Classroom Management & Protocols

Seating Arrangements

Teacher Areas 

August 2017 

The amount of space needed to make a "teacher" only space is very small compared to the amount of space you should devote to actual learning. I only sat down during planning and lunch and most of the time I had a group of students either testing or making up assignments, using the computers or needing one-on-one time during lunch with me.  My personal work space required a desk for my computer and gadgets like VCR, Clickers, Projector controls etc. All the "wired" stuff at one desk and then a nice clean table area where I could really turn some pages. This is the table that I would grade papers, read content related text and the majority of my lesson planning. 

Below would be a fair example of a similar set-up that I used which is not only functional but accessible.  Notice that the wires are being covered with a bookshelf - which I love so accidents are prevented.  You can make your personal room super cutesy if that is your thing - I've seen some amazing personalized rooms with awesome themes but it can be expensive on an average teacher budget. 
Another couple of things to try and snag to set-up your teacher area are bookshelves or side tables. These really come in handy when you need a place for literally anything and everything! However, I can be a bit on the OCD side and hate chaos so I prefer bins. The bins help in keeping my sanity because visually it is not as messy - as long as I don't go looking for it :)

At my school the Plant Operator was the man in charge of furniture in the beginning of the year. I brought him bagels as a bartering tool to bring me the best of the best bahahahahaa!  No no, I'm joking (or am I??) lol  He was awesome though!  Seriously, you should become friends with the janitorial staff and the plant operator they really RUN the school and if you are in need they can be great lifelines! 

Just as an example: I had a paper slicer in my own room that I had bought from Staples and the blade was beginning to not give me clean, straight, crisp lines and one request sent in to him and POOF like a genie the next day it was sharper then the day I bought it!  Even though he was busier than anyone it seemed he made time for all of us teachers!  I appreciated him that's for sure! 

Back to the teacher areas, filing cabinets can be useful but I prefer the two drawers.  Some teachers keep portfolios in them separating their periods/classes but I just used the plastic crates because they were in the staff lounge in a variety of color so I snagged them QUICK! I liked the visual color system to assign to each class and students never were wondering which crate was designated for them. Personal preference but use what is available! 

As in the above photo, this teacher has a mini-fridge. My site didn't allow small appliances so I think you have to check with your school or district. I would have LOVED a mini-fridge because my class was literally a three minute walk to and from.  During transitions from class periods, I would have to practically run (speed walk is what I called it) down the halls to use the restrooms and this meme describes it in all facets bahahaha 
When it comes down to it! The teacher area just needs to do a few things for you. Hold your personal belongings (a drawer with a lock is great!), office supplies, essential electronics, textbook materials to glance at, and all the paper that accumulates throughout the year.  Paper organizers are great and so are those "teacher tool boxes" but I just used the actual drawer and a drawer caddy thingy - Does anybody still do this!?

Small Groups

Collecting, Grading and Returning Work

July 2017 

Back to school is fast approaching! Are you ready for this school year? Well... I certainly have the gear for your success as a teacher new or vetted!  I put together this HUGE document with my personal classroom in mind...But, I love sharing with everyone since it makes all of our lives a touch easier.  In this document, you will receive everything needed for a smooth running class including library/lunch hallway passes, homework punch passes even class signs for absent students. 

Many editable items so you can personalize to fit your individual needs!

On to the topic of grading/collecting work from students. The first item of business is ensuring that your students are responsible enough to place a name on the work being graded. I hate hate hate, coming across a worksheet that is completely correct but no name? A very small detail that is overlooked such as a name, can throw a monkey wrench in a students grade.  When I was student teaching back in college, I had observed in an 4th grade classroom and the teacher had implemented a new protocol for collecting work.  Students in the morning would take out their assignment and by group, travel to the turn-in bin where they would highlight their name prior to placing it in the bin.  A very small task which led to fewer, if not any, no named worksheets. 

