School is about to start again and of course I’m wondering what challenges I’ll be facing teaching the kids I do. I’m sure lots of other teachers are wondering what’s in store for them, too. I’ve been thinking about all that I have learned over the years about classroom management and teaching . Some of it I’ve learned the hard way believe me.

1. I’ve learned that students need me to be a teacher and not their friend.

Almost every year students complain to me about teachers trying to be their friend. They don’t want teachers to be their friends, but of course they do want teachers to be friendly and to treat them fairly and with respect. Kids want us to be the good adult role models they need in their lives. I work hard to make sure that they realize that although I’m friendly, I am not their friend. If kids think teachers are their friends, then when teachers have to do the tough things like call home because of something, the kids feel betrayed because they thought the teacher was a friend and friends don’t snitch on one another. Once a kid feels betrayed by their teacher , that’s it. Some kids will stop learning just to spite the teacher, and the teacher has lost the opportunity to be that positive adult influence kids need.
Over the years, I’ve had kids try to black mail me emotionally by saying that if I call home about some issue , they won’t be my friend. It’s that relational aggression thing. They are trying to bully me into not calling home or whatever I was going to do that they don’t like. That’s when I tell them that while I have a friendly teaching style, I’m not their friend. I’m their teacher. There’s a big difference. As their teacher, I have an obligation to let their parents know how things are going. I have an obligation to see that they learn as much as possible while in my class and out of respect for them , I have to call home. Kids understand that. They don’t like it, but they understand it.

2. I’ve learned that it’s better to catch students doing good rather than catching them doing  bad.

I’ve learned that students respond better when I catch them being good and comment on it. I say things like oh, good, you’re on time for class, or you’re sitting in your seat with your work open or you’ve remembered your pencil etc. I make sure that my comments are authentic. Kids can detect it if I’m not.

I’ve also learned that I’m happier catching my students being good instead of the bad.

I ‘ve use different reward systems for kids who I catch being good. One I particularly like is giving kids Hartjes dollars. How does this work ? First, I designed a dollar bill using my name as part of the design and made lots of photocopies of it using green paper. Then whenever I catch my students doing   good, I give them a Hartjes dollar and congratulated them for being on time, getting their work done or whatever and shake their hands. Students really liked getting their Hartjes dollars and put them in their wallets right next to their real dollars. What can kids buy with their Hartjes dollars? They can buy any of a number of things. I usually ask the class what they would like to buy. They make all kinds of suggestions, and we choose some appropriate ones like having free time to play dominoes, having free time to draw, not having to do a quiz , getting out of class three minutes early etc. We also set the price of these things. I’ve even been able to get some really cool things that kids like from local business like CDs, movie passes, movie rentals, etc . For these more valuable items, we’ll have an auction at the end of a month or a certain time period. The auction generates lots of excitement, as you can imagine.

I’ve shared the idea of Hartjes Dollars and catching kids being good with other teachers, and they’ve created their own dollars with their classes and have found that the idea worked with their students too . It seems to work with all ages from grades three to grade twelve.

I also really like using stickers to motivate kids. My students will be more likely to hand in their work if I put stickers on them. I go to my local dollar type store and stock up on stickers that appeal to my students- even my grade 12 students like stickers. I’ve noticed it’s a bit harder to find stickers that appeal to boys. I’ve used racing car stickers , motorcycle stickers , Halloween type stickers with skulls and guitar stickers for them but they are harder to find so my advice is if you see any of these stock up. I’ve even used heart stickers on their work, come to think of it. I put the bigger stickers on the level 3 and 4 work so that the kids will continue to do a good job. It’s amazing to see the great big 18 year old guys comparing the size of their car stickers or looking at my collection of car stickers to see which one they would like next. It adds an element of fun to the class and a bit of harmless competition. Sometimes if I forget to put a sticker on someone’s work, he or she will come and tell me that I forgot the sticker and present their work for me to put a sticker on. Sometimes , my students even want to renegotiate the size of sticker I put on their work. Stickers are fun.

I’ve also learned that no matter how good a strategy is, it doesn’t work all the time. That’s why it’s important to have an assortment of strategies so that when one goes stale you can quickly pull out another one. Usually though, I don’t need any special strategies the few weeks before report cards go home. Gee, I wonder why?

