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How to Handle Classroom Management Like a Referee

Posted by on in Classroom Management
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As I was watching my favorite hockey team the other day, I noticed something that struck me during one of the brawls that (for whatever reason) still occur in the almost every game. I was amazed as the guy wearing the black and white striped shirt held two huge athletes at bay and got them to stop fighting without even being phased. He calmly talked to both players, they released their stranglehold on one another, and the game continued (after penalty minutes were distributed, of course). I immediately thought about so many issues that I've seen with classroom management, and how this guy might have the solution.

I know what you're thinking: "what does this have to do with me, my students, or my classroom?" 

Let me explain. The ref was able to calm down two extremely angry players, and continue the purpose of the event because he didn't get emotionally charged, maintained his expectations, and focused on getting the game going again. This is exactly how we as teachers need to address disruptions and management issues in our classrooms.

Before I get to far, I want to point out that there are systems, routines, procedures, and a myriad of other pieces that go into good management, such as building relationships. For right now though, I'd like to keep talk about re-focusing students and reducing the stress level of a situation that has gotten 'out of hand'.

When you are managing a situation that has gotten away from you, think like that referee in the hockey game.

You've set your rules...enforce them.

Hopefully you have set the expectations for how students should behave in your classroom, and spelled out consequences that are understood by everyone. Stick to them. It shouldn't matter who the student is or if you're extra frustrated that day. Enforce your set policies and rules. Don't change them. Be consistent. Your students will react when they know you aren't going to back down and that you are just enforcing your policy for the betterment of everyone.

Stay calm.

One of the easiest ways to make any situation worse is getting upset or emotionally charged. Like the ref I saw in the game, remain calm and don't add to the anger, frustration, or stress of the scenario that's going on in your classroom. Just correct the action taking place with a calm tone of voice, student centered discussion, and focus on calming down or removing the student to a safer location.

Get back to the game.

Your goal should be to get your students back to learning again. Always make this your primary focus. You may need to deal with repercussions, student actions, or other factors afterwards, but your single goal (like the ref) should be to get the game going again. Get your students back on track. It's very easy to focus on the issues, but that can cause you to lose an entire class of instruction due to a single incident. Don't let that happen.

The next time you have an outburst or management issue in your class, just think about how you approach and deal with the student or students involved. Stay calm, stay in control, and get back to the game!


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After receiving his Bachelor’s Degree In Biology, Chad Ostrowski or “Mr. O” as his students fondly call him, set his sights on education. He was chosen as one of only 50 individuals in the state of Ohio to be granted the Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowship through the Ohio STEM Learning Network.  Through this fellowship, he received his Master’s in Science Education and gained intensive training and expertise in STEM education, Problem Based Learning, Inquiry-based instruction as well as other cutting-edge educational research and modern pedagogical theory. 

Ostrowski has since presented research at the NSTA National Conference onProblem-Based Learning in the Gifted Classroom and Continues to develop and research modern innovative educational practices. Chad has been teaching  Middle School Science in a high needs urban district for 4 years. In that short time, due to his dedication to teaching, innovative teaching methods and educational leadership he has been named Science Department Chair within his building, Building Leadership Team member and District Co-chair of Middle School Science Curriculum. 

It is through these foundations that he has created and developed  the The Grid Method - Mastery Learning System in order to synthesize his knowledge of best practices in education into a system that allows ALL of his students to meet and exceed  their potential. 

Chad has now left the classroom to shre his innovative practices, techniques and strategies with educators all over the country. He does this through speaking at conferences, providng teacher development and workshops, as well as producing blogs, and videos.

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Guest Tuesday, 23 July 2019