Resources for Improving Classroom Management and School Culture

23 May

I am often challenged to provide assistance to members of my professional network. Usually these requests come from friends and colleagues I have worked with for years. But more and more frequently, I’ve been answering the calls of members of my fantastic Peer/Personal/Professional Learning Network (PLN) on Twitter.

My PLN includes educators at all levels, from 1st year teachers to Principals, Superintendents and other administrators who are interested in supporting their staff. The common thread is that they are all interested in developing more effective ways to engage students and build positive classroom and school cultures.

In this post I’ll share a few of the strategies and resources that have had a huge impact on my professional practice and resulted in student management, engagement and development becoming my area of expertise. For the past 16 years, I’ve worked for a company that operates alternative schools all over the country (impacting literally thousands of students and staff) and a big part of my role is to teach this stuff… I credit my success in this area largely to the reading and studying I have always done and continue to do and the mentoring I received early in my career.

When I was a new teacher I read a TON and watched every movie I could find about education and teaching. Lean on Me, Sister Act Two, Dangerous Minds, Stand and Deliver, To Sir With Love… if I could find it on VHS (And yes, I know how that dates me), I watched it. I even watched the silly one where Mark Harmon teaches summer school.

I know this sounds corny but these movies helped me realize that some very successful teachers had gotten through their early years. I also really paid attention to how they spoke to and treated the kids. Even the completely fictional movies helped… there is something to be said for observing charismatic personalities in action. Charisma is a fantastic management tool and Hollywood teachers are usually charismatic!

I also read… a LOT Here are a few of the books I remember most vividly from my “early” years:

ALL of the William Glasser Books – The Quality School, The Quality School Teacher, Choice Theory in the Classroom etc. They are easy to read, and gave me great, practical direction for creating the climate, relationships and accountability that I wanted to establish with my students. I found Glasser’s model to be a great fit for my beliefs and style and they truly shaped my early practice. More importantly, they worked!

Several books by Torey Hayden about her experiences as a special ed teacher… the one that I remember the most clearly was called One Child. Torey worked in heartbreaking circumstances, and didn’t do everything right, but she also didn’t QUIT, and no matter how tough things got, she persisted. That made all the difference with her kids and left a lasting impression on me.

My Posse Don’t Do Homework by Luanne Johnson. The movie “Dangerous Minds” is based on this book, but the book is so much better, and I read it years before the movie. I didn’t realize how much of an impact this one had on me until years later when the movie actually came out. My students saw it before I did and I didn’t know anything about it. After seeing it they all kept saying “Dangerous Minds” to me and smiling, shaking their heads and saying, you’ve got to see it, Miss”.

This made me pretty uncomfortable. I didn’t know anything about the movie or why my students were associating it with me. Let me assure you, I look NOTHING like Michelle Pfeifer.

When I finally went to see the movie, I was touched and pleased to see that they had picked up on and recognized that, like me, the main character was a strong proponent of the idea that “You always have a choice”. I didn’t realize until the final credits that the movie is based on the book I had read during my 1st year as a teacher.

There are also many, many excellent resources I’ve discovered more recently. They include:


Wake Up Calls by Doctor Eric Allenbaugh – Great for framing an accountable relationship with students/classes. I have used this content to create short mini-lessons to provide a context for what I expect from students, what they should expect from me and why. I’ve had great success with this and have passed it on countless times and always gotten terrific feedback from others who have used it. Check out chapter 5 – “The Dirty Dozen” (12 Ways People Attempt to Escape Accountability) to help eliminate excuse making in your classroom.

The Speed of Trust by Steven M. Covey – Trust matters.  Building it is the most efficient way to maximize the efficiency and efficacy of a group. I found the concepts in this book really relevant to the struggles teachers experience related to classroom management; ie- “How can I teach/how can they learn when I spend the whole class “managing” behavior?” Relationship, mutual accountability and trust are powerful stuff, in businesses and in the classroom.


The Motherlode of Classroom Management Resources

I need my teachers to learn

Cowpernicus’ Beliefs in Schools

Todd Whitaker on “What Great Teachers DO Differently”

The Power of Positivity: Effective Classroom Management Tips

Edutopia’s tips for an engaged classroom

Tips for New Teachers via Steve Bossenberger

You may also find some of the other articles on this blog helpful. They include:

10 Reasons Educators Must See Sister Act 2

Feedback is a Gift. Thank You! (and you’re welcome;o))

Want kids to be happy? Teach gratitude.

“What if someone gets DRUNK?”

Lastly, and most importantly, providing/participating in opportunities for peer-to-peer observation, coaching and mentoring is critical. These activities will deliver enormous return on investment and result in stronger, more confident and effective staff teams. Such experiences should be guided and include some form of accountability to secure the greatest outcome.

Please comment to share your favorite resources, ask questions, leave feedback or just say “Hi”. Thanks for reading!

Hope this helps!


6 Responses to “Resources for Improving Classroom Management and School Culture”

  1. teachingwithsoul May 23, 2010 at 9:14 am #

    Nice job! Wonderful thoughts…Thanks for sharing all the great resources!

  2. ktenkely May 23, 2010 at 7:58 pm #

    I had a very similar ritual when I started teaching, every book, journal, and movie I could get my hands on 🙂 I also really like Guy Doud Molder of dreams (both video and book). Always inspiring!

  3. Aaron Eyler May 23, 2010 at 8:47 pm #

    Here’s something fun for you to chuckle at as well. Classroom management in 1947 (we can always use a good laugh).

    Thanks for the ideas/resources/links!


  4. licnikontakt June 9, 2010 at 11:52 am #

    Thanks for post from Australia


  5. Steve Bossenberger August 25, 2010 at 1:42 pm #

    Thanks for including my link! We just started a new school year, so look for more education articles in my blog.

    Keep up the good work on your blog. Very well done!!


    • thenewtag September 1, 2010 at 7:00 am #

      Thanks so much for the feedback Steve! Hope you found something you can use or share. Do you tweet? I’m @thenewtag . Say “hi” and let me know it’s you!

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