Part 2 – My Jigsaw Approach to Classroom Management

Back in 2008, my reflections on my school experience and professional reading led me to develop a practical construct to describe my classroom management approach. The result was:

My “Jigsaw” Approach to Classroom Management
Key Ideas

1. The classroom teacher’s attitude to student misbehaviour underpins the effectiveness of their management response.

2. A safe learning environment relies on positive teacher-student relationships and positive peer relationships. Teachers can develop such relationships by taking a meaningful interest in their students’ lives, and promoting an anti-bullying ethos through their words and actions.

3. Make an effort to forge positive, respectful relationships with your more challenging students. Study the purpose and triggers of their behaviours, and learn about their backgrounds. Use behaviour management strategies which target the cause of their misbehaviour, and remember they too have the right to a safe learning environment.

4. A proactive classroom management approach relates to the facilitation of the teaching and learning process as well as the preventative management of student misbehaviour.

5. Fairly and consistently apply your system of graduated consequences. Ideally, such consequences should foster student self discipline and bring about behaviour change.

(Michael Graffin, November 2008)
What does it all mean?

The “Jigsaw” construct represents the four interrelated dimensions of a harmonious and productive teaching & learning environment. If one or more of the jigsaw ‘pieces’ are missing, the classroom environment becomes dysfunctional. Looking back on my 2008 experiences, I believe the key to the transformation of my class into a vibrant learning community was the creation of a safe learning environment, the missing piece of the puzzle.

Translating Theory into Practice

As my early relief teaching experiences soon revealed, there is a significant difference between having professional knowledge about classroom management and actually applying that knowledge in your professional practice.

As mentioned above, each “jigsaw piece” is critical to a successful classroom management approach. While I thought I was relatively competent in each dimension, I soon discovered that I had a lot to learn.

Engaging in frequent reflection on my classroom management strengths and weaknesses as a relief teacher, I

  • Engaged in extensive professional reading, focussing on excerpts from Classroom Management: A Thinking & Caring Approach, by Barrie Bennett & Peter Smilanich
  • Discussed my situation & potential management strategies with experienced classroom teachers and Deputy Principals
  • Set goals for improvement; experimenting with and refining my use of various management strategies.
Through this long-term reflective process, I have become a more confident and competent classroom manager, and a more effective relief teacher. I have undergone significant professional growth in this area, but recognising the different challenges of different classes and schools, the reflective process continues to this day.

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