Classroom Management for Secondary Teachers

Classroom Management for Secondary Teachers


Today I’m talking about classroom management tips for secondary teachers. Older students demand a different approach in the classroom.

I narrowed down the five instances that cause the most upheaval in my classroom and provided ways that I handle them. Personalize these examples, bend to fit your situation, and make them your own.

Welcome to “This or That,” a monthly chat where the authors of Reading and Writing Haven and Language Arts Classroom cover different ways of approaching common decisions in the ELA classroom.

Classroom management practices in the high school classroom are important. Read the top five behavior issues with students and how seasoned teachers solve them.

#1: Classroom Management Issue: Leaving class to see support staff.
Short answer: With a few exceptions, they don’t go.
Long answer: I have two important points with this. One, our counselors and student service department members excel at communicating student needs. If a student has a history that dictates they meet with someone, they of course go. Two, if students have an IEP or any other paperwork that states they may need to speak to someone on occasion, again, they of course go.

This once was not my policy. If a student asked to see their counselor, I wrote them a pass. I never wanted to keep students from seeking any sort of support. Quickly, I learned that the students wanted to avoid classwork and that the support staff often had meetings and were not even in the building! (Did the student return to class? We know the answer to that). My heart was wanting to help students, but they took advantage of that.

This is what I do now: I communicate with the support staff. If the student has a standing pass that they can leave when necessary, they go. Otherwise, I tell the student that I will make sure the counselor/ social worker is in their office, email them, and wait for a response. Sometimes, they shoot me an email right back and want the student. Other times, I get an email that confirms that student has pulled that trick before and needs to stay in class. I’ve even had counselors say they are with someone and will call that student down when they finish.

So, students don’t go immediately. Instead, I follow up with the support staff the student wanted to see.

#2: Classroom Management Issue: Starting class.
Short answer: Bell ringers.
Long answer: When my students enter the classroom, they begin the assignment for the day. They know what to expect, I take attendance, and we move on from there.

Note that I use “bell ringers” as an encompassing term. I don’t have a book of bell ringers. Sometimes students begin by taking notes. Other times they get with a partner and start answering questions. It depends on our goals for the day.

#3: Classroom Management Issue: Disruptive talking.
Short answer: I stand next to them.

Long answer: A student who continually disrupts after I glance at them, directly ask them to stop, shake my head at them, and more? I stroll over to them and refocus them. I show where we are working, get them a pen, or put away whatever is distracting them.

High school kids do not want a teacher standing right next to them. They will stop.

#4: Classroom Management Issue: Leaving for the bathroom.

Short answer: I let them go.

Long answer: This previous year, I reread The First Days of School by Dr. Wong. I’m paraphrasing, but he suggests that teachers have pencils to give students so that class will continue. Overall, he wants to turn a huge issue (no writing utensil) into a non-issue. If pencils could become a non-issue, could restroom passes?

Leaving for the restroom has previously been such a large issue for my classes. Bathroom passes and pencils are not the same, obviously.  Still, I wanted to change the situation and was willing to try a new approach.

I experimented this previous year. I told students at the start of the year that I didn’t want to be involved in their bathroom usage. They may go as needed, but (and this was an emphasized condition), if it became abused or problematic, they would have limits.

I had students that I felt went to the restroom to be on their phone or goof off. I shared my concerns and told them it was becoming an issue. They caught on and bathroom use became less frequent.

This worked because I emphasized the procedure: you may go, but if leaving class is done too often, I will question you. It worked this previous year.

#5: Classroom Management Issue: Tracking absent work.

Short answer: Google Classroom.

Long answer: Assignments, activities, and homework have a place on Google Classroom. When a student is absent, they know to find the assignment there.

At first, it was cumbersome for me to add information online. It became so handy when students were absent that I kept with it until it became habitual.

When I think of the top classroom management issues that stress me every year, these came to mind. My solutions are not perfect, and they may need switched as I continue with them.

Use what works for your individual classrooms – and remember, while I do this, Melissa from Reading and Writing Haven does that.

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3 Comments

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  1. 1
    S. Pope

    Re: bathroom passes. I used to do as your #4 long answer states, but it wasn’t good enough. I didn’t, however, want to be the one to keep track. The answer – students get a sheet with a limited number of bathroom passes per quarter. They use them at their discretion – I initial and date each one as it’s used. When it’s gone, it’s gone – they don’t get any more until the next quarter (I give them 8 each quarter, which is pretty generous). They may borrow, lend, but, sell – I don’t care, as long as it doesn’t interrupt class. At the end of the quarter, unused passes are turned in for extra credit (the only extra credit I do). The result – far fewer students take unnecessary breaks.

  2. 2
    Emily

    I really like your bathroom idea – who want’s to stop to manage that?! I’m sure students, especially high school students, enjoy the autonomy. Could you elaborate on what you do when it becomes a problem? Do you conference with the student privately? Do students have to ask you before they leave class or are they permitted simply to leave on their own? ALSO, how do you handle smart phones? Thanks!

    • 3
      lauraleemoss@gmail.com

      They must ask for permission, but they are free to go. If it is an issue, I conference with them and ask the counselor if it is a medical situation. Once it is clear that it is disrupting their learning and is not needed, they know what to expect – I will say no. Once I talk to the student and the counselor (and maybe the parent), the student is ready to stay in class.

      My students are allowed to have smart phones with them, but they may not have them out. If it is out, it is a warning and then a write-up.

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