Classroom Management

What Do New Teachers Need to Know About Classroom Management? (Episode 2)

In the second episode of the What Do New Teachers Need to Know? podcast, Lindsey Moss joins Tim and Janet to answer new teachers’ questions about classroom management for every level. Listen as they discuss the idea that student behavior is a form of communication, how you can structure your class time to help with management, and why being proactive can be such a game-changer. Full Episode Transcript Below.

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Tim Bogatz:

Hello, and thank you for joining us on the What Do New Teachers Need to Know? podcast from the Art of Education University. My name is Tim Bogatz, and together with Janet Taylor, we have put together a series of 8 episodes directed at new teachers that share some of our best pieces of advice on a variety of topics.

Some of the discussions you will hear over the course of these episodes originally appeared on the Art Ed Radio podcast, and some are new to this podcast. Sometimes we will be answering listener questions, sometimes we will be giving advice, and sometimes we simply be having a discussion that shares our favorite strategies and advice. No matter the case, we hope that listening will be helpful for you.

I am joined now by two of my favorite guests, Janet Taylor and Lindsey Moss. Janet, how are you?

Janet: I’m doing well.

Tim: Awesome. And Lindsey, how are you?

Lindsey: Yup, surviving!

Tim: That’s the best we can hope for some days. So, that’s all right. We have a ton of classroom management advice to get from the both of you. Since we have two guests, I’ll try and stay out of the way today. But, I usually, can’t help myself with Janet here, and we still are going to talk a lot. But we’ll do our best to keep things moving along.

And we’ll dive right into our first question. This comes from Rebecca in Virginia. And she wrote an email that said, “My students behaviors are horrible, and I don’t get a lot of help for my administration. Other teachers say this is as bad as kids have been in a long time, are things worse this year because of the pandemic? Or is it always going to be like this? Can you help me with the worst misbehaviors?”

Lindsey, let me toss that one to you first, you can take any or all of that. Is it always going to be this bad? Is it worth unusual? What is your experience been this year?

Lindsey: Sure. Okay, so this is my 18th year teaching elementary. And I would say that, yes, this is the worst that I have seen, more difficult than last year too. Will it always be like this, Rebecca, wants to know? Good, please, I hope not.

Tim: Yeah, we hope not.

Janet: Yeah.

Lindsey: Like crystal ball. I don’t know that I can sustain, if this is the new plan. But I guess, okay, so she’s asking how to deal with the worst misbehaviors. I guess, for me, this year has been like the Schrödinger’s cat of classroom management, because two things are simultaneously true. Student behavior is completely a 100% external to you, it is not your fault. And also, it is very, very dependent on you, and thus, your fault.

So, both things are true at the same time. And now, that I’ve heard myself say that aloud, I don’t want to see a bunch of angry emails. So, from here on out, I’m going to say, it’s my fault and not your fault.

Janet: Was it collective?

Lindsey: Yes, the collective, it’s Lindsey Moss’s fault. So, unpacking the first thought that student behavior is external to you and you have very little control over it. I think, Janet can probably help me a little bit with this one too. But I think that for two reasons, number one, I think that all of our students have lived through trauma of varying degrees in the last 18 months.

There’s no way to really know what magnitude. You don’t know who just went through the pandemic, or whose family lost their job. And they had food scarcity, or who was stuck home with alcoholic parent, or you don’t know. So, you have to just assume that everybody has been through trauma.

But then, I think the second thing that we don’t have a lot of control over is that, the educational system is coping by creating more and more screen dependency. We had to do that. We didn’t have a choice. But I think there are side effects, behavioral side effects to that. Janet, what do you feel about the trauma part of it?

Janet: For sure. I mean, I was just talking to one of our doctors the other day, and she was reminding me that what our kids have gone through an experience like this is their reality, and we never had to deal with that. So, what we’re coping with, we’re coping through an adult lens. And this is just, crazy time, right?

Lindsey: Right.

Janet: So, as far as dealing with that trauma to give some, like little practical tips on that, I guess, I would always revert back to talking about Chris Cusack, when she was on the podcast, and who was the social worker that was at my kid’s school, so I know her pretty well. I wrote an article about that, too. So, you can reference those.

Lindsey: I love that article.

