Who or What has shaped your classroom management?

I have been reflecting on the development of my classroom management philosophy as part of my first year of lecturing pre-service science teachers at the University of Wollongong. As I look back, I am reminded of the people who have influenced my teaching practice over the past 17 years and that some of those influences come from some unexpected places.

I quit teaching after my first year as a teacher because I had such an awful time. This was due to some unforgivable class allocations (now, as a head teacher I would never inflict similar on another human being) and a lack of support for the casual teacher (me) on a 3 term block. I learnt a lot that year, both good and bad. My classroom management strategies were sourced primarily from Bill Rogers. I had a dog eared copy of Making a Discipline Plan, which I have subsequently loaned to a pre-service teacher who didn’t return it. I hope that they, in turn, will lend it to another.

My favourite Rogersism is:

“You establish what you establish. Anything you allow, you establish as allowed.”

This blog post is a nice summary of the best of Rogers:


During this first year of my teaching practice a fellow teacher took, pity on me and introduced me to the work of William Glasser and Choice Theory (or Control Theory as it was originally called). This appealed to my Science brain. While I no longer remember the details, some of the bigger ideas have remained with me.

My favourite quote from Glasser:

“We have very little control except over our own thinking and doing and humans are driven by genetically programmed needs: to survive, to belong, to have power, to have fun and to be free.”

If you are interested:


I also had this strong gut feeling that I had to reward positive behaviour.

After I quit teaching, I did some time as a data base administrator and as an administrative assistant to the Inspector of Science at the Board of Studies. Rosemary Hafner, Margaret Watts and Joe Merlino convinced me to return to teaching and mentored me through this. I did a few more blocks, had a baby and finally got a permanent appointment in South Western Sydney. On my return to teaching Rogers and Glasser served me well until I had my second child. Then things changed.

I had returned from maternity leave, lost the hearing in my right ear due to a benign tumour and I had a 2 year old who was the textbook terrible two. I was diagnosed with high blood pressure and every class I taught was fraught with anxiety and stress. Every minute felt like a battle. I was stressed out of my mind and was having a teary breakdown at least once a week in the staff room. Although everyone else saw me do what I always did, I felt incompetent. That was 9 years ago.

Two things saved me. I am a little embarrassed to admit that neither had anything to do with education. I had an Oprah moment and I went to a parenting course. These 2 things changed me and my classroom forever.

The first was a cringe worthy ah ha Oprah moment. I was watching Oprah on my 1 day per week of continuing maternity leave. Her guest was Gary Zukah and to paraphrase in order to cut a long story short, he described the concept that the energy you put out into the world is the energy that is reflected back to you. In other words my stress and frustration was being reflected back at me from my students.

The second was a parenting technique called 123 Magic by an American psychologist Dr Thomas Phelan. The take home message from this program for my classroom was ‘no talk, no emotion’ and it provided a clear technique for giving warnings to calmly achieve positive behaviours. (As an aside, it worked on my 2 year old too). Like Rogers’ work this program insists that you have to know what you are going to do and do it in a calm way.

These two things combined for a light bulb moment that changed my classroom forever. I implemented a modified version of 123 Magic and changed the energy I gave off in the classroom. I have no empirical data to suggest whether my students behaved any better than they did before but I was calmer, more in control and enjoying being in the classroom again.

Since then I have added a third non-education influence, Cesear Milan, the Dog Whisperer. I would like to add a caveat though. In no way am I saying that my students are dogs, and I am Not advocating that you should tap, touch, snap your fingers at or make ‘tsch’ sounds at any of your students. I am advocating owning your space and having a calm and assertive energy before you enter a classroom.

In the last 5 years I have also been trained in Positive Behaviours for Success which dovetails nicely with all that I had assimilated for myself over the years.

What I will be trying to show my baby teachers is that classroom management is personal and needs to be based on you being true to yourself. But it MUST contain the following elements to be successful:

– have a plan and a script of what to do and say when behaviours occur.
– explicitly teach your expectations.
– have a system to reward positive behaviours.
– own your space and exude a calm, assertive energy.
– deliver warnings and consequence with minimal talk and no emotion
– and when you or a student become upset, give them or yourself time out to calm down


12 thoughts on “Who or What has shaped your classroom management?

  1. Graeme Bond July 3, 2013 at 8:44 am Reply

    My pre-service years were guided by teachers that were in “cruisey” schools and gave me some insight, as a young PE teacher and PE only in those days. I had trialled a lot of my classroom management skills with a young weekend football team. I was a playing Rugby, I was also coaching both club and rep teams, any mistakes I made with them (club) I tried not to make in the classroom.

    My first few years as a teacher where varied due to the fact I had been moved 3 schools in three years. I was getting ready to write a book how to start a new school. I started at Swansea then moved to Broken Hill High then back to Sydney out near Liverpool at Lurnea High School. Since then I have been in the Sydney South West Area now for 33 years, I find the students (kids) in this area honest and sum you up in 5 seconds, if you establish what you establish they like you, fair and consistency is the key. I had been given the opportunity to be shown “Glasser”, “Talk Sense to yourself” and also Transactional Analysis, I still have the book the “Games Students Play”, these have shaped how I deal with students.

    During my time at Lurnea I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by a group of energetic teachers. The best part of my influence from Lurnea was the debriefing we would either do in the staffroom or on a Friday night over dinner. Yes so much so was the collegiately, part of the guiding light was my first Head Teacher (Dave Peade, since retired) who actually gave a “r” about what I was doing in and out of the classroom. I also came under the wing of the English and Science Head Teacher who gave me general class management issues to work on, as I also taught some science at one point.

