C.M. Corner: Proactive Questions

Travis Chapman

               One of the biggest struggles going into new classrooms and schools every day is the changing expectations.  Do you walk your students to various locations or does another staff member do that?  Who do I call if I have student behavior issues?  What do they want me to do about cell phones?  While most of classroom management in responsive in nature, where we are reacting to student behavior, we can be proactive in setting expectations or planning for coming events. 
One of the biggest recommendations I often give, and a lot of times one of the easiest things to do, is to ask questions when you are checking in for the day.  Ask the office not only about where the staff bathrooms and lounge are, but also ask about overall policies, procedures, contacts.  Who do you call if there’s a behavioral challenge?  Is there a specific policy or procedure they follow, like “take-a-break or Tab-out” rooms?  How do they want you to approach the cell phone issue?  If you are able to obtain this information on the front end of the day, when something happens, you’ll be able to address it accordingly and know what battles you should fight and what can be ignored.  Even if those policies aren’t practiced the same across the various rooms you are in, if you have it directly from the administration, you have the backing of the highest authority in the school.  Then it becomes the school/office policy and not your policy.
Another recommendation I often give is to be a little early so you have time to get settled, ask your questions and meet the other classroom staff or the teacher next door.  Building those relationships will make asking for clarification or direct help easier as they now know you are the person in that room or position.  You are not a random person wandering down the hall for an open door.  If you are able to connect with the nearby staff members, they can become a resource regarding specific students, questions about the lesson plan, an area for students who simply need to regain composure, a person who can come check in to ensure everything is going ok or possibly even provide a short break in case you need to use the restroom.  If there are additional staff in your particular classroom, they can be even more helpful in dealing with specific student situations or behavior. 
I recommend that you ask questions specific to your needs or position.  Often times the question, “Do I need to know anything about the students I’m working with today?” is often met with “These are a great group of kids!” or something similar.  Be a bit more specific.  “Who are the really great helpers?” “Are there students who need a little more attention?” “Are there any class policies/reward systems that would be helpful to utilize?” or even “What attention getting technique works well for your students?”
Information is power. The more information we are able to have at the beginning of the day, the easier it is going to be to handle the various situations that occur throughout the day.  You may not need or want to ask the questions that I included above, but I encourage you to put together the questions that are more important to you or specific to your positions.  By being a little more proactive, we can set ourselves up to succeed in more challenging situations.