Janet: Yeah, and it’s just nice to revisit, right? Because there’s these points that we need to remember that we’re always leading with empathy, that behaviors are a form of communication. And that’s basically, what you’ve been saying, right? Lindsay, is that, this is external, it’s not about us in that regard. And whatever they’re dealing with, it’s coming out as behaviors.

And so, we really have to, unfortunately, come from this other lens that we’re maybe, not used to dealing with, or on top of everything that where ourselves dealing with, right?

Lindsey: Right. And to Rebecca’s point, I don’t think that’s going away super soon.

Janet: No, yeah.

Lindsey: So, I think, these strategies aren’t like interim strategies anymore. They’re like, long-term concerns as a teacher.

Janet: Yeah.

Lindsey: And I’m not really sure how to come to terms with that, as somebody who’s taught for 18 years, you really have to switch gears. And I feel I’m new right here with you Rebecca this year.

Tim: Yeah, I wouldn’t say, though, that a lot of what Chris talks about, are still going to be best practices, even if or when behaviors come down from our students. And maybe, we aren’t seeing just things escalate so quickly, or the severity. Maybe, goes back to where it was, still like leading with empathy and trying to figure out where your kids are coming from and listening to them. Those are all going to be things that we still want to practice. Those are all going to be strategies that should remain in place, I think.

Janet: And, going along, what you were going to say, I’m sure Lindsey more about the external or the stuff that is… How am I putting this? It’s been a long day for, right?

Lindsey: It’s Lindsey’s fault.

Janet: It’s Lindsey’s fault, no. But things that we can control versus what we can’t control. And I’ve been working with student teachers now, and quite a few of them, it’s pretty exciting. But the three top things that I always keep reminding them, what makes a great teacher, and probably, especially now is, coming with curiosity, and being reflective, and then responsive.

So, I think part of this is coming with that empathy lens and being curious about what you’re seeing and why that might be happening, whether that is an internal driver for that student, or I’m sure, Lindsey, you can talk more about this, what’s going on, that you can control, or that you can work with them. And that’s that reflective and responsive piece.

Lindsey: Sure. I guess, like when I was a new teacher, and a lot of times when I hear advice for new teachers, a lot of classroom management advice seems to be centered around like having a positive classroom management system, having posted expected consequences following through. And that is true, but I’ve always felt like there was something missing from that because, to me, that’s all reactive. For those situations to arise, you already had to have a kid sitting at your art able either thinking, this is not for me, I am not into this, or I’m feeling really insecure and not great about this.

So, I’m going to cook up something else to do right now. And so, when I say that half of it is my fault, it’s because for a long time now as a teacher, I really believe that like, really good classroom management is like, two prongs of like the pitchfork to keep back the angry mob. And those two prongs are relationship building and relevant content.

Janet: Yes.

Lindsey: And when I say it’s my fault, it’s because I’m in a pandemic too. And so, I’m not as good at building relationships with kids, as I maybe was 18 months ago. And I’m not as good as fussing out what’s really hot and hip right now to make relevant content.

And so, because I’m tired and burnt out, those two things aren’t coming as organically for me as they used to be. But I guess, the non-intuitive advice that I would give a first-year teacher is like, twofold. Number one, when you have some of these, like… Wait, I feel like we need to put an asterisk on this, because when she says bad behavior, this is a sliding scale, right?

Janet: Right.

Tim: That’s true.

Lindsey: I’m not talking about, if we’re talking about like furniture throwing, harming other students or a staff member, that’s not on you. That’s something that a social worker, a school psych needs to help you with. I’m talking about, like chronic disrespect, or people who are eloping leaving the classroom, or work refusals, those types of things that like, it’s not intuitive that when you see an angry bear, you go hug it. But that’s what you need to do.

Janet: Right.

Lindsey: When you look around the room, and you have a group of kids that are particularly challenging for you, that you look at that group, and you think, “Who here can I move the needle on?” And you invite that kid in for lunch with a friend, or you show up at their basketball game, or you get really interested in building a relationship with that kid. And then, secondly, the relevant content, I’m not a choice teacher, but I try to have a culture of yes in my classroom, where my kids know, this is what I’m presenting, but I want you to ask me to change it…

Tim: Right.

Lindsey: That they can put their own spin on it. And then, I’m going to say, “Yes,” unless it’s like, super expensive or crazy, right? But I think those two things really help. And then, you don’t have the management issues in the first place because no kid wants to leave a room where something cool is going on with a lady they like.