    During 1986 at Lurnea there were 9 teachers going for inspection for Head Teacher 3 Head Teachers going for Deputy and the Deputy going for Principal. My belief is the nature of the staff at the time meant people were looking to support one another. My feelings are that “round-a-bouts and swings” is very much a good thing to be nurtured. If the teaching staff you walk into is supportive and is prepared to help out or talk through issues which some faculties do, I have been in faculties where “the resources I develop are mine and not for anyone else” makes life difficult but small steps can be made to erode this in the like of sharing and asking for something in return. In PDHPE often common resources are used so often this doesn’t become an issue.

    Currently, I am Heading a faculty of 10 other PE teachers, which at a minimum has been teaching no shorter than 7 years, most give me very few issues and only the harder ones, as they can manage by themselves. At this same school, I had the opportunity to talk to a student, recently arrived, who was classed as a difficult child. I asked him even though I wasn’t his direct teacher, “Why he always did what I asked?” his response was that “I was one if not of two teachers, that said hello to him in passing and gave him some acknowledgement as being a student”. He said “The respect I gave him was only fair that he returned the same.” I have been given other feedback especially Year 7 in their first few weeks of High school they will remember teacher that actually remember who they are outside of the classroom.

    I believe I digress from where you wanted feedback but to the pre-service teacher that has had some decent practicums they will survive. More than gladly prepared to talk to you one on one. Thanks Graeme Bond, Head Teacher PDHPE, John Edmondson High School, Horningsea Park, near Liverpool.

  2. grubbypandas July 3, 2013 at 10:30 am Reply

    Are you able to expand further the tactic of ‘no talk, no emotion’ as it sounds very interesting. I guess i’m looking for an example of the technique if that is possible? As a pre-service teacher I’m always looking for new techniques to try in the classroom.

    • jenglish2013 July 3, 2013 at 10:42 am Reply

      It is based on a system of 3 warnings followed by a consequence. When you give warnings you don’t show emotions or over talk. It can be as simple as, “you’re out of your seat, that’s 1” or “I’ve asked you to get your book out, that’s 2” or while you’re talking to the class, if someone else is talking, tap the disk and signal 3. Three warnings = move desk, 6 = 5 min detention, 9 = 10 min detention, 12 = referral to Head teacher for persistent disobedience.

      It is important to give ‘uptake’ time between warnings. Don’t raise your voice or give too much emotional weight to warnings an never write them on the board. When students do what they have been warned about, thank them.

  3. graeme bond July 3, 2013 at 11:09 am Reply

    the other part with glasser is giving ownership of the consequence. This means further down the track you have down x y z what should be the consequence. This means the student decides on what they do. Sometimes students have gone close to 2 weeks of detentions or suspension, but you real them back to realistic, they decide and accept that they have given you the consequence. In 9/10 cases they follow through.

  4. Tina Meyer July 4, 2013 at 2:07 am Reply

    Amazing the similarities between my inspirations and yours. I rely on Choice Theory, Bill Rogers, Oprah and Cesar Milan (being the pack leader and invoking a trusting and consistent environment) in my classroom: not ever day is perfect but I keep coming back (into my twenty first year of teaching).

    In this modern day of teaching I find that the building of RELATIONSHIPS is vital to success in the classroom. Setting clear boundaries and very high expectations ensures student success and teacher fulfilment and happiness. Respect is vital too. I have had similar experiences to Graeme. Never backing kids into corners, listening actively and reading their faces and body language are vital tools in the classroom.

    Being passionate about kids and the potential of education is important too; as much as being prepared and loving what you do. Ultimately though, being in the classroom and thinking outside of the box in terms of managing student behaviour, preparing engaging lessons and always reflecting on everything have shaped my classroom management toolkit.

  5. Renee July 4, 2013 at 7:42 am Reply

    I am a fairly new teacher. I was happy to hear your stories as I agree with so many points. I really believe in the fact that the teacher sets the mood. I have proven this many times by either walking in confidently or walking in in a bad mood. Every time the class responds to the tone I set.

    Also, I really believe in keeping instructions to a minimum (short). This even goes with explanations. Although each child deserves respect, at times you don’t have to go into long explanations with them. You simply want something done and it needs to be so. I have since heard newer teachers talking to kids at length about how they make them feel upset and all that touchy feely stuff. I think that works in reverse.

    I also felt deeply about your story about being given the worst classes in your first year. That is truly criminal. Maybe this was a sign the head teacher was not coping him/herself.


    • jenglish2013 July 4, 2013 at 11:33 am Reply

      I love the idea of talking less. I use the analogy of the Simpson’s episode where Bart is trying to teach his dog, Santa’s Little Helper to sit and they show the perspective of the dog who just hears blah blah blah blah blah blah blah. Teenagers tend to only hear every fourth word.

  6. jenglish2013 July 5, 2013 at 12:56 am Reply

    I also forgot Christine Richmond. Another great Austrlain educator who wrote Teach More, Manage Less: a minimalist approach to behaviour management. She also advocate limited talk and emotions when dealing with students

  7. Owen Ikin July 5, 2013 at 2:35 am Reply

    Thank you for this post. I’m in my second year of teaching and have a few defiant students in my Year 5 class.This has been great reference to me so I will continue teaching and not give it in.

    • jenglish2013 July 5, 2013 at 2:38 am Reply

      Good to hear you won’t give up. It does get easier as you go on.

      • gbond57 July 5, 2013 at 5:08 am

        I am also glad you are not giving up, I discovered from different people that the defiant students are not making personal attacks. This helped the cause as I was trying to figure out what I was doing wrong. The focus should be work towards the good kids they will respond and make your teaching more effective and they will give the rewards back. Using an old statement, “grasshopper, you can not help every student, as you will do your head in, aim to help the majority, as they will give you the pleasures of teaching more .. still never give up on those that want help or attention, the last thing they want is for that significant person to turn their back on them…”

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