3. I’ve learned that class rules need to be developed by the class and the teacher and then posted on the wall for all to see

I tell my students on the first day that because they’ve been going to school for such a long time, they are experts at knowing what makes a classroom work or not work. So, I want them to help me come up with classroom rules so that our classroom can work. I get them to share their ideas ideas about what a classroom that works looks like and sounds like and what students need to be doing so that learning goes on. I make sure that school rules are included in the list. I try not to have too many rules , so we work at reducing the list to include only the really important rules. Also, I’ve learned that the classroom rules should be stated in a positive not negative way-, for example be on time, not don’t be late. Then, I get the kids to make posters listing the rules and then we put them up in the classroom in several spots. I usually ask for someone to volunteer to have his or her poster displayed. There are always volunteers.

Displaying the classroom rules in several places , usually on each wall somewhere, is really important. The posters are like signs along the highway that and tell drivers what to do while traveling on the road. The posters in the classroom remind kids what to do while in the classroom on their road to learning. If someone is having a problem behaving in class, I can catch their eye and just point to the poster and they get the message. We all need reminders.

4. I’ve learned that teachers are human beings first and teachers secondly.

I’ve learned not to take myself too seriously. I make mistakes like anyone else because like everyone else I’m human. I tell my students that teachers are human beings first and teachers second so once in a while they do make a mistake too, and it’s no big deal. Everyone makes mistakes. What’s important is that we learn form our mistakes.
5. I’ve learned to remember tomorrow is another day

Some days when nothing seems to go right, I try to remind myself tomorrow is another day, and I’ll have another chance to do it right.
6. I’ve learned to be prepared because my students might not be

I have a few containers with pencils, pens, markers, paper, erasers etc available for students to use when they forget their supplies. I refuse to get bent out of shape because they’ve come to class unprepared. That’s what at-risk students do. That’s why they are at-risk. I swear they arrive to class, not just my class by the way, like rock stars expecting their handlers to take care of every little detail. I used to get annoyed, but now I save my energy for more important things and simply ask them to return whatever they’ve borrowed to me at the end of class so I can lend it to someone else who needs it. This actually works most of the time. I do label things with masking tape. I put my name on everything. If my students think the school supplied it, they sometimes don’t care about returning things, but if they think it’s mine they will return it.

I’ve also learned to be prepared in yet another way. Sometimes the lesson I’ve planned for the day goes over like a lead balloon. Why? Who knows. It doesn’t take much to distract these kids . I keep emergency lesson plans on hand for just such a time. Usually my emergency lesson plans involve a review of skills that I have already taught. It can take the form of puzzles, word searchers, crossword puzzles for math as well as English. I have a nice thick file of activities that I have collected over the years. The internet is a wonderful source . Just google whatever you are looking for and you will have a good choice. I personally like It’s just gotten better and better over the years and the activities from there have saved my sanity on many occasions.

7. I’ve learned to call home when things are going well

Calling home to talk to parents about their kids when their kids are doing well is very important. It just takes a few moments and makes all the difference in the world. You don’t have to do the entire class at once. Spread the calls out over a week. Of course my at-risk classes usually have less than 15 students in them so calling home doesn’t take forever. Parents who get these calls are usually delighted, and the kids are surprised that I’ve called home telling their parents that they did something good. They’re used to the opposite. Since I’m catching my students being good, it isn’t hard to find something good to share with their parents. Calling home with good news buys all kinds of goodwill because it tells parents that you care about their kid. Parents of at-risk kids need good news.
8. I’ve learned to ask for help when I need it

If I’m having serious problems with a student in my class, I’ll go and talk to his guidance counselor, his vice-principal and his other teachers to see if they know something that can help me reach this kid or if something happened at home that the kid is having problems dealing with. Then I’ll call home. I used to call home first, but then a few times something had happened and the parent told the school but the message hadn’t got to me yet. The parent was annoyed, and I felt stupid so now for serious problems I ask at school first and then call home.

9. I’ve learned that my students have different learning styles and different multiple intelligences and this is important to keep in mind when I’m planning my lessons.