Well, I took that idea and started my own.  I have a collecting bin, but instead of highlighters, I use a red/blue or any other colored marker and students place a simple check next to their name. This task is the first step in placing the responsibilities onto students being held accountable.  In middle school, students are juggling many classes so I understand them overlooking writing their name but justification won't solve the problem of missing assignments they swear up and down they completed.  By placing the responsibilities on to them, I have alleviated my time in tracking down the owner of a no name document. It is a small thing to begin doing in your personal classroom but hands-down is one of the best grading policies that I have started.  I love it and it all is an idea from the elementary level which can be adjusted to suit the needs of secondary teachers!  

To continue moving on to grading/returning work.  I don't grade EVERYTHING! It is an impossible task even though I believe, everything I assign is of value. I can't place that burden on myself to review and give feedback for each worksheet.  Therefore, I have started a Homework Punch Pass card. Very similar to the punch passes you see at your local stores for frequent buyers. The idea hit me as I was dropping items off at Goodwill and I simply gave them my punch card after donating old clothes my daughter grew out of and they said great job, you filled it up! I felt a sense of happiness hahaha even though it is something so small it was a nice thing to hear that I get an award ($5 off my next purchase). So, I immediately wanted to begin my own system with my students academic practice. 

Great edition to all classes/subjects -- My student's loved earning their stamp of approvals! 

I assign homework four of the five days per week and each day following the assigned homework, students take out their homework and begin their Bell Work. During this time, I travel around the room and punch their cards (I usually just place my initials on it) to prove that they did in deed attempt their homework.  After the Bell Work is completed, I review the homework by displaying the answer key.  Students then identify 2-5 problems that they struggled with and I quickly show them a detailed step-by-step answer. This alleviated me traveling home each night a their homework assignments.  I don't want to spend precious time outside of the class grading numerous papers.

The worksheets that I do collect are mainly from class activities especially those from centers!  I devote a TON of time organizing meaningful group activities during centers and I do expect students to show what they know on these types of collected materials.  Now, the protocol I follow for grading is in a packet style. 

A little background on my centers if you haven't read up on how I use them: On Monday, we begin centers and complete four rounds of transitions to finish them by Thursday. Some days, we will conduct two transitions but most of the time students will complete one center per day.  This type of rotation depends on your classes though. At one point, I was teaching two types of math, regular and intensive. My regular classes only met once per day for a regular 48 minute class. On the other hand, my intensive periods met twice per day for two 48 minute classes. That extra period was built in to enhance their learning experience in math since they needed additional help.  Those students get additional scaffolding of materials, technology days, extra group/pairing activities etc.  So, each type of math was taught slightly different but... the center activities were finished by the end of Thursday.

Back to the Math Packet I was discussing previously.  On Friday, instead of taking out their punch pass and academic practice from the previous night. Students get together their center material and create a packet. This is then stapled together with their name (and check mark) to be turned in.  THIS my dears, is what I grade intensely! I feel this gives me the best idea on how well the student is grasping the material being covered and identify the needs each student my require.  Since the activities I do are mostly group work, I expect that their group will have similar answers. This makes differentiated instruction cake work!   I can use their graded materials as a marker to pick partners that will have a greater influence on each other. Obviously, paired instruction is of high value to all of us educators but using it effectively can be difficult to manage. You don't want two struggling students paired together because literally... it would be the blind leading the blind! So, by utilizing this method of grading not only can I identify struggling students but my top achievers also!

Let's now continue to the returning of materials. In order for my students to receive the best of instruction they need to self-reflect on how hard they are trying to achieve the best grade. So, on top of collecting the packets my students also attach a very simple but useful reflection sheet. I use these ALL THE TIME! I love self-reflective notes. They provide an informal assessment on their feelings of how well a lesson went, what they are struggling with personally, and what I can do to meet each of their needs.  These come in handy during parent-teacher conversations too!

Perfect for short responses or essential questions -- Suitable for ANY subject or grade level! 

