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Successful Classroom Management: Real-World, Time-Tested Techniques for the Most Important Skill Set Every Teacher Needs

Successful Classroom Management: Real-World, Time-Tested Techniques for the Most Important Skill Set Every Teacher Needs

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by Richard Eyster

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Lead, Inspire, and Change Your Students' Lives

Each year, tens of thousands of new teachers head out for their first teaching job, ready to fulfill a lifetime dream. However, most teachers have nothing to prepare them for or support them on one of the most important parts of their job: how to effectively run a classroom and handle the students.


Lead, Inspire, and Change Your Students' Lives

Each year, tens of thousands of new teachers head out for their first teaching job, ready to fulfill a lifetime dream. However, most teachers have nothing to prepare them for or support them on one of the most important parts of their job: how to effectively run a classroom and handle the students.

Successful Classroom Management is the first book to give you the skills you need to manage a classroom effectively. Richard H. Eyster and Christine Martin present the lessons that have made them the most sought-after seminar trainers on the topic, addressing:

Handling Classroom Problems
Troubleshooting Issues
Enforcing Discipline
Inspiring Students
Creating an Engaging Classroom Atmosphere

Filled with expert advice, stories and tips from teachers, and spot-on techniques, this is your new essential handbook that will help you not only survive in the classroom, but also live your dream and give your students the full gifts that come from a great education.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
""While the book is geared toward novice teachers, veteran teachers would benefit from the refreshing advice that reminds all educators what effective teaching comprises."" - ForeWord

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Successful Classroom Management

Real-World, Time-Tested Techniques for the Most Important Skill Set Every Teacher Needs

By Richard H. Eyster, Christine Martin

Sourcebooks, Inc.

Copyright © 2010 Richard H. Eyster and Christine Martin
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4022-5567-0



It was my last day of kindergarten. My mother and younger sister had come to the steps of Grove Patterson School to share the final moments and to begin summer vacation together. Mrs. Routzahn, whom I will remember forever as a large and florid woman with a warm and jowly smile, bent low and gave me a hug. My mother thanked her for the year. Our final good-byes were exchanged.

On the quiet walk home down Drummond Road, I looked up at my mother and said with a quiet finality, "She never wore them."

With some perplexity, my mother asked what I had meant. Incredibly, I can still remember the pink coral earrings I had so eagerly picked out for Mrs. Routzahn as my first Christmas present to a teacher. I had apparently spent the rest of the year checking her earlobes every morning as soon as I had hung up my coat in the cloak room.

She had never once worn the earrings I had chosen with such eager anticipation.

It may be unusual to have taken such notice of a gift given. It may be no less unusual to remember that episode over the course of the passing decades, but that wasn't the only small schoolish moment remembered from those early years. I can recall Miss Freeman scoffing to our third grade class at the very idea of toothpaste and telling us all that the only "dentifrice" that really made a difference was Dr. Lyon's Tooth Powder. Sure enough, over the sighing objections of my mother, our family purchased a pale blue can of Dr. Lyon's Tooth Powder. Miss Sonnenberg had lived in Germany right after World War II, and she told us about the brand new stockings her neighbor had been so proud of, stockings that had disintegrated in the blast of a bus's exhaust. That image sometimes still arises unbidden when I see a woman crossing behind a bus idling at the corner.

Children are so impressionable, so open to experience, so touched by the look or the tales of a teacher along the way. I can remember every one of the educators in my life — their foibles, their warmth, and their mannerisms. To me, this just seems natural. They were a daily part of my life and a powerful influence on who I became and how I saw the world.

The fact is that children are affected by their teachers day in and day out — for good and ill — as they move through their lives as students. Occasionally, they are recognized and praised. More often than not, they simply feel that they are one of the crowd, one of the many. Through careless comments or at moments of reckless insensitivity, a teacher can turn them off, embarrass them, blunt their hopes for success, and make them feel hopeless as artists, as mathematicians, as students in general. And yet through conscious, touching efforts, those same teachers can make them feel noticed. They can awaken hopes of mastery. They can uplift secret aspirations. They can open images of lighted pathways to the future. They can make students feel good about themselves.

What makes the difference? Who are those educators that children remember long after they have left their classrooms? What are the characteristics of a truly effective teacher?