If I take into account the fact that my students have different learning styles and different multiple intelligences and plan my lessons accordingly, I will have more success engaging the kids. It’s quite easy to determine what a student’s learning style and multiple intelligences are through different inventories. For example, last semester I determined that the kids in my math class were strong visual learners and very weak auditory learners so there was little point in me standing up at the front of the class telling them what they needed to learn and what I wanted them to do because they weren’t going to get it. So I used a lot of activities that involved graphic organizers and that worked. It pays off big time for a teacher to know what strategies work for each of the learning styles and each of the multiple intelligences. Kids learn better if a teachers teaching style and their learning style is the same. Kids who complain about teachers not teaching them are often really complaining about a clash between the teacher’s teaching style and the kids learning style. Teachers really need to teach to all the different learning styles using different multiple intelligences and allow students to demonstrate their learning using their strong multiple intelligences. That skill takes time to learn, but there lots of PD on learning styles, multiple intelligences and graphic organizers. There’s lots of information on line as well. I’m forever googling to see what’s new and works.

Now, I’ve shared nine things that I’ve learned about teaching. I invite you to share what you have learned. Please keep those comments and questions coming. I really appreciate them because they challenge me to think.

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58 Responses to “Nine things my students have taught me about classroom management and teaching”

  1. Mathew on August 21st, 2007 6:11 pm

    I’ve learned not to refer to students by their labels such as special education or gifted students but rather students receiving special education services or students identified as gifted.

  2. Elona on August 21st, 2007 8:06 pm

    I’ve learned that too.

  3. Emily on August 22nd, 2007 3:58 am

    Yeah thats pretty awesome indeed.Well Mental Math
    adds to mathematics online.

  4. Tracy on August 22nd, 2007 6:38 am

    Elona – this is wonderful. It sums up a wealth of knowledge and experience about working with students in a way that makes sense to teachers. I will be circulating this amongst the teachers I know – I hope that is ok!

    And yes, I have learned that I think of students as students first. ‘At-risk students’ is not a phrase I like. It sounds like a dumping ground for students in difficulty. I like to be more specific – a student who is at risk of not graduating, or at risk of dropping out of school, or at risk of becoming an addict. And then I like to add a because.

    I find this humanizes their situations.

    I’ve also learned that emotions can either block or stimulate learning and that I need to be aware of the emotional climate in my classroom and the emotional states of my students – and of my own most importantly!

  5. Peggy Collins on August 22nd, 2007 8:08 am

    What a beautiful list of wisdom. It took me years and years to be able to ask for help – and I’ll bet some who read your list still can’t ask. It’s considered a weakness in this country to ask for help and I’m trying to change that culture becuase YOU have learned it’s a strength! Hope you’ll get on the bandwagon and help.

    I’ve even written a book entitled Help Is Not a Four-Letter Word: Why Doing It All Is Doing You In published by McGraw Hill outlining the solutions I found for turning this extreme behavior of not being able to ask around.
    I also have a free Tip of the Week-Asking for Help at my website
    I’m going to print your list and keep it handy. How lucky your students are!!
    Peggy Collins

  6. Elona on August 22nd, 2007 8:44 pm

    Thanks for the encouragement and sharing your thoughts. Please feel free to share whatever you find useful.

    Mathew and Tracy,
    As far as labeling kids, at-risk students have become students needing extra support, learning disabled students have become students who learn differently and I’ve become a student success teacher- at least in our school board.

    I hear what you are saying about labels , but I’ve been working with needy kids for so long that I don’t see the labels at all. I see the person. I’ve become blind to the labels. I see kids who I care about and want to help.

    I have all kinds of labels. I’m a woman, a daughter, a wife, a mom, a teacher, a knitter, a gardener, a designer even a devil’s advocate sometimes. But, any one of those labels do not define me. I am all of these things plus more.

    Seriously, what’s the difference?

  7. Elona on August 22nd, 2007 8:49 pm

    Thanks for your kind words and thank you for telling us about your book and the tip of the week.

  8. Ron on August 22nd, 2007 9:14 pm

    Hi Elona

    It is a great list, full of warmth and wisdom. I’ll certainly share it with my colleagues.

    I was interested in your comments about rewards. I have found that rewards work at best for only a short time, and can shift the focus from the learning and doing the right thing, to getting the reward, and whether the reward is worth the effort. In other words, i have found rewards to be generally counter-productive.
    Spontaneous celebrations however, are a different matter. They are ways of acknowledging a great effort or achievement, but they are not known about beforehand, so they do not undermine the students’ internal motivation to comply with expectations or to complete a learning challenge.

