What you can do

Making our schools safe and orderly is a shared responsibility. School administrators, teachers, staff and parents must work together, but that is often not enough. The behaviors we see in schools reflect the behaviors children see in the surrounding community. To create safe and orderly schools, we need to bring business, religious and civic groups into our schools to help us develop a positive school climate. Of course, we also need to make sure that teachers and school staff, through their unions, play a key role in establishing effective discipline and safety policies.

Encourage the union to establish a labor/management school-safety committee, urge your negotiating team to push for measures in the next contract that support safe and orderly schools as well as effective professional development. Or ask your state legislators to introduce or support school building legislation. Consider collecting your own data on violations of school discipline codes and polling your members on their experiences with school safety and order. Contact your union, your school district, your legislator and share AFT's solutions for safe and orderly schools with them. School safety should be on everyone's agenda, and every member of a school community can play a role.

Classroom management techniques

A teacher who has mastered classroom management skills keeps students constructively engaged and learning from the moment they enter the room until the time they leave. A good classroom manager carefully plans everything that occurs in the classroom from the seating arrangement to instructions for children who finish planned activities early. To the untrained eye, this teacher's classroom management skills may appear to be more art than science, leaving the impression that effective classroom management is instinctive rather than a learned craft. Indeed, because many of these skills have become second nature to them, experienced teachers may be almost unaware of the many skills they use to keep their classrooms organized and functioning smoothly. However, effective classroom management can be taught and, with time, effort and support, teachers can become more effective classroom managers.

The heart of effective classroom management rests on ensuring that the instructional techniques, classroom arrangement and classroom rules and procedures are all well thought out and mutually supportive. Instructional techniques will vary widely depending on the material being taught and the age and ability of the students. No matter what the instructional technique, however, effective teachers will develop three to five classroom rules and 30 to 50 procedures that will facilitate instruction. While many physical limitations are placed on the arrangement of a classroom, the most effective classroom managers organize their room arrangements to minimize disruptions and support instructional techniques.

Most university teacher education programs devote little time to training prospective teachers in classroom management. Teachers entering the classroom without effective classroom management skills often develop defensive behaviors as a reaction to the disruptive behavior of students, which leads to ineffective teaching.

The AFT offers school employees extensive training in classroom management through the AFT Professional Development Program for Educators. This program is among the most well received of all the professional development offerings of the AFT. The techniques taught in the AFT Professional Development Program for Educators classroom management and group management modules are thoroughly researched and field tested. They work. However, the number of teachers the AFT has been able to reach through this training is small compared to the demand. Colleges of Education must make this type of training a requirement for all prospective teachers, and school districts should begin to offer classroom management training to current staff. However, even the most effective classroom management practices will be less effective if they are not practiced in the context of a districtwide discipline policy.