Preparing Teachers for Classroom Management: The Teacher Educator's Role

Article excerpt

In this article, the author calls for teacher educators to prepare education candidates with a foundation in classroom management theories and strategies before graduation. Classroom management courses that are offered during student teaching, and also in the master's program, are described. Personal stories and results from surveys of teachers and student teachers build the case for management courses to be offered by professors and any other teacher educators.

When I was in my undergraduate teacher education program, classroom management was handled with one line by several of my professors: "If you write a good enough lesson plan, you won't have discipline problems." Now, 30 years later, I use a very different quote with my own student teachers: "You will not even get to teach your perfectly written lesson plan if you don't have a classroom management plan in place." Just as the teaching profession struggled for decades to define its knowledge base in the methodologies of effective instruction, theorists and writers in the teaching profession are still defining the knowledge base of classroom management and discipline. Yet, one can hardly be considered a highly- qualified teacher without a mastery of sound best-practice strategies for managing classroom time, space, and student behavior.

The purpose of this article is to describe management classes offered during the student teaching semester and in a master's program at the college level. This paper describes some of the resources available to teacher educators - the professors and those who work to prepare and support new teachers. Although teacher education courses are generally taught by professors of education, some who prepare teachers work in schools or in regional offices of education. They are also teacher educators and might include a cooperating teacher or staff developer.

Need for Preparation in Management

A benchmark study in the perceived problems of beginning teachers, Veenman's 1984 meta-analysis listed classroom discipline as the number one problem of new teachers. Education majors are still very concerned with 'discipline" as they enter and progress through their college programs (Parkay & Stanford, 2004). As teachers face continual pressure to raise student achievement, researchers remind us that "classroom management is perhaps the single most important factor influencing student learning" (Callahan, Clark, & Kellough, 2002, p. 161).

Without sufficient knowledge of classroom management strategies, new teachers may begin their careers striving to manage as they were managed. While some of the "folk wisdom" of classroom management may be worthwhile, there are many myths perpetuated by teachers that not only don't work in today's classrooms but are harmful to the classroom atmosphere and to students. These myths include the following:

1. There is no way to study classroom management and discipline; you just have to experience the classroom and then learn how to deal with students and their behaviors.

2. Start out mean.

3. When all else fails, turn the lights on and off.

4. Don't smile before Christmas.

5. Figure out the ringleaders and pick on them. Make them an example and the others will be scared and fall into place.

Although many student teachers have heard these lines, they have no context for understanding them. The college class in management provides the readings and background to debunk these myths, while providing a clear system on what to do in the classroom. When the knowledge base of management is shared in a college classroom, the student teacher goes into student teaching equipped with strategies and can cope with management even if few techniques are taught by the cooperating teacher.

Although student teachers definitely need the help of their cooperating teachers and mentors in learning to manage a classroom, relying only on these teachers in field experiences may not provide the student teacher with sufficient theory and strategies, as many practicing teachers may never have had any training in management. …