  9. Elona on August 22nd, 2007 10:53 pm

    There is definitely some truth in what you say about rewards, but honestly I have found them to work- for a while. Although we do have spontaneous celebrations in my classroom, I don’t think I do enough of them. Thanks for the insight.

  10. Tracy on August 23rd, 2007 9:32 am

    Elona – I know what you mean re: labels, the same goes for me. The way I see it all students are needy, it is the degree of support I need to give that changes depending on the student.

    The difference is that I hear teachers objectify students way too much through their labels. Often the students I work with are lumped together by others as the ‘at-risk’ kids or the ‘resource’ kids, even when they are students in their classes. As if because they are ‘resource’ then they are Tracy’s (or whoever’s) responsibility and they can abdicate responsibility for their learning.

    So I insist on referring to them by name, or at least as your student who needs support. I find it helps as a reminder and it does make a difference in teacher accountability.

  11. Elona on August 23rd, 2007 9:50 am

    That’s been my experience too about the kids being Elona’s kids. Often, when there is an issue with a student, the teacher will stop me in the hall and ask me “Is he one of yours?”.

    I think some teachers don’t know what to do with some of the students they have or maybe don’t want to have to adapt their teaching style to the learning style of the student . Maybe they think that’s above and beyond what they can do in a large class or they what they are prepared to do. I have students who need extra support drop into my classroom all the time, even when I’m teaching amy own class.

    Do you think it has something to do with being able to multitask? I know some people who aren’t.

  12. Tracy on August 24th, 2007 1:09 pm

    I agree – some teachers just don’t know what to do. That is why I see a huge chunk of my job as being around teacher support.

    Does it have to do with being able to multitask? Perhaps, though teachers multitask all the time, so I think it comes back down to knowing what to do and how.

  13. Sarah on August 30th, 2007 5:16 pm

    I recently found a great website that deals with relational aggression issues:


  14. Elona on August 30th, 2007 5:54 pm

    Thanks for taking the time to share the link to the website dealing with relational aggression - It’s an on going issue and not just with kids at school.

  15. Xiomara on August 31st, 2007 3:44 pm

    I have worked with children and I am happy to hear that I’m not the only one that does not like asking for help but we all need help sometimes and it is okay. Another thing that poped into my head as i read that section was that students also like to help out in the class with task such as putting things away, giving papers out etc.. and i found that it makes them full useful and good. It’s also great for those students that can’t sit still it gives them a chance to move around a bit.

  16. Elona on August 31st, 2007 4:39 pm

    That’s so true. Kids do like to help and helping is a great way to get to move around. Excellent point.

  17. Liz on September 6th, 2007 8:53 am

    It sounds like it would have took me years to learn everything you spoke about. I completely agree with rewarding kids for good work and good behavior. Calling a students home when they have done something good is so refreshing to hear. When a teacher calls a parent its usually to report bad news, sad but true. Whats wrong with our system is that the children who try to do a good job in the class are the ones being ignored. Most principles and teachers only know the students who always cut class, are disruptive and disrespectful. This makes the other students feel that their hard work and good behavior is not being appreciated or even recognized.

  18. Jane Davis on September 10th, 2007 5:18 pm

    The nine things that were learned from students were great. Lots of details to support the idea. I’ve always used a reward system, always posted the class rules that we’ve worked out together.
    The first thing I learned when I began teaching approximately 30 years ago and middle aged, was that I couldn’t just tell the students that I would show them respect and expected them to show me respect. I had to learn that not all students were taught what respect meant. A girl taught me that when I said to her that “Getting into my face was disrespectful and I knew she wouldn’t talk to her mother in that way”. She quickly retorted that that was exactly how she spoke to her mother when she didn’t like what was said. My lesson was quickly learned and I then demonstrated a way that she could respond respectfully. She never got “in my face” again. It’s the first lesson I teach every year.

  19. Elona on September 10th, 2007 8:21 pm

    Thanks for making the point that kids need to be taught what respect looks and sounds like. Some kids honestly don’t know. I’ve had the same experience. How do you teach the kids what respect looks and sounds like?

  20. Craig Howat on September 10th, 2007 8:46 pm

    Thanks for sharing your wisdom. It is so true for our students who struggle with generational poverty. I know you like to catch your students being good however every classroom has challenging students that have to be dealt with. I have found that whispering to the challenging students helps them “save face” and allows me to model and teach dignity and respect. Keep up the great work of providing your insight and wisdom!

