that you share with your students. How do you make your videos? What programs do you use?” I get this question quite a bit. In fact, on my YouTube channel, I even created a video on how to make videos that you can still find, but let me see if I can break it down for you. First of all, I think the misconception is that you need to immediately go out and buy expensive equipment. I’m here to tell you that the phone you have will work just fine to create video lessons for your students. All you have to do, especially if it’s an iPhone, is put the iMovie app on your phone.
If you have an Android phone, I do not have, you’ll have to look into what free app you could put on your phone. Trust me. They’re out there. Put that app on your phone and just film short clips of yourself demonstrating whatever lesson you’re teaching to your students. In iMovie, it’s very easy to edit those clips. I would recommend if you’re really interested to just watch a couple of YouTube videos that will simply show you how to make an iMovie for your students. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be something that will be engaging for your students and easy for them to see and hear. Trust me. Once you’ve done one, you’ll be excited to do more. Your students will absolutely love what a lot of people refer to flipped or filmed lesson.
Here’s another question, “Cassie, I noticed that you wear high heels a lot. How are you able to teach in those all day?” Oh boy. I don’t wear high heels anymore because I got some common sense up in my head. Who wears heels when teaching? I used to and my feet were never happy with me. To be honest, I now wear a lot of Chucks or Converse because they’re flat and I feel like I can actually move a lot more in my art room. I always keep a pair of back up shoes in my room, a pair of little comfy shoes, just in case I am crazy one day and decide to bust out the heels. I know I’ve got my backup shoes on hand. I know that seems so silly, but you know shoes are vital to teaching.
Finding a pair that are going to be comfortable is really important to your lifelong health, not just your day to day. I would say definitely go for comfort and not fashion unlike me. If you have a question for me, please feel free to send it my way. You can email it to email@example.com. I have had so much fun chatting with you guys today about classroom management. Here’s hoping we get a little bit more of a handle on classroom management, so we in the very least stop having those horrible back to school nightmares.
We chatted about the three C’s that I think are vital to classroom management, calm, which I know you’re probably surprised to hear that from me since I’m not usually very calm, but I do try especially at the beginning of the year to be that calmness in the art room. Consistency, which I admitted I’m not super great at. Think really hard about what works for you. Knowing that consistency is not my strong suit, I know there are certain routines that other art teachers have success with that I would not and that’s okay. The last one is chaos free.
It’s important to keep your art room clutter free and therefore chaos free and create a beautiful, calm and consistent environment for your students to really flourish as these creative little beings that they are and not turn into the crazy creepy zombie land nightmare that you might have during those summer months. It’s been awesome chatting with you guys. This is Everyday Art Room and I’m Cassie Stephens.
Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.