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Betty Starobinsky

For a well-established classroom, it is important to have good classroom


management skills. When you are a push-in teacher, it is even more of a necessity. It is
imperative to have a system that keeps order, but yet is flexible enough to adapt to each
classroom. If a teacher possesses good classroom management skills, there will be
more productivity in the classroom. Classroom management is not just about keeping
students well behaved. Its also about keeping things orderly, having rules, having
rewards and consequences, establishing respect and having a safe classroom
environment.

If students are talking while I am working with another part, I make silence into a
competition. For instance, if the altos are silent while I am working with the sopranos,
but the instant I start with the altos, the sopranos begin to talk. If this were my choir, I
might look over at the sopranos and and say, "the altos are winning right now. They did
not talk when I was working with you." As I go back and forth between the parts, it is
easy to say, "Ooh! Altos, your lead is slipping!" or something to that effect. I don't do
score cards, numbers on the board, or keep track of it in any way. I am the judge of who
is winning and there is no arguing. The kids do the work of policing each other, though.
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If the sopranos are winning, you can bet the other altos will give evil looks to the other
altos pulling their section down. Peer pressure is so powerful. Oh, and if they ask you
what the prize is, be honest. The prize is that when the concert comes, the music will be
excellent because we all worked together and stayed on task. This will elicit eye rolls,
but remember: almost everyone in your class wants a good concert. Even the class
clown does not want to go on stage and not be ready.

When I first started teaching I had my own classroom. It was an auditorium, but
yet still my own classroom. I had control over my classroom. The students would line up
outside and the atmosphere would be set before they would enter the auditorium. The
students knew how to file into my classroom and take their seats. My classroom rules
were in a visible place on the wall. My piano was ready to be played. My sheet music,
books, and any materials that I would need would be lined up appropriately which would
allow for a smooth transition between activities. The students sat where I wanted them
to sit and when I changed a seat, I was aware of the change and made note of it.

After three years of teaching in the auditorium, I was finally beginning to get
familiar with a routine, and so were my students as they got older. When I received my
new position at my new school, I was grateful, but it had its own difficulties, such as
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being a push-in teacher. Teachers moving carpet spots on a weekly basis does not help
you remember the names of your students.The five minutes that you have to transition
from one classroom to the next is frustrating, especially when the teacher does not
return on time from their prep. The next task would be trying to rush to your next
classroom, and hoping the elevator will come on time so that the following teacher will
not be upset by your tardiness. But probably the icing on the cake is not having the thirty
seconds to recollect yourself prior to visiting your next classroom.

Pushing around a cart is not as bad as it seems, as long as you remember all the
materials that you need for the day, and know how to place them in a strategic way that
makes sense as you transition from one activity to the next. Realistically, there is no time
to get from my office between classrooms, so it is imperative that I have everything that I
need with me for the day. The key is a well organized lesson plan, a well organized
office system, and finally a well organized cart. Ive learned to travel lightly, only trying to
take the things that I would need until my next break. All my slides, sheet music, lesson
plans, and seating plans are prepared on a flash drive that I am sure to take with me.

I have learned to be a chameleon. Now that I am familiar with the teachers,


classrooms, kinks with their computers/smartboards, classroom procedures, and the
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positive reinforcement used in each classroom, I have been using all of these tools in
addition to my own classroom management techniques. At first, I thought it was a silly
idea to adapt to their classroom procedures, however it became easier to familiarize
myself with the way they use their classrooms because it was too difficult for students to
adapt to all of my procedures. Especially a teacher they only see once every 7-day
cycle. It has worked to my advantage because not only is there a consequence in music
class, but it will affect their classroom rewards as well.

Group contracts may be needed to correct a problem that exists throughout a


class, such as getting to class or rehearsal late, excessive talking, playing of instruments
at inappropriate times during class, and other off-task behaviors. The teacher and class
usually develop the contract during a class meeting; the teacher approaches the
situation by stating, "Okay, we have a problem. What can we do to correct it?" The
teacher should not impose the contract on the students but should direct the group so
that the students perceive the problem and determine a method for improvement. The
value of social or peer pressure in this group approach to contracting is a strength of the
technique. There are, however, some dangers inherent in this type of contract: Some
students may intentionally break the contract, those who are behaving may be resentful
of the contract, and it may be difficult to find a reward that is attainable and that will be
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effective for all.

Goal-setting is a helpful technique for individuals or classes that lack direction or


behavioral consistency. There is no real punishment used, but reinforcement results if
the specified goals are met. Again, students' input is important. They should brainstorm
possible goals for a week, month, or longer. I observed a teacher using this method to
improve sight-reading skills in band. The students identified the long-range goals and
several short-term goals, and cooperatively they planned with the teacher the
techniques to be used to improve their skills. The payoff could then be a free day or an
extracurricular activity. If you give this kind of direction and focus to study, you may
prevent many behavior problems.

Dont worry, I didnt abandon my classroom management techniques. I just found


a way to be more flexible. I still use my class rules sign. However, it didnt matter if the
students raised their hand, or raised two hands, or gave a peace signal to signify that
they needed to use the bathroom. For me, it was more important that they were notifying
me and asking me for permission. I was also able to use both types of reward systems
in the classroom. I could reward an entire table for their behavior by adding a star to
their chart. I could reward an individual by moving their name up the ladder. I could
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discipline a child by placing their name on yellow. Regardless of the classroom, all of the
procedures were already in place and were similar to the way I would lead my
classroom (if I had one). There are some things that are not negotiable. I still use my
quiet signal. I still follow my warning procedure. With a raise of fingers, I can indicate a
student on how they are doing in my class. When they get to the number one, they can
expect a phone call home. Finally, the class reward for good behavior is my famous red
box. Its a box that I carry that is equipped with a fun activity, a fun music clip, an
instrument that I am ready to introduce to the class, etc.

When it comes to my band classes, I lead my class completely different than my


Early Childhood music classes. These students are aware of my rules because it is
posted in the band room and on my webpage. When students come to full band, they
know the routine. They set up their station, take out their instruments and start warming
up. Their practice sheet is out and ready for review. When we are ready to begin, my
hand raises and they stop whatever they are doing. I assess my students every class
and my students have the opportunity to play for me at the end of the class during
independent practice. My notes allow me to know where each student is, set goals, and
track their progress. Students are rewarded by earning Happy Notes.

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They collect Happy Notes and redeem it for a prize. I make sure to keep track of the
prizes to see which prizes get the most amount of excitement.

In all of my classes, I have posted a short list of rules for my students that
include the following:
Make good choices.
Use your turn to sing, speak, and play.
Show respect to people and instruments.
Include others and always use kind and polite words.
Come ready to have fun and do your best.
All of these rules are reasonable and easy to follow. I review these rules with my
students on the first day of class and provide examples that demonstrate exactly what
the rules mean. I also review the rewards and consequences that students may expect
depending on the choices they make. Rewards vary from class to class because I
involve the students in selecting rewards that are meaningful to them, but they typically
include praise, extra credit, jolly ranchers, or a musical game.

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