  21. Joel on September 10th, 2007 10:51 pm

    I just started teaching last week. Let me tell you, this list is priceless! Thank you so much for sharing.

    I do have a question that is causing me some consternation. I teach 7th grade English and had some kids come to me on my second day to let me know that they didn’t know their left hand from their right. Others didn’t exactly know how to write their names. Do you have any advice on how I can reach my district’s educational goals when I have students that haven’t been given basic building blocks for education?

    Thank you so much for your help!

  22. Elona on September 11th, 2007 5:47 am

    Thanks for the encouragement and thanks for sharing your wonderful strategy of whispering to the challenging students that have to be dealt with. I love the fact that using it creates a win-win situation. The student saves face and you get your point across with dignity.

    I’m glad you found the list useful. As far as the challenge you face with your students, you can only do so much. I’ve learned to ask for help when I’m faced with challenges like that. We have to support one another because teaching kids is a tough job. Look for people on staff who have a positive attitude and get results. Ask them for ideas. People with positive attitudes like sharing what works for them with others. They won’t think less of you because you don’t know everything. No one does. I had wonderful mentors when I was starting out. Also, avoid chronic complainers like the plague. I’m serious. They are energy vampires, and who needs that.

  23. B Ziegler on September 16th, 2007 8:25 am

    I am a first year teacher. I am not that excited about Wong’s methods. I do believe you need to start out the year established, however, I also believe that student’s are innocent until proven guilty. I prefer to let them see how they can handle themselves first THEN take actions to “re-mold” the class if things don’t work out. The problem: I have no idea how to “re-mold” them without getting the flack that I am now encountering…I have started to make changes and students are upset that I don’t trust them–they say things like, “I’ll be better,” or “That’s not fair!” Also, I would like to establish a reward or money system but don’t know quite how to start a month into the new year…any suggestions?

  24. Elona on September 16th, 2007 9:18 am

    B. Ziegler,
    I completely understand where you are coming from when you say that you believe that students are innocent until proven guilty. I agree whole heartedly. Studies have shown that teachers’ expectations about their students affect the way students behave.
    I remember reading about an experiment where teachers were told to expect certain classes to do very well and other classes to do poorly. That’s exactly what happened. What the teachers didn’t know was that the students in both classes had the same ability but because the teachers were told that one class was better than the other class, that’s exactly what happened. I’m sorry I don’t remember the details exactly, but I do remember being impressed by the result.

    I have witnessed the halo effect. If a student is deemed to be good no matter what that student does, ithe student is looked upon in the most favourable light. While for a student who is deemed bad, whatever that student does is looked at less favourably.

    Basically if we expect students to be bad, we catch them being bad. If we expect students to be good, we catch them being good.

    Sometimes a student’s reputation precedes him or her and sometimes will affect how the teacher treats that new student. I’ve seen that happen with at-risk kids and special ed kids. We have to give kids a chance.

    As far as behaviour in the classroom, I have come to the conclusion students in class need guidelines for behaviour. I tell my students that they know what makes a class work and what doesn’t and those need to be the guidelines or rules for behaviour. With my direction, students come up with the classroom rules. They know what rules are needed. Sometimes kids will put forth inappropriate rules, and we will talk about why that is an inappropriate rule. Some kids like to push boundaries. Of course, classroom rules need to include the school rules. We go over the school rules that are in the student handbook. After we come up with the rules , we post them in the class for all to see at all times.

    Usually it’s all about respect. Anything that interfers with a student’s learning or my teaching is not acceptable.

    Now, I don’t now the details about your class, but I would be tempted to have a class meeting and talk about the respect that needs to go on in order for the class to work. I would remind them that you have an obligation to see that learning goes on in the classroom and anything that interferes with students learning and your teaching has to stop. I hold classroom meetings about all kinds of thing where I am the chair and control the proceedings.

    You can start your reward system anytime. You can introduce it like I did one time by saying that you want to focus on the good things that people are doing in class and intend on catching them being good- coming on time, being respectful etc. You can decide the focus. You can ask kids what they would like to redeem with their points or money. Some kids want things that don’t cost real money. You decide, I found that the kids would change their behaviour because they want the rewards or the attention getting the rewards bring. I’ve had teachers tell me that that’s bribing kids, and they think that kids should do what they are supposed to because they want to, not because I’m bribing them. Well in an ideal world that may be true, but I teach in the real world and behaviour modification strategies work most of the time.

