You’re Not In Control — Yet

Student anonymity

Seating chart tactics


The room is full of kids now. Some are even in the front row only because all the other chairs are taken. Some are giggling with their friends. Many are looking idly around the room, apparently totally disinterested in what is about to happen. A very few of your teenage students are looking directly at you, trying to appear bright-eyed and attentive.

Nobody is actually rowdy yet; they are too uneasy. That’s good, since you are not yet in control. You cannot exert control until you have stripped them of their anonymity. Welcome them to your class in a sentence or two; then announce that you have already prepared a seating chart. You may have arranged the seating alphabetically, or boy/girl or some other way. But you must have it in hand before they come to class. Don’t let them sit wherever they want to. Perhaps, later in the year, you might let them sit with whomever they choose, but not now. Tell them you will walk from desk to desk reading the name of the student who will sit there. Ask them not to move until you have gone through the entire class. You might also apologize beforehand for the names you will undoubtedly mispronounce. Tell them not to correct you yet; since once they are in their seats, you will go around again and ask for their nicknames and the correct pronunciation of their last names.

Even though you told them not to move until you got through the whole class, inevitably one boy or girl will. Don’t make a fuss about it. Remember, they are nervous and easily embarrassed, so be as low-key and pleasant as possible. Just ask them to please wait until you are done. During this process, there will be some giggling over who is sitting next to whom and perhaps other subdued conversations. Don’t let this bother you. You haven’t really started class yet, so this should not be interpreted as a test of your authority.

When all the kids are seated in their assigned seats, go around a second time. Now you will ask what they want you to call them (nickname). A few will offer bizarre nicknames such as ”Rat” or “Ape.” In that case, just ask what their parents call them. Using such contrived nicknames suggests a familiarity that is inappropriate for the first days of school. After a few weeks, when the atmosphere is more relaxed, you might reconsider. Be careful, though. You don’t need to be “one of the gang” to be a good teacher. During my first year teaching, a shy, redheaded girl told me to call her Red, which I did. Four weeks later, during parent teacher conferences, her parents were furious.

Also, ask how to pronounce their last name & write it phonetically on your seating chart if necessary. Although you may never call them by their last name, you may have to talk to Mrs. Wyremblewski someday, and you don’t want to butcher her name.

Go to The Non-Judgmental Stare

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    • Lara on September 19, 2017 at 7:18 am
    • Reply

    What to do when you have a chatty class and you missed to established the order in the first few classes with the non-judgmental stare? What are management techniques to get back on track? My class is mostly teenage boys, very chatty, heard from other teachers they have the same problem with them. I’ve had three classes with them and not knowing what to do searched the Internet and came up upon this wonderful website. Wish I’d known this before! Thank you.

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