Tony Gurr

Are we on the right “track” with CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT? [Part ONE]…

In Classroom Teaching, Our Schools on 04/04/2011 at 9:30 am

I have just returned from a really good-to-great conference in Konya organised by the Merve schools and hosted by Mevlana University.

I have to say I am so happy to see more of these events happening outside of Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir – teachers in the other cities around Turkey need these events just as much as those in our bigger cities. We need more of them…


I was asked to look at the issue of classroom management in my session…a topic many teachers are “keen” to learn more about.

We kicked off the session with a “mini-pop quiz” and I thought it might be useful to share this with you all.

I presented the participants with a series of statements and asked whether everyone thought they were TRUE or FALSE…You might be surprised by some of the answers (backed up by research into what effective teachers do with their learners).

Have a look … (the answers are at the bottom of this post):

  1. Teacher expectations of students do not influence how much students achieve in class (and in their lives).
  2. Student behavior will always be a problem in every classroom.
  3. “Grumpy” teachers always seem to have more classroom management issues than positive, happy teachers.
  4. Teachers who collaborate with other teachers have fewer classroom management issues than teachers who “work on their own”.
  5. Focusing on your “subject” is the best way to prevent discipline problems in the classroom.
  6. Classroom management has nothing to do with discipline.
  7. There are fewer classroom management problems in smaller classrooms.
  8. Teachers either “win” or “lose” their classes on the first few days of the school year.
  9. A teacher should spend more time covering material than managing their classrooms in the first 3 days of school.
  10. Most classroom management problems have nothing to do with students – they are the teacher’s fault.

Now, it seemed that some of the “correct answers” did cause a bit of a “stir” – especially, number 6 and 7, in addition to number 10!

But, it’s all honest-to-goodness truth (“trust me” – you could buy a second-hand car from me and feel totally “safe”)…


The biggest problem for many teachers doing a pop-quiz like this is that we have all been “learned” that CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT is about “DISCIPLINE”…

This might be true…if we were all learning about teaching in the 1950s!

We are not – and we are in the business of teaching “little people” (not school subjects) to be even better “grown-ups” (this is the job we “really” all signed up for – whether we knew it at the time or not).

There is a huge difference between helping our students learn about the importance of (self) discipline and “using discipline” as a “teaching tool”.

Sadly, this focus on discipline comes from the assumptions we often have about children:

  • Children are little “devils”!
  • As they GROW UP…they just get…worse, “worser” and “worsest”!
  • They have to be “controlled”!

This emphasis on “discipline” also suggests that many teachers see classroom management as a “cure” to some form of “disease” that affects every student and every classroom (look at statements 2 and 7 again) – rather than the “systems” a teacher designs to minimise the interruptions to learning, to keep students engaged and to get things done in the classroom!

As such, teachers feel they have to act in an authoritarian manner, prioritise “keeping control” and focus on our “subjects” – rather than focussing on our students while being our best, most authentic selves, prioritising ways to creatively engage our students and facilitating the love of allthingslearning.


I’m sorry…what a load of “rubbish”!


As Maria Montessori noted (almost 100 years ago):

…create the right environment and even small children will “explode” into LEARNing

Children are “learning machines” – they are “engineered” for learning. AND, they are far better at it than we “adults”!

The problem is the assumptions we adults have about them and the way these assumptions and beliefs have been turned into the systems and rules that we have created for our schools.

As Guy Claxton points out:

Perhaps, we need to think about another “track”…another way of looking at the issue of classroom management – and recognize that statement number 10 is “truer” than we all might think.


KEY to the POP-QUIZ: 1-F, 2-F, 3-T, 4-T, 5-F, 6-T, 7-F, 8-T, 9-F, 10-T

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