    Don’t be reluctant to ask for help from other teachers. Search out the ones that are positive and like teaching and ask them for advice. Stay away from people who are negative. Believe me, they’ll just drag you down. You are not the only one having to deal with these kids. Other teachers will have positive strategies that work for them with these kids. The first year of teaching is very challenging. I remember my first year of teaching very well!!! I was very lucky because I found a good mentor who helped me enormously.

    Please, feel free to ask more specific questions if you have any. I’ll answer the best I can. I would like to invite other teachers to share strategies that have helped them with particular classes or students they’ve had. I’ve learned that being a teacher in my classroom with the door shut can be so isolating. I need to reach out to other teachers in their classroom.

  25. Colleen on September 29th, 2007 9:32 am


    I think that your top 9 really sums up my thoughts, struggles and successes over the years. The most poignant statement was when you spoke about calling home when a student has demonstrated positive behavior in the classroom. All too often, the first time educators call home is for negative reasons. I think calling or sending notes for positive reasons lets students and parents know that the teacher is there to support and encourage the child.

    B. Ziegler,

    In my classroom, I have traditional reward systems. Students can participate in “Star Student” student for the week, extra activities of their choice, high fives, etc. In addition to that, I have a “happy note” box. When a student has displayed positive behavior or achievement in academics, I let them choose writing paper from the box and I write a note home describing to the parents what their child has achieved.

    I also started a reward system called “March Money Madness” that I begin in March when my first graders are ready to understand the concept of money. They work to earn money based on expectations that I have specified and modeled. Each morning the “banker” pays them for yesterday’s work that was completed successfully. Students are encouraged to trade in their money for coins of a higher value. Then, on Friday during our math time, students can shop at our classroom store. The students love this part! I enjoy watching them grow and understand the concept of money and the value of hard work and persistence. Some students even apply the concept of saving their money to purchase something next week that they really want.

    Hope this helps you!

  26. Alicia Barnes on September 29th, 2007 2:08 pm

    I have been teaching first grade for the last eight years and Reading Recovery for the last two and I appreciate seeing the things that I’m doing well but it also pointed out ideas to me that I could improve on.

    My students and I set up classroom rules together and then everyone signs it. We also come up with a classroom mission statement that we all sign together as well. I do a lot of ‘facilimanipulating’ but the children feel more ownership of the rules and the mission statement when the ideas come from them.

    Last year, I started putting simple little number charts on the kids desk that go up to 20 and every time I catch them being good they put an X on their chart. When they fill up all 20, they bring it to me and they get a sticker for their sticker book and then start a new chart. I found that my focus seemed to be on all the disruptive things that children were doing and I was always saying to stop it. Now I have redirected myself as well as my students and the funny thing is is that when you catch a student being good the other children tend to quickly follow.

    I really liked the idea of taking the time to call home or send a note when a child is being good. I find many reasons to say I’m too busy to do this, but I know the importance of pointing out a child’s good traits because as we all know they have something they’re good at. I’m going to make that a priority this year! Then maybe parents won’t be so afraid anymore when they see the school number pop up on their caller ID.

    I also need to remember that every day is a new day. Sometimes I get so frustrated down and I need to remind myself that there is always tomorrow.

    Thank you, Elona, for all your wonderful ideas and suggestions!

  27. Elona on September 29th, 2007 5:36 pm

    I love your happy note idea. I can just imagine the excitement it generates . Thanks for sharing that.

    It’s amazing that the strategies you use in your grade one class also work in my grade 12 class. Everyone appreciates being caught being good- even teachers. I think I’ll make it a point of catching my colleagues being good and comment on it more frequently. Thanks for the encouragement.

  28. Jessica Baker on October 1st, 2007 9:38 am


    I’m going to have to print this list and keep it posted near my desk this year. Thanks for sharing the nine things your students have taught you!

    I wanted to share another great website for adding to your back up lesson plan files

    I hope you find something useful on this site like I have found something useful from your tips.

  29. Shirley on October 2nd, 2007 3:55 pm

    Thanks so much for sharing. One of my favorites that you mentioned is calling a student’s home with a praise call. Sometimes I call about an academic achievement, but many times the calls are about great character decisions a child made. The calls mean the world to parents and they seem to remember them even years later.