At each of our workshops, we first instruct the educators and participants to gather themselves into groups, share their memories of one truly effective teacher from their past, and then distill a set of characteristics. When the task is complete, we share these lists. The result is often a fairly godlike (or goddesslike) description.

There are often apparent contradictions in the way we see effectiveness — one person citing careful planning and another citing a wonderful sense of spontaneity. One made each child feel special. Another made every student feel equal. I suspect that these aren't inherent contradictions, that there is a secret pairing in each paradox, that the careful planner could afford to follow up on more spontaneous and teachable moments, and that before one is able to trust a teacher enough to feel special, there has to be an essential quality of fairness in the classroom.

The lists that emerge from each of the many workshops we have led are vast and yet largely parallel:

• Those most effective teachers were passionate and knowledgeable about their subject.

• They loved their subject, and they loved to teach.

• They came to class well prepared and well organized.

• They made us laugh.

• They understood boundaries.

• They knew who we were, and somehow, we knew who they were.

• And even when they must have been tired, we sensed their underlying energy and their abiding enthusiasm.

Sometimes, to their collective surprise, the teacher whom these young educators remember as being the most effective doesn't turn out to be the one who was the most fun or the most immediately popular or the easiest to get along with. Often, they were a little intimidating — maybe even a little "scary" at first. But time and time again, we collectively discovered that we deeply valued those teachers who set high standards, and as long as they were fair and consistent, we didn't even mind if they were strict in holding us to those standards. Sometimes, in doing so, they inspired things in us beyond our own expectations. They not only brought out the best in us but also the things we didn't even know were there.

A relatively complete set of characteristics, collected from our most recent series of workshops, is contained in its entirety in the appendix. We open this book, as we do so many of our workshops, by highlighting such a list for two reasons.

First, we have shared this list to encourage everyone to reflect on their own styles. The value in this might be to help us recognize and reinforce our strengths and perhaps even identify areas that we might want to work to develop more fully.

Secondly, there is value in visualization.

Christine often tells the tale of when she first moved to New York during a time when crime was far more prevalent. Because she was an attractive young woman not from the city, her husband was concerned about her traveling long distances on the subway by herself, so he gave her an interesting piece of advice: "Pretend you're an undercover cop."

With a self-deprecating laugh, she shares how that idea, that visualization, actually had the power to change her attitude, her focus, even her posture. She was ready. She was on the lookout. She was poised. And that one image really did help to transform her outlook and even her confidence.

Even before the first students arrive, visualizing ourselves as the embodiment of our most effective teacher — organized, energized, and knowledgeable — can make a huge difference in how we approach our work and how we see ourselves.

We fully recognize that this list of educational virtues can be a little intimidating. None of us is omnipotent; none of us is perfect. The purpose in sharing this list isn't to suggest that each of us must try to be all things to all students. Some of us, for example, are naturally more spontaneous, while others are naturally better planners; however, that doesn't mean that the more methodical planner can't quietly and consciously begin to cultivate an ability to sense and seize that spontaneous, unplanned teachable moment or that the more spontaneous among us can't learn the power of thoughtful and effective planning.

One of the greatest rewards of this profession is that, as we grow in teaching, so often we grow in our own lives, too. A new openness to spontaneity or an emerging orientation to planning might just stay in the classroom, but such explorations have the power to transcend the professional and become part of our more personal lives. If education is truly focused on growth, it may be important to recognize that it is not only about the growth of the young. If we are teaching well, if we are moving ever closer to images of ourselves as effective teachers, then lessons learned along the way may well have the capacity to become part of the experiences that enrich us as adults even when day is done and the classroom is left behind.



We're all in this together.

It is a statement. It is an image. It should become an unshakable conviction. From the very beginning, from before that first morning in September, it is vital to believe that we are united with the class in a compelling, shared adventure.

Being able to state this, to envision it, to believe it is quite simply one of the most pivotal factors in establishing a positive relationship with a class.

If there is one thing that serves to undermine a teacher, if there is one telltale characteristic we have come to believe is at the root of any deep-seated struggle, it is the teacher who — knowingly or unknowingly — isolates himor herself from the class.

Students of any age will test us as teachers. Before we ever dare to enter that first classroom, we need to anticipate that testing — not as a possibility but as a certainty, and not as something to be avoided but as something to be welcomed. This point cannot be overemphasized. The testing will come in many different forms, and each of us should welcome it.