Janet: Exactly.

Tim: Exactly, yup.

Lindsey: Maybe, that’s an oversimplification. But I believe that that’s what comes way before any point system, our party, Think Sheet, whatever?

Janet: Yeah.

Lindsey: Yeah.

Tim: No, I think you’re absolutely right. And actually, it leads into our next question, kind of all right here. The next question leans toward creating relevant content and just getting kids going in the right direction, being proactive as we’re talking about. This is from Miranda in Florida. And Janet, I’m going to give this to you first.

Miranda says, “Do you have your students do sketchbook prompts or anything like that to start class? I think it’s helpful as far as having kids come in and get to work and not be too off task,” which she’s right about. She says, “But I’m afraid I’m wasting too much time. And I’m having a lot of trouble always coming up with new ideas, what would you suggest?”

Janet: This is a great question, because early on in my career, I did a lot of bell ringers. And I found that they were just not engaging or authentic or meaningful. I couldn’t get the information. They were great, because my kids would come in and they knew exactly what to do, right?

Tim: Right.

Janet: They’d sit down, they would do the bell ringer, but then they would sit and chat until I could get myself together or everybody was finished or whatever it was. And ultimately, they would finish that, and then they handed in, it would sit on my desk for like three months before I throw them in the garbage and never did anything with them.

Tim: Right.

Janet: What was the point of doing that, right? It’s just wasting paper. But the point at that time was to manage my classroom, so that I could manage 40 kids, and take attendance, and have some settled start. And then, and I always use sketchbooks in my classroom, but I’ve used them in a lot of different capacities. I’ve built curriculum from them, or in them, I guess you’d say, and we’ve used to do like homework prompts or like sketchbook prompts.

And you can’t even get me started on that because I’m very against homework, to be honest, if you don’t know that already. But I find it like just really inequitable and busy work and students just procrastinate on it, anyway. So, I do think that Miranda is on the right front in saying that sketchbooks directly in the art room are much more meaningful and authentic.

And a big piece of that is, when you’re using them to correlate or support what you’re teaching in the classroom, or the parts of the creative process that the students are at in their work, right?

Tim: Right.

Janet: So, yeah. So, for example, of course, right now, they’re great. And I’ve had somebody else asked me the same question not that long ago, like, visual journaling. It feels like, it’s taking me and my kids forever to do visual journaling, and they’re not really getting to the artwork, while A, that can be their artwork, too. And that’s okay.

But, and I should say, I always have to prompt this or start off and say that reminder that you’re a mandated reporter. And so, we need to be careful, because I always tell my students, this is their space. And when you’re creating this space for them in a world right now, where they don’t have, maybe feel safe, or feel things are out of control, that’s their space to control.

And it’s even more essential that you make it very clear that this is also something that you’re monitoring. And that if you’re concerned, you’re going to reach out to parents and staff and whatnot. But as far as props go, for example, if my students were starting off on a project or an assignment, artwork, whatever, I would definitely, have them work in their sketchbooks to do some brainstorming activities, and that could be the first five minutes of class or first 10 minutes of class.

And when you’re doing something like brainstorming or planning out an artwork, or maybe practicing with some conceptual thinking, then they can share with a partner or something like that, then it’s integrated into the work and it doesn’t feel like you’re taking away from the time in class, if that makes sense?

Tim: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yup.

Janet: I also use it a lot for practice mindfulness, practice media and techniques. There’s so many capacities that you can use a sketchbook. Another great idea is to actually, give a one-week prompt, and then students can work on a two-page spread or a page in their sketchbook and develop that five, 10 minutes of the beginning or end of class period every single day.

So, it’s not feeling like, they’re taking over the time, and kids want to finish. They’re like, “I just would rather do this, than do that.” Or even sometimes, especially now too, fatigue over a long unit, or especially in advanced classes, they’re working on portfolio development, for example, doing something where students can… You take a day.

It’s okay to take a class period and say, “Today, we’re just going to take a rest day. We’re going to doodle. You can draw whatever you want. Or we’re going to all draw a bunch of eyes, whatever it is.” Things that they love to do, like love eyes. I don’t know what it is, because that’s the eye that they love it so much, right?

Tim: Yup.

