August 2017

Classroom Management in High School

By Robert B. Jamison
There is more to classroom management than compliance: it should enhance prosocial behavior and increase student academic engagement. Effective classroom management can establish an orderly environment, increase academic learning, facilitate social/emotional growth and decrease negative behaviors while increasing academic engagement. Given the limited classroom time afforded to high school counselors, effective classroom management skills are paramount.
To successfully manage classrooms, you need to:
  • Recognize the tenets of effective classroom management and instruction
  • Get to know students to establish a strong rapport
  • Purposefully plan lessons
  • Learn the rules and culture of each classroom
  • Establish classroom rules
Learn by Watching
Observing teachers in the classroom can increase your knowledge tenfold – about new instructional strategies, opportunities for technology use, effective seating arrangements and positive teacher habits and behaviors. You may also observe some strategies to avoid. Furthermore, you’ll get information about particular students.

If you’re new to your high school, ask the administration to recommend teachers you should observe. Learning walks, mini observations and/or formal observations can all inform practice. If possible, also shadow other experienced school counselors.

Know Your Students
Talk to the teachers and get what personal and scholastic information you can about their students. Taylor is a prolific photographer at school events? Jack tried for three years to finally get a spot on the football team? Kim is the one all the other students go to for tutoring help? Use that information. Students will recognize your interest and how much you care about them. This opens the door to engagement, prosocial behaviors and, most important, learning.

You can gather this information through simple electronic or paper surveys administered at the beginning of the year, writing prompts and student profile worksheets. Teachers can then keep this information available for additional school staff when working with their classes. One teacher created student profile cards that resembled baseball cards. The teacher shared the file with the school counseling department and included information regarding students’ learning preferences, demographic information, home life and students’ interests and personal goals. This information was collected annually and proved to be vital as lesson plans were created to impart and cultivate the ASCA Mindsets & Behaviors throughout students’ high school careers.

Go Beyond the Classroom
Try to engage students in conversations outside of school, attend school-sponsored activities and share feedback with students about performances. Select random students from your caseload to speak with in the cafeteria during lunch, greet students at the door the day of your lesson and talk with students about their interests as often as possible.

These interactions will help you accurately and purposefully plan lessons to ensure student growth and development. It is essential for lesson content to be relevant, with specific goals communicated and exploration infused into the lesson with practice and follow-up. These strategies keep students engaged in dialogue on lesson content and encourage their personal feedback. When this occurs, classroom management becomes inherent because students are actively engaged. The more prepared you are the more comfortable you will be in front of the students. This comfort can quickly become excitement for the learning you see in the classroom.

What’s the Culture?
To build trust, teachers and school counselors should establish consistent rules and behaviors. Your abilities to manage a classroom may hinge on your knowledge of the rules and culture already in place and your chosen rules can mirror what the students know and are accustomed to following. Obviously, school counselors’ rules may need to be different, but this input can nurture sustained student engagement and effective classroom management.

What will be your classroom rules? What behaviors will you tolerate? What will be promoted? How will you communicate your rules? How often will you review rules? What are the consequences for breaking a classroom rule? The answers can create a consistent learning environment. Collaborate with professional peers, teachers and school leaders when making these decisions, but give students a significant role in selecting the rules. Have a short list of rules that apply for every class, but be ready to be flexible to meet the varying needs of individual classrooms.

As you start the year, explore how to share the responsibility of managing their classrooms by seeking student input. Be prepared to offer reminders as needed throughout the year. This practice will foster accountability for all and ease the classroom management process.

To successfully manage any classroom, student/school counselor relationships are vital. The awareness and practice of successful techniques can change school counselor behavior, which in turn changes student behavior, positively affecting student achievement.

Robert B. Jamison is a school counseling coordinator with Virginia Beach City Public Schools. He can be reached at Contact the author for references to this article.