Weinstein and Novodvorsky (2011) have a well-constructed manual on successful classroom management, and they heavily stress getting to know your students in order to develop respectful, caring relationships. In addition, to learning names, Weinstein and Novodvorsky emphasize being a real person rather than just a teacher. "As a new teacher, it's probably wise to find a happy medium between these two extremes and to share limited information (e.g., about families, vacations, cultural and athletic activities, hobbies, or pets)" (p. 58).
I am an extremely sociable person. I love getting to know people and their interests, hobbies, or things that simply make them unique. Yes, I am that guy that may just randomly start a conversation with you, unprompted, on a five hour, cross-country flight.
I digress. To show that I have a vested interest in my students and their lives, not just their names, I asked them to fill out notecards. I requested that the students write their names, hobbies, favorite music, and favorite movies. I do not expect to remember all of the information gather from this simple, quick activity, but I felt that the students appreciated my apparent interest in their lives. I am no longer Mr. Simmons, history teacher, but rather, Mr. Simmons, teacher and friend.
This is a theme I plan to stretch out throughout the course of the semester. I would hope that this opening would lead students to be more honest with me; feel comfortable with me.
On the flip side, in terms of classroom management, my biggest anticipated difficulty has been classroom rules and norms for behavior. As anyone could assume, it is important to clearly set forth classrooms expectations on day one. Stress needs to placed on appropriateness, consistency, and fairness of rules. "In order to minimize confusion, you need to teach students the rules for general conduct, defining terms clearly, providing examples, and discussing rationales" (Weinstein and Novodvorsky, 2011, p. 105).
There is a slight problem, however. I commandeered this class halfway through the school year. These students already know the ropes, so how would they react to a new teacher? A new personality? Under the guidance of my master teacher, I have, for the most part, upheld the classroom rules that the students are used to. Thankfully, my students have been cooperative. I was warned that behaviorally-speaking, my students would not be the easiest to manage. However, there have been no major interruptions or difficulties with my class. I have only been at the helm for two weeks, but I feel that this is a good sign. Whether it is my antics in class or my interest in their personal lives, there seems to be a great deal of mutual respect in my classroom.
Presidents' Day Weekend is coming up and students everywhere are anticipating a four-day weekend. Hopefully I can keep their interest until then!