Janet: And let them indulge in that. There’s nothing wrong with that. And they’re still practicing their work. So, I don’t know, is that helpful?

Tim: No, I think all of those things are helpful. I have a couple of comments that I want to add on to what you’re saying. But first, Lindsey, I wanted to get your perspective on just what things look like at the elementary level for you? How do you start class?

Lindsey: Sure.

Tim: Do you use sketchbooks? Do you have prompts? What is a good way to begin class each day?

Lindsey: Yeah, I’m a big fan of sketchbooks as an early finisher activity. So, it’s more an end of class, or when you have completed a project kind of thing for me. But something that’s working really well this year, I have a friend who teaches music at a different building. His name’s Ryan Martinez. And he gave me this really great strategy. It’s called a Mood Meter. And I don’t know if he got this off the internet, or if he built it himself, but it’s basically, like a Google slide. And it’s a nine grid of like the same theme.

So, it might be a nine grid of cats. And one is very mellow, and the other is like scratching another cat’s face. I mean, they’re like, very nine really different cat emotions. And then, there’s like numbers in each corner. And he made a slideshow or found it with like 30 slides like this.

So, when my kids come in, as they’re coming in, I put the Mood Meter up on the screen or whatever. And they know that they can pick whichever one they are. And some days, they just tell people at their table, and that gets them chatting, but they’re on task chatting in an SEL way.

And sometimes, at the start of class, I’ll be like, “Who’s a one? Who’s a two?” I can’t tell you the number of times this year where I’ve gotten to like an iffy cat and a kid raises their hand and I’m like, “That’s good information for class today.” This kid is having a terrible day. And it’s good to know that, and it sounds really goofy. But at the elementary level, that is really helping me. They get in a hurry to get in the room because they want to see what it is like, “Oh, it’s SpongeBob today. Oh, it’s Harry Potter. Oh, it’s guinea pigs.” They’re just excited.

And I’m sure, you could make your own off the web or whatever. But yeah, it’s more of an SEL approach to starting class. But maybe, I would have never tried this previously in my career, but I feel like it’s saving me time in the long run this year. Because again, I’m want… Kids are self-identifying that they’re having trouble, and that helps at the start of class.

Tim: Yeah.

Janet: Oh, my gosh, Lindsey, you could have them pick which cat and draw in their sketchbook like them as a frazzled cat?

Lindsey: Yeah.

Janet: That would be amazing.

Lindsey: Where they make their own. They should make their Mood Meter…

Janet: Yes.

Lindsey: So, it we can be like, here’s the Mood Meter by Jaden, yeah.

Tim: These are great ideas. I was going to say, I’ll just come back to a couple of things, Janet, said really quickly to wrap up on Miranda’s question. Yeah, sketchbook prompts are great, but you don’t have to feel like they need to be prompts every day. You can say, “No sketchbook today, get out your projects and work,” or you can say, “No sketchbook today, we’re going to talk about this.”

But even more than that, I like Janet’s idea of just tying it into your project. I love it for just quick check-ins on assessment, where I say, “Write three sentences about how the project is going so far,” or like you said, brainstorming is great, quick critiques are great, or even just activities like show your work to someone else, and let them know what’s going well, and what’s not. And just small things like that.

So, it doesn’t have to be like silly drawing prompts. I mean, there’s a place for those, and they’re enjoyable. But if you can tie that into your instruction, and I think that’s even more of a benefit and take some of the pressure off of you, always trying to find something new. So, I think that’s worthwhile.

All right, next question. This comes from Maddie in Connecticut. And she asks, “Should I try to keep my classroom quiet? I feel like my kids are making work, and they’re creative, and they’re messy, and they’re loud, but that’s what art is, right? It seems normal to me. But I’m getting a lot of dirty looks from classroom teachers when they walk by my room.” That’s harsh. Lindsey Moss, you have a sour look on your face…

Lindsey: Yeah.

Tim: Can you talk about that when teachers walking by? So, would you care to step in on this one?

Lindsey: Sure. I have a loud room, and I’m proud of it. And I am blessed to work in a building where I don’t get the stink guy, but I do keep my door closed. So, maybe, Maddie that needs to happen, so that you’re not spilling out in the hallway. But I guess, my larger question would be, what is the metric of teacher success, is it compliance? Or is it engagement?

Tim: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Lindsey: Because I would take engaged kids over compliance any day.

