By Petra Claflin
Over the course of my career at YES Prep, I’ve been a teacher for 6 years, a dean of instruction for 2, and spent another 2 years as an instructional coach. During that time I’ve seen a lot of teachers struggle with classroom management and a lot of leaders support them. In some cases it was the school director or the dean of students and in other cases it might be the grade level chair.
What can be really difficult for leaders is that they often fail to intervene adequately because they want the teacher to be the cultural leader of the classroom. They don’t want to come in and lay down the law and then have it fall apart again five minutes later. And they don’t want to enforce lots of consequences that result from the teacher’s lack of authority. While the teacher definitely needs to be the leader of the classroom, struggling teachers need significant support if they are going to be successful. Leaving things to the teacher to fix may make sense in theory, but in practice it sends students the message that you are okay with their behavior and that they don’t, in fact, have to do anything the teacher says. It also can add to the stress and feelings of failure that teacher is already facing.
Here are some strategies I’ve seen our most successful leaders employ that support both the teacher and the students:
This may seem like a lot of time to devote to one teacher in an already hectic schedule. One way to alleviate that is for 2-3 leaders to share the responsibility and divide up the support. It could be a grade level chair or even another experienced teacher who is invested in helping. Another way to think about it is to compare 2-3 weeks of intensive support that sets a teacher up for success versus an entire year of putting out fires and dealing with escalating discipline situations. So as soon as you can tell a teacher is starting to struggle, jump in there! The sooner and more strategically you can intervene, the better the chances of success for the teacher and her students.
What strategies have you used to support your teachers?