What, then, is the most important component of our response to that testing?

Stay united with the class.

What does that mean?

We're all in this together.

Stay focused on that statement, visualize that image, feel the strength of it as an unshakable conviction however tempest-tossed you may feel from time to time. Together, we are embarking on a year-long journey, and students want — deservedly — to have some genuine confidence in their guide.

It is vital that we stay united with the class.

* * *

You may think, Well of course I want to stay united with the class. But the truth is that many of us unknowingly isolate ourselves from the rest of the class. If there is trouble, many of us succumb to the powerful and unintended temptation to isolate ourselves — but how?

• We scold the entire class.

• We take it personally.

• We sense the eyes upon us and unconsciously accept a me-versus-the-world mind-set.

• We turn what may be a few unpleasant snickers into an entire classroom now leaning against us.

• We use an unconscious lexicon that separates us from the students — even from those who may be quietly rooting for us to succeed — to pass the test, and get on with the journey. We use a very singular "I" and a very collective "you," as if the two are separated by an unbridgeable gulf. "You kids having fun yet?" "You are just out of control this morning." "When you act like this, I don't know how to teach you."

The "you" in each case is a disastrously all-encompassing pronoun destined to distance, to insult, to betray those who may be quietly on our side or even just those neutral ones who are waiting to see what happens next. We are wrong — critically wrong — to lump them all together. And in the end, if we castigate them all as one, if we blow hard and lose heart and see no distinction between the reckless pretender to the throne and the simple bystanders, we will have succeeded in making it us against them and them against us.

And beyond that lies an often vicious downward spiral. We grow so defensive, so conscious of survival, so wary of their power that we lose track of our own. We cut back on the very praise that will draw them in. We stop going to see them in after school plays and games, where our presence might make a wonderfully positive difference. We don't stop them at the end of class or in the hall for informal, friendly one-on-ones. We give up on forging bonds, getting to know them as individuals, and letting them get to know us.

* * *

The testing can and must be faced. The challenge can be defused. The testers can become vital parts of the shared journey. Students — even those who thrive on the role of court jester or murderous upstart — ultimately want us to succeed.

If there is a child in class who is testing us, we generally have two choices. We can either isolate ourselves or isolate the child and the act itself. The best choice is to isolate the test — and the tester — as much by our manner and presence as by our own internal assumptions.

From that first morning in September, students are watching us, sizing us up, trying to figure out what makes us tick. At first, the challenges may be indirect, slight, and surreptitious. You may hear a smart-aleck response from somewhere in the back of the room, a nasty remark about your plastic shoes, an unseemly comment on your ancestors.

What to do?

We can overreact like so many do. Just as destructively, we can pretend we didn't notice. But a little humor or a little sharp-eyed response is probably what they're looking for. You may give a smile that reflects a certain so-what-else-is-new bemusement, eyes that catch the tester clearly in the crosshairs, a slight pause in our manner. We heard. We saw. We noticed. We aren't going to overreact. And we aren't going to wish it away. We knew it was coming. We expected the test. We aren't shaken by it, and we are ready to get on with the lesson. And we are ready to deal with more of it — and more strongly — if it really comes to that.

So if little Stanley shoots a spit wad at us as we're about to launch into our lesson, we face myriad choices of what to do.

What should you not do?

• Go nuts, as if we can't believe that anyone would ever dare challenge us. It may be easy for us to "know" in advance that a test is coming, but when it really happens, we may completely lose our cool.

• Lecture the kids on things they already know.

• Spend four minutes berating someone for a thirty-second interruption.

• Take it personally. "They really don't like me." Don't dare even think there's a "they."

• Project it into a bleak and unalterable future. "This is never going to work."

• Challenge the kid into a defensiveness that will only escalate. "What was that all about, Stanley? You think you're tough? Huh? Huh? You think you can disrupt my class with a little piece of paper? We'll see who's boss!"

• Pretend it didn't happen. This is so crucial. So many teachers are so floored that kids would dare to test them and so uncomfortable exhibiting any kind of strength that they just look away day after day after day.

• Say, "You kids are really out of control this afternoon! All of you — settle down!"