Janet: Preach it, Lindsey.

Lindsey: Yeah. And sometimes, that looks a little wacky. I have a kindergarten teacher here in my building, Betsy Smith, I love her. And she has a poem on her door. I’m sure you could find it online. But it’s something about a beehive and how to an outsider that looks really chaotic and loud and messy and crazy. But there is a highly organized system going on. And that you can’t know that just by looking, or you could just yell, “Engagement over compliance.”

Janet: Out of your door.

Lindsey: People giving you stink eye.

Tim: I was going to say like, I like the beehive analogy. I personally would say, my classroom was never quite that organized. But if other people want to believe it, I will push that. So, Janet, do you have things that you would like to add here?

Janet: Yeah, so I think very similarly, especially my classroom was always loud and noisy. And funny story is that, my classroom was right next to a science classroom, like literally wall to wall. And I teach jewelry metals. And so, it’s like very loud, lots of hammering, echoing through the hallways…

Lindsey: Machines.

Janet: Yes, yes. Very loud. And the teacher had to come over and tell me at times when she was planning on giving an exam or something like that because it would be too loud, right? I don’t blame her. And it became this thing where we’re like, “This is perfect. We can be in Kahoot now, about getting like soundproofing put into our room,” and pushed for that and curriculum meets, because you can’t… I guess, the other thing is, a lot of times people are like, “Well, I’m taking a test, you need to quiet down.” And it’s like, we are learning too and you can’t tell us what our learning looks like, and impede on our learning either.

And so, I guess there’s a difference between crazy loud like chaotic. You’re being a silly teacher friend to them, and actually, engaged classroom, right? So, there’s a difference between the two. And whenever I had evaluations, the paperwork always asked, and one of the questions was always like, “So, what does it look like in your classroom? What are the students going to be doing?” And I was like, “My room is noisy, kids are going to be working, they’re going to be social, there’ll be chatty, they’re going to be helping each other, they’re going to be, like you said, buzzing around the room at all times.”

And I feel very strongly the same way that it always looks like very chaotic. But it’s highly orchestrated, the kids know what they want to do, when they want to do it, and why they’re doing it. And to me, that’s the highest level of domain evaluation or whatever, right? Student learning.

But I will say, too, that classrooms look very different in high school, depending on the subject or the content area in art. So, for example, and I also find that it draws certain kids to certain areas.

Tim: Yeah.

Janet: So, the drawing kids, the drawing room is always pretty quiet. They’re very focused. They’re meditative. Jewelry metals, not so much. Sculpture, not so much, right? It’s a totally different dynamic. And ceramics, that can be pretty like, go either way, to be honest. It can get kind of loud and crazy, but also very quiet and focus.

So, I don’t know. I’m with you that I think, if you’re reflecting on your own, I guess, that would be my advice, or my thoughts to Maddie would be, if you’re thinking about your classroom, and you’re like, “No, my kids are really learning, they’re highly engaged,” then who cares what other people think. There we go.

Tim: Mm-hmm (affirmative). No, I think that’s been supervised, right?

Janet: Yeah.

Tim: They’re like, if your kids know what they’re doing, if you know what your kids are doing, and learning is taking place, I wouldn’t worry about it.

Janet: Yup.

Tim: So, I think that’s probably the best advice we can give. All right, next question comes from Hillary in Colorado. And she says, “My significant other is an elementary classroom teacher, and she talks all the time about how she can’t get kids to calm down. I am a high school art teacher and I have the opposite problem. I can’t get kids excited about anything. They’re apathetic, withdrawn, on their phones all the time, how do I get them involved? Or at least, how do I get them to do their work?” All right. So, Janet, we need the secondary perspective here.

Janet: It’s funny because…

Tim: Lindsey just throwing your hands up, like what can you do?

Lindsey: This is not my wheelhouse. I’m with the partner. It’s loud in here.

Tim: So, Janet, thoughts?

Janet: It’s funny, because my student teachers have been really observing that too. I’d be like, so in their clinicals, they did elementary, and then student teaching, they’re doing high school, or vice versa, right?

And so, they’ll come back and they’ll say, “You know what? It’s so strange, last semester, the noise in the elementary room was excited and happy, kids are bouncing around working on stuff. And then, I come to high school, and it’s like, you can’t get them off their phones. They’re completely apathetic. They don’t even look at me, if I ask them a question. It’s like one word answer.” And it was like, “There is a keen difference between that developmental age group, too, right? That’s not too crazy of a discrepancy there.”

