Out of order

Keeping order in the classroom is essential for new teachers, writes Esther J. Cepeda in the Washington Post. But few teachers are taught effective classroom management techniques in ed school.

In my first full-time teaching job, a supervisor disabused me of the classroom-management silliness my teacher-preparation program had drilled into me.

A battle-hardened veteran devoid of educational mumbo jumbo, she gave it to me straight: Be firm, show ’em who’s in charge.

My teacher-education program had sporadically and ineffectively preached what I called the mommy/best friend philosophy of classroom management. The idea was to coddle and entertain students into engagement, creating a bordering-on-party atmosphere to get kids actively learning.

A classroom should be “a collective of learners wherein everyone had equal standing,” she was told.

Ed schools don’t spend much time or energy teaching classroom management, charges the National Council on Teacher Quality in Training Our Future Teachers.

About Joanne


  1. My daughter is a VERY effective middle-school teacher, which I attribute to both her status as a mother of 3, AND to the 6 years she spent in the military. She has NO trouble exercising her authority.

    I spent a lot of years learning what works, and what doesn’t. The hardest schools to discipline in are the urban schools. There, if you meaningfully say, “wouldn’t you like to put that phone away?” (which the middle-class kids understand to be a disguised threat to take it away), the kids think, “no, I wouldn’t like to”. They need to be told, quite directly, “put your phone away”. AFTER they comply, you can smile and say, “thank you”.

  2. Richard Aubrey says:

    I suspect that some of the techniques required to keep order would contradict some of the other teachings in ed school.

  3. The language of “building a collective” is explicit and widespread. One might have hoped that the great struggles against collectivist ideology in the twentieth century–WWII and the Cold War–would have purchased a bit more time and space for the advocates of ordered freedom. Teachers trapped in ideological collectives might find Milosz’s *The Captive Mind* helpful–at least as a way of understanding the trap.

  4. When I was in ed school about 10 years ago, our prof had us line up. We had to place ourselves in a line according to our classroom management philosophy – from authoritarian to democratic. I was the only one in a class of 40 students to even approach authoritarian. The whole class laughed at me, because I guess I was supposed to drink the Kool-aid and espouse democratic classroom management.

    Now, seven years of classroom teaching later, I’m a very effective manager who hardly ever yells. I do build a room of mutual respect and rapport. But guess what? You have to be the one in charge! I wish ed schools would teach that.