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First Year Teacher Self-Study Course

First Year Teacher is a self-paced professional development course for novice K-3 teachers, developed by Reading Rockets. The program provides teachers with an in-depth knowledge of reading so they are prepared to guide their students into becoming skilled and enthusiastic readers.

Photo of teacher and students

Week 8

Management and marbles

Classroom management is one of the biggest challenges all teachers face. First year teachers especially worry if they are going to be able to control their classrooms. At my district’s New Teacher Orientation, each new teacher received a copy of Harry and Rosemary Wong’s How to be an Effective Teacher: The First Days of School. It was as if we were being told from all around, “If you do not get control of your students immediately, you are ruined for the year.” Yikes! What a scary thought.

Before school started, I sat down and decided on what kind of classroom reward and discipline policy I wanted to have. Since I am a strong believer in positive reinforcement, I based my policies around this theme. On the first day of school, my students and I devised a list of rules and consequences; this allowed them to feel ownership of the rules. I also implemented a daily reward system I had used in student teaching. As long as a student does not get more than three warnings in one day, he/she received a sticker at the end of the day. When the front of a page in the sticker book has been filled, the student receives a small prize, like a pencil or eraser. This technique shows the students that it is beneficial in many ways to follow the rules.

Another system I have is a marble jar. When the entire class is behaving very nicely, when everyone is making an effort, when the rules are consistently being followed by all, I put a marble in our jar. Sometimes I give “Double Whammies”, or for extraordinary behavior, I give “Triple Whammies”. The children love to receive marbles. It shows them that I have noticed their good behavior and they know the closer we get to the top, the closer we get to a special celebration.

Well, this week we finally reached the top of the marble jar. I did not want to make it too easy for the students to get to the top; they really worked for it. To reward them for their outstanding work, we had Pajama Day on Wednesday. The students were allowed to wear pajamas to school. It was all they could talk about on Tuesday; they were so excited for their special celebration.

When Wednesday morning rolled around, everyone came in wearing bright smiles and comfy pajamas. We had everything from robes to long johns to zip-up feet pajamas that I wore when I was a child. It was adorable. The students all checked each other out, complimenting one another on their awesome outfits. “Miss Zielinski, even you have on pajamas!” the children exclaimed as they noticed my red flannel outfit. All day long, as people came into our room, the students proudly declared that we were having pajama day in our classroom. On the playground, they showed off their nightly attire, almost bragging that they were wearing p.j.’s and the others weren’t. They had earned this privilege, and they were so proud of themselves.

First year teachers must have systems set up for rewards the second the bell rings on the first day of school. With these policies, classroom management becomes so much easier. I am lucky to say that I have not had many discipline problems with my class. True, I do have amazing students, but I also took the time to develop ways to reinforce their good behavior. Doing this has allowed them to see the positive side to behaving the right way. Now we are back to the bottom of our marble jar. But since the children saw how great it was to reach the top, I know they will work just as hard, if not harder, to reach the top again.

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"A book is like a garden, carried in the pocket." — Chinese Proverb