But, okay, so how do you deal with that? So, I was just talking to a good friend of mine, and it was interesting, she said that in her department meeting, they were trying to figure out, like, what to do about this? And where do we go from here? And she said, “We’re kind of out of survival mode when it comes to pandemic,” and not that you’re not dealing with stuff, and not that it’s still not incredibly difficult. But that it’s just, you’re not in the first stages of the pandemic. When we didn’t know what was going on at all times, and you’re constantly putting band aids on this like, gaping wound, right?

And so, she was like, “Now, it’s time,” and the department has a lot of young, like new teachers, fresh teachers. And so, they also student taught in a pandemic. So, they are not totally aware of what it was like, pre-pandemic…

Tim: Right.

Janet: … which I do feel, I feel bad in some regard because it’s like, “Are they going like, this what I signed up for? Is this what teaching is?” And it’s like, really difficult because you’re like, “It wasn’t.” But anyway, so it really resonated with me because she said, “It’s time to go back to our good teaching practices, and get back to the basics and start again, in a way. And I thought, “Oh, that’s really interesting.”

And so, I was thinking about what are ways that we do that? And the first way is to set high expectations but lower others. So, it’s like, choose your battle kind of a situation. And it’s this constant balance maybe between what’s really important and what’s not necessary.

So, this student teacher was going into a classroom, and it seemed to him at that time that there was a lot of busy work going on, or a lot of step-by-step work. And the kids were just bored or disengaged. And so, there’s that balance that I’m kind of talking about. They need a lot of structure and support right now to give them space to express and be creative.

So, it’s like a really, like walking a tightrope, right? I want them to feel safe. There needs to be a lot of scaffolding to support, so it’s not so risky and scary, because they haven’t been doing this in a while. But also give them that space to express themselves, make it more meaningful, that kind of thing. Oh, did you have something you wanted to add?

Tim: No, go ahead. Go ahead.

Janet: Okay, because I’ll just keep on going. But other things like homework, bell ringers, like I said, you really have to assess, okay, “What is actually necessary right now? What do I need less work of myself, so that I can authentically connect with them, have more space for my own emotional capacity with my students.” And then, a lot of times, when things felt dull in my classroom, or my students were struggling with engagement, I would flip my activity around.

So, instead of me teaching them, like, traditionally demonstrating how to do something like, let’s say, we’re mixing colors, right? And I’m teaching you how to mix this, and then you go back to your table, and you fill out this worksheet, because you’re mixing your colors to match it, right? Instead, what if you flipped it around and said, “Okay, here’s your primary colors, go ahead and make an orange, like, figure it out.” And you don’t want to waste paint, and you do have to have those procedures in place on how to manage that in the first place.

But giving them that chance to explore the materials, puts the learning and puts the exploration and thinking back on them and engages that thinking brain as opposed to the going along the motions brain, if that makes sense. Yeah, so I also think like short bursts of really fun activities to help bring… Everybody moving, get up out of their seats a little bit. And then, of course, Lindsey, hit the nail on the head, it’s always about, you’ve got your procedures and expectations. But truly, it’s about building those authentic relationships.

And so, if you have specific kids, because before, we used to have maybe a few kids in our class that were really challenging to connect with. And now, it’s so many more. It’s like half the class maybe, or more. Looking for any and all connections that you can have with that student to pull them out of their apathy, and then kind of like pick them off one by one, as opposed to thinking about the whole collective.

Tim: No, I think you have a lot of good points. So, Janet and I don’t want to add too much. But I will echo the idea that engagement is going to be key, if you can find cool activities, like I just listed half dozen examples. That’s a great way to get kids less apathetic. Let them work with cool materials. Let them do cool things. Let them work with their hands, like they’re going to enjoy that.

And then, the second thing, and Janet mentioned this quickly, too, just choosing the battles you want. I will never fight the cell phone battle. I’m not going to sit there and like, “You have to put your phones away.” What I will do is compromise with them, “I’m fine if you’re on your phones, but when I’m talking to the class, if I’m giving direct instruction, that’s when your phone needs to be put away.”

