After a few weeks of summer poolside relaxing, I’m ready to get moving with the upcoming school year’s unit planning, curriculum development, and intense refinement of what I did the previous year. This year, I’m aiming to work chronologically, and I spent the day sifting through my past policies and procedures.
A first-year teacher learns many lessons in the face of massive mistakes. My biggest lesson learned was in classroom management. My first year, I taught at a charter school that relied on the Teach Like a Champion Taxonomy and an intensive merit/demerit policy to uphold the taxonomy. Teach Like a Champion, or TLAC for short, used a few dozen strategies to ensure 100% of students are following your directives 100% of the time. If the students aren’t there, you wait for them to get there by starting with least invasive tactics like a whole group correction (ex: “I need my whole team with their pencils up.”) to most invasive like a private correction (ex: “John pick up your pencil.”)
The strategies themselves aim to make content clear and rigorous, up the joy factor in your classroom, and ensure that all students are engaged and learning. TLAC can be used in any classroom, but is heavily utilized in No Excuse Charter Schools, like the one I taught in as a first-year teacher.
I struggled with the idea of 100%, and I didn’t wait to get every student where I asked on day one. In reflecting back on this year of teaching, there are myriad reasons why I think I wasn’t as successful as I could’ve been. First, two of my classes were co-taught with a veteran teacher who was the disciplinarian in the school. The students both revered and feared him. The dynamic didn’t always paint me as an authoritarian, and I wasn’t proactive to change this dynamic; my first big mistake.
I also was scared. I didn’t know how students would react, I felt bad giving demerits, and I often said too much when I should have delivered the consequence and moved on. I didn’t give consequences when I saw problems at the beginning of a lesson merely hoping things would get better, but these problems percolated until I’d lost control of the class. I often called the Dean of Students because I simply couldn’t isolate the problem to fix it.
After the first semester, I received additional management coaching and began to realize these errors in my first semester of teaching. As I remediated my own understanding of management, my classes flowed, there was constant, authentic learning, and a disruptive student was immediately sent to the Dean of Students.
A school that relies on merits and demerits to control behavior has its own issues, which I’m not aiming to discuss here, but rather explain how my lack of follow through with policies and procedures at the beginning of the year had a ripple effect that made my job infinitely more difficult for the remainder of the year.
Once I began to understand this paradigm, I didn’t let any behaviors slip through the cracks in my classroom. A lot improved, but I still didn’t have full credibility in the eyes of my students because I didn’t expect this of them since day one.
As a result of my first year teaching, I invested serious muscle over the summer to develop a crystal clear set of policies and procedures for my classroom. As I was moving from a highly-centralized charter school to a traditional public school, I had to find a way to hold students to high expectations without the punitive nature of a demerit system.
Yet, I still wanted to employ much of the Teach Like a Champion taxonomy and expect 100% from all of my students. I wanted my students to track one another, sit up straight, and feel excited to be in my classroom. I didn’t want to spend tons of instructional time waiting for 100%. What I came to realize was the heart of TLAC is setting high expectations in every facet of education and relentlessly upholding them. With this realization, I was able to adapt the TLAC principles to meet the needs of my classroom.
The Policies and Procedures I developed are a result of my teaching background. After each year of teaching, my goal is to think back on the biggest challenges and successes of the year and figure out how those related to my policies and procedures.
This new set of policies/procedures are the product of flexing those teacher muscles, reflecting, and revising:
My Policies and Procedures commentary, templates, quizzes, and classroom supplements are available on my Teachers Pay Teachers store.