  30. Amanda on October 3rd, 2007 6:47 pm

    I am so glad to see that you have aqquired that wealth of knowledge during your years as a teacher. I am a new teacher and I look forward kearning many things from my students, too. I will take much the wisdom you have shared to my classroom, too!

  31. Elona on October 3rd, 2007 7:06 pm

    Thanks for the heads up about http://www.applesforthe One can’t have too many resources.

    You’re absolutely right about parents remembering the good calls home. The good calls tell parent s that their kid is on the right track and they have done an OK job.

    Teachers are life long learners. We can learn so much from our students and from one another if we keep an open mind.

    Thank you all for taking the time to comment. I really appreciate it. Feedback is so important, as every teacher knows.

  32. Julie on November 8th, 2007 9:18 am

    Ny name is Julie, and I found this website by following where the hits to my website ( come from – I see that “Sarah” posted the link. Thanks!

    I enjoy reading the dialogue. I noted the comments about respect…that is, I think, key to classroom behavior, and minimizing bullying/relational aggression. In a Guide that I wrote, I have a sample respect contract. The students and parents sign the contract (after being taught what is respect, what is not respectful, what is bullying/RA, etc.) and it is kept on the teachers’ desk, in plain sight. That is reminder that they have given their word to be respectful, and that they understood the contract. The contract spells out the steps to be taken for infractions (generally a warning first, and so on). I’ve gotten great feedback from teachers who’ve used the respect contract. Once everyone is on the same page and all students are required to do the same thing, it makes life a whole lot easier for everyone!

  33. Elona on November 11th, 2007 8:02 am

    Thanks for sharing the respect contract strategy. It is true that once everyone is on the same page and required to do the same thing, life is a lot easier.

  34. Carnival of Education « Where’s the Sun? on June 24th, 2008 11:10 pm

    […] Elona Hartjes from Teachers At Risk is soaking in the sun as she ponders Nine things my students have taught me about classroom management and teaching […]

  35. Pat on June 29th, 2008 11:15 am

    What a wonderful list! I totally agree with the positive aspect of discipline.

  36. …a new dawn, a new morning, a new chance… | Leading From The Heart on August 7th, 2008 5:37 pm

    […] Nine Things My Students Have Taught Me About Classroom Management and Teaching and […]

  37. New teacher? Blog posts to read (even if you’re not new) at on August 19th, 2008 8:02 pm

    […] Ten Rookie Mistakes of a First Year Teacher by Ms. C A Letter to a New NYC Teaching Fellow by Jose Nine Things My Students Have Taught Me About Classroom Management and Teaching and Emergency Lesson Plans are a Great Idea by Elona Students as Dolphins by […]

  38. Juliet on August 22nd, 2008 9:00 am

    Thank you so much for sharing your practical advice. It has eased my fears of starting the new year by giving me real suggestions that are proven to work.
    You had mentioned learning about students’ multiple intelligences/ learning styles and how that helps the teaching. Do you have any websites or tests that can help me determine my students’ various learning styles?

  39. Elona Hartjes on August 22nd, 2008 9:41 am

    You can try this site.
    for multiple intelligences and this site for learning styles

    Hope that helps.

  40. Sara on October 17th, 2008 2:30 am

    In relation to #1, one thing I’ve noticed is that quite a large amount of students don’t want their teachers to be their friend. I remember having teachers in middle school and high school (mostly English teachers) who seemed desperate to be friends with their classes.

    I never learned much in those classes because I can’t learn things from friends. I learn things from what I view as authority figures. This isn’t in a bad way-its just to say that I don’t retain information if my “friend” is telling it to me.

  41. Frank on October 18th, 2008 9:26 am

    This is really a wonderful article. It is a nice refresher for first year teachers.

  42. Elona Hartjes on October 18th, 2008 11:16 am

    Thanks for those kind words. You know, I have to keep rereading what I wrote too to remind myself of those lessons because it’s easy to forget when you are in the hurly burly of the classroom.

  43. on October 19th, 2008 8:32 am

    Nine things my students have taught me about classroom management and teaching : Teachers At Risk…

    Nine things my students have taught me about classroom management and teaching : Teachers At Risk…

  44. sam on October 20th, 2008 5:40 am

    Thanks for sharing this article with us.