And so, I would ask them, “I need five minutes of your time right now, put your phones away, eyes on me.” And that’s the battle I’ll fight. I need kids paying attention when I’m ready to teach.

Janet: Along those lines, that’s interesting about the cell phone specifically because that is a big deal, right? And a long time ago, I also was just like, “I’m not fighting this battle, I can’t take a phone away from them.” That’s like illegal, basically.

Tim: Right, right.

Janet: I can’t do any of that stuff. I’m not engaging in that power struggle. So, I would also try to incorporate that into my lesson where they had to take photos and document their work and whatever.

Tim: Yes.

Janet: Or also, letting them listen to their own music during studio time. You have set times that they can do that. And going back to this whole pandemic thing, it’s like, they’re also struggling with their social skills, right?

Tim: Yeah.

Janet: So, having especially those introverts out there, we know that we need space to fill our bucket. So, if you can tune out the class a little bit and have that space to really engage in your own self, that’ll actually, make most of those kids a little bit better. They’ll manage themselves. It’s like a coping mechanism.

Tim: Yeah, absolutely, absolutely. Okay, so that’s all of our mailbag questions. I do have a couple things, I don’t know, Tim questions. I don’t know what we’re going to call them. But just things that I would appreciate getting your thoughts on. One would be, organization.

So, Lindsey, I’ll let you think for just a second, I’ll ask Janet first here, because Janet is just on a roll right now. And so, Janet, any organization tips that you would want to pass along to new teachers, because I think organization can, in a lot of ways play a role, maybe not specifically, in classroom management, but just allowing teachers to feel like, they have things in control, like they’re on top of everything that’s happening in their classroom. So, anyway, long way of me saying advice, please.

Janet: Mm-hmm (affirmative). So, even in classroom management, like the bigger overarching, you’re so right. The more that we plan ahead and feel good and rested, and this is what I’m going to do today. It allows you space when things pop up, so that you can triage along the way. I would say, that’s a big one, and I know that’s very difficult, especially as a new teacher, you don’t really know what to anticipate.

And so, organization is a big deal, and my classroom was not very organized, I will admit. I’m not a super organized person. But your prep time is super precious, there’s very little of it. Usually, I’m organizing while eating my lunch, et cetera, right?

Tim: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Janet: And people are like popping in and talking to you. And you’re like, trying to focus. So, the more that you can plan ahead and have your materials, literally, like I write a list out of exactly what I need. So, I might not say like, cut paper for art one class is like a task. I might actually say, cut 32 sheets of paper, 9 by 12, it needs to be sulphite paper. And I’ll put the stack on the side, I’ll put aside the list on it, so that I know that when I have time to come back to it, I’ll cut that paper, for example.

In my case, in the choice classroom, I had it set up where all of my tools and materials were around the room and everything had labels on drawers. And I set up the system, so that students knew that as they came in, and, of course, the beginning of the semester, whatever, it’s a little different, but they knew that they could access certain tools along the way, right?

So, if they didn’t know how to use a tool, they couldn’t go use it. But they knew exactly, where the tool was. We would constantly review and model and demonstrate and talk through. If you need this hammer, it’s over here. If you need sandpaper, it’s over here.

And so, students start taking that autonomy on themselves. And so, you don’t feel so responsible for constantly doling out all of the materials. Now, that being said, a lot of teachers are like, “But then all my materials, kids waste it.” It’s like your favorite when they cut in the middle of a construction paper, that’s a little tiny dot that they want. And you’re just like, “My construction paper.”

But you take your materials and the ones that they can access, they can access, and you just put a few of those things. So, if I put a bunch of sandpaper out and I’m taking very jewelry metals specific, right? But if I put a bunch of sandpaper out, they’re going to go through that sandpaper very quickly.

And so, I always want to make sure I only give a little bit at a time. Then, I have other stations or areas where I would keep more usable, disposable, or what am I thinking like consumables, right? More consumable type of… Yeah, materials. And then, the precious materials are in another place.

And so, students always knew, and somebody mentioned this not that long ago, I was listening. I thought it was a great idea, like an art store or something like, you come up to the art store and you can purchase, you can buy something. Was that you, Lindsey? Did you say that?

Lindsey: We do that there, yeah.

Janet: Oh, I see.

Lindsey: My little guys even get in their car…

Janet: Oh, my God.

