INTERVIEW WITH MR. MICHAEL LINSIN, author of smartclassroommanagement.com

Mr. Michael Linsin, gifted author and teacher, has graciously offered to answer a few questions about his work. He has written 3 books about classroom management; Dream Class, Classroom Management for Art, Music, and P.E. teachers, and The Classroom Management Secret, as well as an extensive repertoire of articles on his website, smartclassroommanagement.com. In my opinion, this website is the single best in-depth resource we have for classroom management, regardless of the subject area we teach. His philosophy of classroom management has helped countless numbers of teachers get their groups under control, and I will readily admit that I have *learned a great deal from Mr. Linsin!

Q. How did you get to the point where you decided to write a book?
A. I saw so many teachers around me stressed-out and struggling with behavior, and knew that it didn't need to be that way. I thought I might be able to help. I wish it were more profound than that, but it's really that simple.
Q. Do you have a team of people who help you respond to all the teachers' questions at smartclassroommanagement.com?
A. No, it's just me. If someone takes the time to email me or leave a comment, then I believe I should respond personally. Having said that, the website has grown to such a degree that more often than not I refer them to our archive, where they can find answers to just about every classroom management concern or situation imaginable.
Q. Tell us about the most memorable student you ever taught:
A. It's hard to choose. So many students have impacted my life and taught me things I couldn't learn from a thousand books. I once had a group of about 30 students stay with me for three years as I moved up in grade level from 4th, 5th, and then 6th grade. I was a classroom teacher at the time. That was probably the most rewarding teaching experience I've ever had. I still keep in touch with a few of those students.
Q. I have made many mistakes as an art teacher. Once I dropped a cup of yellow paint and it exploded all over the floor, covering me with yellow paint! I even had paint on my face and in my hair! It is ironic that happened a split second after I admonished two students to “Be careful!” with the paint! What is one thing/decision/experience you wish you could “do over” as a teacher?
A. When I was in my first or second year of teaching a student asked me right in the middle of a critical point in my lesson if he could use the restroom. This was before I had a surefire restroom policy. I held up my finger and said, "In a minute, Jason. Now is not a good time." When I finished my point I turned back to him and said, "Okay, buddy. Go for it." He just looked at me and shook his head. I said to him (testily), "So you interrupted me during a lesson and now you don't want to go?" Again, he just sat there. But then his eyes slowly tracked down to his seat, revealing for the world to see that it was too late. He was unable to hold it. I felt horrible. Although this was more than twenty years ago, I cringe like it was yesterday.
Q. What has been your greatest triumph in the classroom?  
A. Finding a reliable way to create a happy, peaceful classroom, no matter where I'm teaching, the subject I'm teaching, or who is on my roster—which forms the basis for the blog and all three books.
Q. Last fall/winter I did an informal study to find out what art teachers struggle with the most here in Alabama (I emailed 100's of art teachers.) Believe it or not, it simply boiled down to students' work ethic! Motivating students to work hard was the most common struggle reported, along with dealing with increasing numbers of students, decreasing budgets, and managing art materials. What advice would you offer in the realm of student motivation?
A. Motivating students becomes much, much easier in the presence of two things: First, you must have solid, effective classroom management skills. You must be able to eliminate interruptions, distractions, misbehavior and the like that infringe upon the rights of your students to learn and enjoy school. Second, you must know how to build trusting, influential relationships with your students, even if you only see them once per week. Combined, these two principles create the conditions that allow the teacher to have the leverage to ask for and receive exceptional effort. There is a lot to this topic, which we cover extensively on the blog and in the book, Classroom Management for Art, Music, and PE Teachers.
Q. What about saving time? Time is one of the things art teachers (especially elementary) need  a LOT more of!
A. The amount of time you have to devote to instruction/independent work is a function of how effective you are managing your classroom, which includes, among other things, organization, preparation, room environment, routines, speaking skills, modeling skills, consistency, and ability to curb time-wasting misbehavior.
Q. What do you see as the biggest challenge we teachers face in today's culture?
A. It seems that more and more students are coming into our classrooms less prepared to listen and learn and more inclined to misbehave. At Smart Classroom Management we endeavor to show teachers how using simple, real-world strategies, you can not only overcome this challenge, but thrive while doing it.

*Personal Note: Before reading these books and articles, it had never occurred to me that my discipline plan is like a contract with my students and that every time I overlooked or ignored misbehavior (being inconsistent) it was the same thing as breaking a promise. Also, I learned that it wasn't enough to avoid arguing with students, I need to also avoid any trace of visible annoyance - I have been known to roll my eyes, sigh, and appear quite flustered. I am working hard to discipline myself to be more professional! Finally, one of the biggest mistakes I have made is taking misbehavior personally, getting really discouraged and emotional when kids refused to behave. I have had some tough groups of kids come through my classroom! My own attitude, the joy that I bring to the classroom, is like a secret weapon! Thank you, Michael!
by: Mrs. Anna Nichols, visual art instructor, middle school

This is not a paid endorsement - after studying Mr. Linsin's philosophies I have come to the conclusion that they are truly relevant. He has committed a great deal of his time over a number of years to help teachers all over the world with classroom management. Questions he is asked via his website are answered quickly and compassionately, and I wish him every blessing!

1 comment:

Aanchal said...

Great interview!
Thanks for sharing. Mr. Linsin is truly a remarkable person and teacher.