  45. Jose on November 18th, 2008 10:32 am

    I agree with some of the opinions posted, but I think that you generalizing too much. I am sure every teacher has its own problems and if I post my “wisdom” probably it will be different to many other teachers. What I can see also is that you definitely need a teaching development course if you have taken already you maybe need a different kind of job

  46. Elona Hartjes on November 18th, 2008 5:28 pm

    I agree that every teacher has his or her own problems. I just shared mine. I invite you to share your wisdom and what you learned from your students if you are a teacher or what you would have liked your teachers to learn if you aren’t a teacher. I think it would interesting for others to read your point of view. Please, I encourage you to comment further.

  47. Arianna on January 3rd, 2009 10:14 am


    I’m currently a student in my second year of college. I’m pursuing a degree in English Education and I just want to say that what you wrote was extremely helpful. You’ve taught me more about classroom management than any of my Education Professors or Education Books have.

    I have just recently finished my Observations (And I am scheduled to take my Praxis I in February) and my cooperation teacher was great. She used many of the same techniques that you have described and the students seemed to really appreciate it, ESPECIALLY the positive attitude. For example instead of “Stop Talking!” try “Please concentrate on your work, this is really important. I don’t want you to get behind.”

    From my personal observation, teachers who were more positive in reinforcing behavior, received more positive results.

    Oh, and by the way, the bit about phoning home for positive behavior is a great idea. It’s a great method for positive motivation that probably would have helped me when I was in school.

    Thanks for your wisdom. You are wonderful!

    : )

  48. Mcqueen on February 10th, 2009 3:07 pm

    Some wonderful insights there – thank you so much for sharing (and thanks to the contributors here for adding their thoughts too). I have just added a link to this post at uticked, here:

  49. Elona Hartjes on February 10th, 2009 7:54 pm

    Thank you so much for those kinds words, and thanks for linking it to uticked, a social network for teachers.

  50. Sandy on June 1st, 2009 4:15 pm

    Great blog post! I specifically liked when you said “If kids think teachers are their friends, then when teachers have to do the tough things like call home because of something, the kids feel betrayed because they thought the teacher was a friend and friends don’t snitch on one another.” I think this can also be applied to parenting. I learned that, in addition to teaching students, my own child didn’t need me as a friend but as a guide, a person who sets the example before trying to implement my rules and values in his life. I think that’s the difference between the new generation of parents vs the old generation. The new generation of parents are more hippie and want to be “best friends” with their children, and in turn, this allows children more freedom to rebel and go against what parents try to instill in them. Nevertheless, it’s a debatable topic.

  51. E Adams on October 7th, 2009 8:26 pm

    If you have taught for more than a day you have definitely experienced the all of these. I experienced these just the the 3 years I was a substitute. It feels better to hear someone else went through it too.

  52. Борис Петров on October 16th, 2009 2:30 pm

    Бедность учит, а счастье портит. :)

  53. Elona Hartjes on October 19th, 2009 1:34 am

    Boris Petrof
    Sorry if I didn’t get the name right but I’m relying on Google translate here. I’m also relying on google translate to translate your comment: poverty teaches; happiness corrupt. In my case, I take poverty to mean lack of experience in classroom management at the beginning of my teaching career. Yes, I needed to be taught about effective classroom management and who better to do that than my students. I’m concerned about happiness corrupting though. I am happy teaching all these years, but I do know that I need to continue to learn, in fact, be a life long learner myself. I would appreciate any comments regarding the Google translation. I’m sure something got lost in it. Thanks.

  54. English course on June 23rd, 2010 4:18 am

    To be an effective teacher, classroom management is an essential factor to carefully consider..Students need a teacher not a friend or a parent, acknowledge their strength and give due compliment over a simple achievement means a whole lot to them.

  55. Elona Hartjes on June 23rd, 2010 6:21 pm

    It is true what teachers say can mean a lot either in a positive or negative way.

  56. Cool Links #96: The One About Busy-ness « TEACH J: For Teachers of Journalism And Media on July 29th, 2010 5:54 pm

    […] – Teachers At Risk has a top notch post – Nine Things My Students Have Taught Me. If only it were just nine, but a great list.  Best take away – 1. I’ve learned that students […]

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  58. Elona Hartjes on December 15th, 2013 9:11 pm

    Thank you for the kind words of support.

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