There is hope, no matter in what situation you find yourself. Many of us have been there and have survived! The middle school where I teach has grown recently due to re-zoning and poverty levels are increasing. This year we serve some of the most disadvantaged students in our district. These kids are coming to school with trauma that I can't possibly understand, and when I hear about what happens in their neighborhoods my heart cries. What I have learned about classroom management over the years is helping tremendously this year, especially what I learned when doing research for the following articles. I wrote them because I wanted to get to the bottom of how classroom management might be different when you are serving at-risk kids, and because I was tired of hearing trite, canned, quick-fix solutions from so called "education experts." What will work for some situations will not in others. We all have to figure out what is best to serve the needs of our own students. 

Part II - "Which schools and grade levels are the most difficult to manage?

Part III - "How is student behavior effected?

Part IV - "Never let 'em see you sweat"

Part V - "What we can do"

  • Develop good relationships with the kids - this is supremely important for teachers in any situation, but it is the keystone of classroom management in at-risk schools. Part of developing a trust relationship with kids is maintaining a good attitude - the teacher must remain positive and joyful and refuse to take anything personally. This is not easy, but it is vital. "Never let 'em see you sweat!"
  • Be fair and consistent with consequences for misbehavior; be unemotional when administering them. Teach the kids that you care too much about them to allow them to misbehave. The rules are there to protect them and their right to learn! 
  • Use positive reinforcement as much as possible, but in an authentic way. Don't do it to manipulate the kids - they will see right through it. Rewards, no matter what you may have heard, can work wonders. 

I have also found the following resources extremely helpful:

1. Michael Linsin (author of Dream Class) at smartclassroommanagement.com developed his techniques while working in California schools with extremely high poverty. His advice is the best available, especially for those of us who teach elementary age students. He recently wrote a classroom management guide for high school teachers, and he published a book specifically for "specials" teachers, Classroom Management For Art, Music, and PE Teachers. When I started this blog, I put his methods to the test for one full year: here are some articles that I wrote about Linsin: About Smart Classroom Management, & Classroom Management Plan; Testing Linsin's Methods In Middle School

2. Rachel Hessing Wintemburg, The Helpful Art Teacher, has a Facebook page as well as a classroom website where she offers a wealth of wisdom from many years serving low socioeconomic populations in New Jersey. She has over 30 years experience teaching middle school visual art in an urban environment! Here is a recent post on the "Art Teachers" Facebook group where she (and many others) write helpful advice about teaching underprivileged students. 

3. Amy Zschaber, of artfulartsyamy.com, wrote a fantastic article several years ago while she was still teaching middle school art: she describes "re-direction" strategies and specifics of how she dealt with misbehavior at a high poverty middle school in Georgia: Classroom Management In the Art Room; When You Need Help

4. Eric Gibbons, artedguru.com, has an article with many resources about teaching in at-risk environments: Urban Survival Guide

article by Mrs. Anna Nichols

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