Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

CLASSROOM PRACTICE: The Brilliant Inventiveness of Student Misbehavior: Test Your Classroom Management Skills

Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

CLASSROOM PRACTICE: The Brilliant Inventiveness of Student Misbehavior: Test Your Classroom Management Skills

Article excerpt

Take the quiz and see how you measure up to Ms. Chase, a seasoned classroom manager who has seen it all.

MOST TEACHERS have read a book or two on classroom management -- if not during their actual working careers then at least while they were in college. Generations of us have been trained according to the latest wave of enlightenment, such as behaviorism, reality therapy, or logical consequences. All these approaches have a core of common sense and tidbits of wisdom, and all offer a canned solution to the gritty problem of managing a classroom of young people.

I have read a good number of books on classroom management, and none of them has made me an exceptionally good classroom manager. Please don't misunderstand: I do not mean that books have not made me the exceptionally good classroom manager that I am; I do mean that, despite reading all these books, I am still not exceptionally good at classroom management. However, I think I am a pretty good teacher, and I attribute this to my ability to adapt to the ever-changing environment of the classroom.

Whenever I am faced with a new, particularly challenging classroom management situation, I am dazzled by the brilliant inventiveness of student misbehavior and the lack of ingenuity of the folks who write the classroom management books. Printed portraits of the student with the notoriously bad attitude pale in comparison to the creative genius of the genuine article, the living, breathing, in-your-face classroom management problem. And I have yet to meet a teacher as bad as the "bad teachers" or as good as the "good teachers" who populate the classroom management handbooks. Most of us find ourselves somewhere in the middle, struggling between compassion and exasperation.

Nevertheless, I dimly remember a time in college when I enthusiastically devoured the educational manuals assigned to me. I recall thinking that I was thus prepared for the classroom.

In an effort to re-create the compelling reality of an actual classroom, I have devised a quiz for prospective and practicing teachers on how to deal with classroom management crises. The "answers" that follow are based solely on my subjective and unscientific opinion. Just so you know whom you're dealing with, let me tell you that I would never, for example, greet even my worst student with one of those awful "bad teacher" remarks: "Bobby, why do you even bother coming to school?" But I probably wouldn't use a "good teacher" greeting either: "Bobby! I'm so glad you made it to school today so you can share your own special insights with us!" I would probably just say, "Hi, Bobby." Since I'm a French teacher, I would most likely say, "Bonjour." Bobby knows what I mean. That said, here's the quiz.


1. A student (much bigger than you) approaches you holding a chair above her head. You say, "Sally! Put that chair down. What in the world are you doing?" Sally says, "I was planning to hit you with it." What should you do?

A. Pick up another chair to defend yourself.

B. Say, "Oh, in that case, Sally, it's all right."

C. Send Sally to the "planning room." (Substitute the place in your school to which noncompliant students are removed.)

2. You ask a student who has been roaming around the room to please sit down, and he ignores you -- twice. Finally, you speak to him sharply, telling him he needs to sit down or leave. He complies, but not before making a very loud, angry cat sound. How should you react?

A. Ignore the angry cat sound since the student is, in fact, sitting down.

B. Give the student detention, after consulting with the rest of the class on how to spell the angry cat sound for documentation purposes. (Rowr? Rraanr?)

C. Ask the student to explain in words what he means by the angry cat sound before you make your decision. …

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