That last point is key. It is vital to monitor how we phrase what we say. There are many elements to passing the test, but without question, the most important one is to remain united with the class — or at least the rest of the class. It is vital to avoid condemning the entire class. The rest of the class may be chuckling or even snickering, but they inhabit a kind of waiting space, a role as watchful observers with unclaimed loyalties. By something as simple as a word choice, we can verbally link them with the upstart. Don't.


Excerpted from Successful Classroom Management by Richard H. Eyster, Christine Martin. Copyright © 2010 Richard H. Eyster and Christine Martin. Excerpted by permission of Sourcebooks, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Richard H. Eyster is Head of School at The Summit Montessori School in Framingham, Massachusetts. He graduated from the University of Michigan and received his Masters in Education from Teachers College, Columbia University.

Christine Martin is currently Department Chair, Learning Skills Department at Packer, where she directs the New Faculty Mentoring Program.

Richard H. Eyster is Head of School at The Summit Montessori School in Framingham, Massachusetts. He graduated from the University of Michigan and received his Masters in Education from Teachers College, Columbia University.
Christine Martin is currently Department Chair, Learning Skills Department at Packer, where she directs the New Faculty Mentoring Program.

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Successful Classroom Management: Real-World, Time-Tested Techniques for the Most Important Skill Set Every Teacher Needs 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
melandinka More than 1 year ago
This book should be in every school library, if not in every teacher's library. It is full of practical advice on everything from lesson planning to seating arrangements to classroom demeanor to teacher/student and teacher/supervisor relationships. The information is well-organized, comprehensive, and engagingly presented. In the first months of this school year I have continually referred back to the book and have always found answers to questions or reminders about things I may have forgotten. Eyster and Martin are a constant inspiration to me to find ways to be a better teacher. Highly recommended!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Rich Eyster and Christine Martin draw on extensive experience as teachers and observers of classrooms to produce a book that is at once an appreciation of the complexity of teaching and an accessible and engaging analysis of its components-and most usefully, a way of understanding and managing effectively these components. As a resource for an individual teacher or as the basis of continuing professional development for a faculty group, their work is invaluable. Geoff Pierson, former public school superintendent and independent school head
NatalieSchwartz More than 1 year ago
"Successful Classroom Management" is a comprehensive, insightful and inspirational survival guide for teachers. It covers everything from preparing for the school year to dealing with bullying to forging relationships with administrators. It's packed with practical techniques for addressing the multitude of challenges teachers face. The book also provides teachers with proven methods for engaging and motivating students. "Successful Classroom Management" will embolden new teachers and foster the professional development of veteran teachers. Natalie Schwartz Author, "The Teacher Chronicles: Confronting the Demands of Students, Parents, Administrators and Society"
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Richard H. Eyster and Christine Martin have fooled us! They have crafted an extraordinary tome for all ages and types of teachers, full of wit, wisdom and personal experiences that toy with the innocuous title. This is a book that many of us who have experienced first hand this wonderful profession wanted to write after gaining a modicum of experience but never found time. Thank goodness Eyster and Martin found the time to share this gathering of evidence that by developing learnable skills the classroom can be an opportunity to learn and grow for both teacher, especially the new educator, and the student. A great primer for those entering the classroom and a powerful review for all of us hardened by the classroom years. Jerry Millhon,Former School Principal and Mentor to Young Educators
Kate_G More than 1 year ago
I had this book recommended to me as a teacher starting out... I'm so glad that I did! It had a lot of advice and insights that would have never occurred to me, and it allowed me to move into my new role with a sense of preparadeness, authority, and even confidence. A clear and comprehensive guide-- I highly recommend it to teachers young and old.
AlanArbesfeld More than 1 year ago
I think this book is terrific! The writing style is clear, persuasive, humorous, anecdotal, and very well-organized. The structure and lay-out make it easy to read, and I think it will be a tremendous asset for all teachers, not just rookies. Certainly new teachers stand to learn a lot from the insights and suggestions presented, but veterans can pick up a few helpful pointers as well. I recently had something happen with one of my students that seemed to come right from the book's pages! I particularly enjoyed the emphasis on the importance of praise, and the highlighted section on avoiding sarcasm; those of us with a sarcastic sense of humor still have to stop ourselves every now and then! This book should be required reading for all teachers!
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