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Classroom management and discipline are very important parts of teaching. In any given class, you may have have six students with special needs, two students needing to make up work, four disruptive students, three students with attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), four students without books or homework, five without a pencil and two without notebook paper … and that’s on a good day!
Anyone can see why you might collapse without something to support you. That something is classroom management. While it is very important to know your subject, you wouldn’t be able to teach all the wonderful things that you know without classroom management and discipline.
Classroom management is the way you arrange your class. You must think about every aspect of the lesson, routines, procedures, a multitude of interactions and the discipline in the classroom. The more you think it out beforehand, the easier it will be when something unplanned happens—which it always does, since you’re dealing with so many different personalities. You will find several tips and tricks for how run an orderly classroom in Classroom Management: 7 Tips from an Experienced Teacher.
When students with special needs are in your class, you must take extra care to plan because their ability to process and their self-esteem are influenced by how well you’ve arranged your class. If one of them needs a wheelchair, provide open rows and a place to sit. If they have problems with social interaction, place them within a group of students who work well with others. If they need to be in the front of the room, make a walking path around the classroom to influence students who need discipline, since they should also be close to the teacher. Building Self-Esteem in Children with Special Needs lays out ways you can help students increase their self-confidence and achieve more.
Some students with special needs have a behavior plan (learn more about Functional Behavior Assessments and Behavior Intervention Plans here), or a series of steps that teachers follow when the student misbehaves. Other students may have RTI behavior plans because they spend so much time in the office that they are at risk of failing.
A school may provide a school-wide behavior plan (like CHAMPS), or you may need to create one for your classroom. There are many available and some will fit better than others, but, the best plans teach discipline, instead of just punishing or persuading.
Lastly, your attitude is crucial. Be consistent and keep your cool. Be kind and steady. If a student breaks a rule, apply the consequence and continue with the lesson; however, if you must stop to de-escalate a behavior, follow your behavior plan, and then return to teaching as quickly as possible. Read about how to respond, prevent and de-escalate disruptive behavior in The Behavior Issues Guide.