Last week I blogged about “Entrance and Exits” and how to manage them for a smooth transition. This week my focus is on what happens in-between the coming and going. You have many roles as a librarian—information specialist, instructional partner, teacher, and program administrator, but the one you will be judged on is teacher.
Managing the library environment, as I noted, is challenging and many have difficulty with it. The topic is rarely covered in library school and what works in the classroom doesn’t translate easily to the library. You don’t have a regular seating arrangement, you don’t give grades, and there are many places where students can be out of sight.
The first thing to remember is it’s called “classroom management” not “classroom control.” It’s hard not to put “do not” rules in place when you are striving to maintain discipline, but control comes from fear. You are so concerned about not being on top of everything, you clamp down to prevent something from happening. Management comes from confidence, from trusting yourself and your abilities, and trusting how you are will create a climate that fosters good behaviors. To achieve the environment you want, remember these three “R’s:” Routine, Rethink, and Respect.
Students at all ages are better behaved when routines are in place. “Entrances and Exits” highlighted routines to use during those key times, but you need routines for transitions. At the elementary level when a class comes in, once the entrance routine is complete, you need to move them effortlessly into the lesson or story time. To the extent possible, have the area set up, and place yourself so you are guiding them to where they need to go, even without saying anything. When a middle or high school class comes in and you are working with the teacher, recognize a bit of “fooling around” may occur either as they move to the tables or computer. If you say something like “I see you are all eager to get started, so …” and give the necessary direction things will begin to move as you need them too. Trying to quell anything beyond quiet movement will only lead to further disruption as the lesson proceeds. If you are with one class and another comes in, either notify the teacher in advance as to where you want students to go, or put up a small sign on the back of an easel identifying the location.
Rethinking means recognize your attitude and change it as needed. You may tense up as a “troublesome” class arrives or anticipate a problem with a student with whom you have had trouble. Your thoughts communicate without your realizing it and will trigger the behaviors you wish to avoid. Instead, plan ahead to find something that will engage their interest—ask them a challenging question as they enter – and try “I want to hear what you come up with” as a leading statement. For a single student, think “He/she is often made to feel stupid or hard work, I can make his/her day better.” When you speak, you will then naturally smile and say something kind.
Respect permeates throughout if you want to manage the library. To get respect, you must first give it. Before you say something to a student, consider whether you would speak the same way or use that tone of voice if you were dealing with an adult. If a teacher or administrator walks in while you are helping a student, don’t say, “I’ll be back right after I speak with so-and-so.” Instead, tell the adult, “I will be right with you soon as I am finished here.” When a student comes up for help while you are talking with a teacher, let the child know how much longer you will be. It’s common courtesy.
You all have various techniques to gain quiet. These will work better if you are also using the “3 R’s.” And do realize, some days you won’t behave well. You are human. Apologize immediately. You can be a role model for routines, rethinking and respect. Imagine if that spread throughout your school!