Teacher comments to students can be taken with a grain of salt (on their behalf) but... if I see a red flag during grading the packets I do write on their packets to come to speak with me about scheduling one-on-one mini-lessons. This is usually conducted during lunch or their reading time in homeroom.  My district has implemented a scheduled 30 minute reading program during homeroom and since I teach math I coordinate with their homeroom teachers to see if it is appropriate if they can come to see me during that time.  The only way the students can come during that time is if their L.A. grade is of a passing status and a verbal ok is given by them.  Let's get real, Math and Language Arts are the top two classes that underperforming students struggle in.  It would not be appropriate if I gobbled up all that learning time for math and not understand the same student is also struggling in their English class.

There you have it! This is a small glimpse of my classroom procedures on collecting, grading and returning work.  Spend your time as a wisely as you can. You will drown in the paper process if you collect everything. It is of your benefit if you pick the best activities to grade and provide proper feedback for your students to use.  

Problematic Situations

Maternity Leave

October 2013

Do you know or are you someone who is pregnant? Are you thinking about long-term sub plans or preparing for your absence while you are caring for your newest edition?  Well join the club! 

I was there once with my first born son.  I was so fretful of my students not being prepared and am I glad that I began planning when I did.  The summer prior to the 13-14' School Year  beginning, I spent many days creating detailed lesson plans for my substitute to follow during my maternity leave.  I even went as far as making all the copies necessary for their own personal success.

It is a daunting task to take over a classroom without the lead teacher in place. I had experience with a team teacher leaving on maternity while I was in college and I felt so bad for the sub in that room. They were not prepared what so ever and the "sink or swim" method became apparent. Luckily, my sub was fortunate enough to have a caring teacher (ME) and the student's best interests in mind.  PLUS... my county began "grading" the classroom teachers based off student performance. So, there was NO way that I was going to allow someone to teach for 12 weeks without any guidance. If those end of year exams went terrible, my teacher effectiveness would have been altered.

To prepare, I used my counties curriculum and based off of that as guidance just put together coursework that I knew would be lasting.  At the time, I was teaching 7th Grade Math and it was my second full year teaching that subject so I had most of my lectures down and already created in PowerPoint.  I placed those PowerPoints on a shared folder for the sub to use and modify if need be.  

On that shared folder, I dropped warm-ups, study guides, homework assignments, quizzes and center work. I got EVERYTHING in order down to the computer lab days and alternative assignments incase something went wrong (which we all know happens!!).  Literally, everything other than tests I gave to my sub. At my school, the grade levels create their tests together so that was something left to the team to provide for my sub which alleviated some pressure off my shoulders.  

I felt very confident in my leave after preparing my sub for a successful twelve week stay. That person was able to observe in my class for about a week prior to me leaving to get a glance on how it is conducted and what procedures/protocols my students were adjusted to.  The only thing that we weren't prepared for was how my students would handle the change up of educators.  

My "angels", haha, students -  I guess... did not adjust well to the sub. Many center activities were canceled and altered due to the students not respecting the authority of the sub.  Most group work/centers/stations/small groups etc. became individual work since rules flew out the window! I came back to a very negative energy room from the students contradicting every move the sub made.  My 7th graders were well aware that I was going to be away for a short while but what seemed like a blink of an eye to me was a long drawn out quarter of a year for them.  They were happy for my return but also unprepared for their quarterly benchmarks as well. 

Long story short! You can not prepare for the unexpected things such as behaviors. Some individuals will react different to situations and that is out of your control.  I do feel that the sub was unprepared in the classroom management field and is probably the reason he did not fair well in my classroom.  My students have expectations to meet as well as respect and without the proper guidance from the teacher it will go unmet continuously.  

Fortunately enough, the year turned out well and everyone was promoted to the next grade level but ruffled feathers did occur on both the students and sub.  Preparation is key when you are out of the room. However, it is so unpredictable how a twelve week leave will go that it is almost impossible to have teaching plans that you personally would use in the same manner as another individual. 

Don't stress about it and live in the moment while you are gone. The bundle of joy that you are welcoming into the world far out beats any worries within the school walls.  Give guidance were it is due and allow team teachers and leaders to assist where necessary.  Your time is your time! Enjoy it will it lasts. It truly goes by far too quickly.