The October edition of The Kappan (published by the National Education Honor Society, Phi Delta Kappa) has as its theme Exploring Classroom Management. In the Introduction by the editor, Joan Richardson quotes well-known child psychologist and author, Haim Ginott’s Teacher and Child: “How a teacher communicates is of decisive importance….Teachers who want to improve relations with children need to unlearn their habitual language of rejection and acquire a new language of acceptance. To reach a child’s mind, a teacher must capture his heart. Only if a child feels right can he think right” (p. 81).
Classroom management consists of all that the teacher does to create a positive learning environment in the classroom. This includes fostering respectful relationships among students and between students and teacher that allow for risk-taking and failing without fear of repercussions or ridicule; building lessons that motivate the learners, that engage them in problem-solving and critical thinking, that stimulate imagination and creativity, and that relate to the life experiences and interests of the learners; designing and using strategies and procedures that enhance learning by implementing structures, organizing procedures, and establishing routines that facilitate instruction and on-task behavior. However, above all, the key to classroom management is the person of teacher:
More than 300 years ago, John Baptist de La Salle wrote about the key principles of classroom management in a book entitled The Conduct of the Christian Schools. In it he detailed the kind of relationships that must mark the learning environment, the kind of lessons that must be created to deal with the practical reality of the students, and the kind of organization and structure needed to make learning possible.
However, he (like Ginott) also posited that key to classroom management was the teacher. The teacher was to be a big brother/sister to his students; the teacher was to be a “Good Shepherd” who knew the students and was able to discern how to deal with each one as an individual. He offered 12 Virtues for teachers to adopt as their own and to develop, 12 guidelines as it were to convert their classrooms into environments that humanize rather than de-humanize students.
In addition, De La Salle realized that touching the heart of one’s students was central to the educational process. Touching the heart was and is the way to capture a mind and to reach a soul. This is the key to all education and to Lasallian education, in particular.
Brother Frederick Mueller