Lindsey: I mean, like, it’s a whole.

Janet: I should do that with high school. That would be amazing. Like, get in your car and drive to the…

Lindsey: They love it, and I always make that funny joke. When you get back to your seat, turn off your engine, so your cars can go through the art room wall. They love it, and hilarious.

Janet: That’s incredible. That’s incredible.

Lindsey: But if you’re seven, I’m hilarious.

Janet: Yeah. When you’re in your 40s, I think you’re hilarious, too. It’s good.

Lindsey: Got it.

Janet: Anyway, so yeah, so like an art store or something like that, where kids know that if they need something specific, something special, they can just come and ask you, and then you’re more reserved for those times as opposed to having to worry about constantly refilling, filling, et cetera. Now, of course, that’s high school. I know elementary looks very different.

Lindsey: Yeah, I mean, not to keep talking about compliance versus engagement.

Janet: Right.

Lindsey: But what you’re talking about, I have going on at the elementary level too. And it’s not a choice classroom. But I have a lot of things out too, because I feel like the less work I do with supplies, the more work I can do teaching and helping them develop with their making.

Janet: Yes.

Tim: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Lindsey: And so, my room is really set up for self-service. It’s like, you mentioned precious materials, mine would be things that are sharp.

Janet: Yes, that’s true.

Lindsey: But otherwise, almost everything is like out in bins where they can reach it really easy. And also, getting back to this compliance versus engagement idea, and trying to have a classroom with a culture of yes. Sometimes, when you see something, then that triggers the idea like, “Well, I don’t really oil pastel,” but I can see she’s got this over here. I wonder if it’s okay, if I use it. And then, all of a sudden, you have a kid asking because they saw it. And then, yes, yes, you can.

So, I think having options out for them to see all the time is really important. But one thing I have noticed like, I tend to be a little bit scatterbrained and less organized. And I feel like kids really rise to the level that they perceive a room being. If you have a lot of junky broken crayons, they don’t take very good care of it.

Tim: Right.

Lindsey: So, I try to really call my supplies, and routinely, have them separated by color. So, just so they look organized, because to me, it’s like the better the system looks, the better they take care of it, which is counterintuitive, maybe. But that’s just what works in my classroom. So, it’s what you’re seeing Janet, but on the little person level.

Tim: No, I think you’re absolutely right about that, Lindsey. And just to toss my last few thoughts into what you both said, I would offer this advice for every teacher, like having supplies out where students can access them is a good thing. Having those supplies labeled is even better, and having those supplies labeled with pictures as well, of what goes in that tab, that container, that box is the best you can do. And it has just a ton of benefits for your students if you can keep things labeled and organized.

And so, I think, maybe that’s not something you get done your first year labeling and organizing all of the supplies in your room, but it’s something that you can work toward. And I think it’s a worthwhile goal.

So, all right, I think we’ve been talking for about 40 minutes now. So, I think we’ll go ahead and wrap things up here. So, Janet and Lindsey, thank you both. I appreciate your time. I appreciate the conversation. And I appreciate all of your advice.

Janet: Thanks, Tim.

Tim: All right. Thank you to Janet and Lindsey for that awesome discussion. And I know we talked for a while. But I do have one more thing I want to say before we go. One more thing that I think needs to be said. Just kind of a last piece of advice here.

Don’t be afraid to adjust and reset when it comes to classroom management. If you have a class that you feel like is slipping away, class that you feel like is out of control, you don’t have to continue to struggle. You can reset at any time. You can remind the students about your expectations. You can talk to them about what needs to be done, what you expect from them, what you need from them, and what part you’re going to play in the reset as well.

And like you said, you can do that at any time. It doesn’t have to be after a break. You don’t have to think, “Oh, we can wait until Monday,” or anything like that. Just when it needs to be done, do it, okay? Identify what in your classroom, what in your classroom management plan is working, identify what is not working, and share that information with your students.

You can just say something like, “If we’re going to have a positive and supportive and collaborative classroom, we need to do better than this. We need to do something different, because what we’re doing right now is not working for me as your teacher. It’s not working for you as artists. And it’s not working for your peers around you.”

And so, just remind them of your ongoing expectations and talk to them about how you’re going to achieve those things together.

Our next episode will be all about what New Teachers need to know about organization. We hope to have you join us! Thank you for listening!

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.