With a career spanning over two decades in education, Erin Cockrell assumed diverse roles, including a K-12 business owner, author, coach, national K12 leader, curriculum writer, and professional development manager. Through collaboration with 40,000+ educators and students, she has gained unique insights into successful teaching and learning. Her focus lies in reigniting the joy of learning, emphasizing robust student engagement, and fostering environments that support quality learning, teacher satisfaction, and outcomes. She has observed firsthand the impact of classroom management on curriculum effectiveness. Erin’s philosophy aligns with Madeline Hunter’s belief that ‘Kids don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.’ She advocates for simple yet effective strategies to bring about positive change in classrooms. Challenging the assumption that all students come to class ready to learn, she empowers educators by equipping them with a comprehensive toolbox of strategies so that they can confidently navigate a gamut of situations and bring out the best in their students.
As educators, the lifelong learning journey is driven by a passion to shape young minds and create environments conducive to academic growth. There’s a crucial element holding the entire educational structure together: classroom management. In the ever-changing landscape of student behavior, especially post-Covid, this complex issue gains prominence. Classroom management serves as the bedrock upon which curricula efficacy stands. Welcome to the saga of the often unarticulated expectations between classroom management and curricula; they are dance partners, and how they dance in the classroom shapes the outcomes of educators and students alike.
Classroom Management Professional Development
In the grand tapestry of a teacher’s yearly preparation, before Covid, classroom management (CM) might have been an overlooked thread. However, Covid has necessitated a reassessment of priorities. Strategizing through the challenges of managing a classroom, navigating diverse personalities, and orchestrating an environment conducive to learning now takes center stage. Due to teacher shortages, schools are compelled to hire ill-equipped staff: permanent or semi-permanent substitutes untrained in CM, without standard teacher education, which, at different times, would be an understood prerequisite. Even for certified teachers, a commonly held assumption is that they had sufficient CM training in college, which remains relevant today.
The Heartbeat of a Classroom
Classroom management is the heartbeat of successful learning. As a K12 educator and learning advocate, I have delved into thousands of students’ learning patterns. Although their curricula were often coherent and meaningful, the message was not always conveyed. Students, especially when encountering a topic for the first time, heavily rely on classroom discourse to make the content on the page come alive. Repeatedly, I encountered students unable to learn due to distracting, low-level classroom behavior. Understanding both the teacher and learner perspectives, I couldn’t stand by idly. Thus, I started working with schools to optimize learning through CM. Once educators are equipped with high-impact and simple-to-implement solutions, the results are dramatic. Teacher feedback after CM training consists of improved student outcomes, relationships, engagement, and appreciation for the classroom. COVID’s new behavior challenges are quelled when teachers have a toolbox of strategies. Teachers on the brink of leaving the profession have a reignited vigor and passion for teaching. Students respect the environment as a space for everyone’s learning and actively contribute with a tone of mutual respect. Students tell their parents that they love going to school and learning. I can’t think of anything more rewarding.
It’s heartbreaking to see how classroom chaos often leads to teacher attrition, impacting more than just students’ scores. When I meet with educators, we discuss all the angles that management impacts: the quality of learning, teacher and student job satisfaction, the tone and quality of parental and administrator support, absenteeism, bullying, student psychology, and students’ belief in their ability to learn, among others.
Teachers share feedback after a CM training, emphasizing the tremendous impact a supportive academic environment has on teacher job satisfaction—a vital ingredient in retaining educators who are the lifeblood of our educational system. Districts are facing a teacher shortage where some educators have no CM or formal teacher training. There is a solution. Office referrals can be reduced to nil. One assistant principal reported that after her teachers implemented strategies from the recent training, the school pivoted from 78 office referrals in the first six weeks to no office referrals in the following six weeks. CM success is a practical expectation when teachers are equipped. Time and time again, the feedback I receive after CM training includes improved academic results, teachers having more instructional time, no more administrator involvement, and enhanced relationships between teacher-student and teacher-administrator.
When teachers are empowered, they create classrooms where every student feels a sense of purpose and belonging, and where questions are celebrated. Teachers craft a dynamic learning space where students seamlessly move between activities, discussions, and independent work, so engaged that they are unaware they are learning.
The learning environment is the keystone that either fortifies or undermines the curriculum. As educators, we are all privy to the spectrum of the curricula’s performance promises and expectations. Yet often there is no mention of the prerequisite of a well-managed classroom.
Curricula companies’ role is to focus on the curriculum and often dare not approach CM discussions. By avoiding this topic, publishers, often unaware, inadvertently foster assumptions about the curriculum’s abilities. The irony surfaces when educators, in the face of unruly classrooms, rely on the curriculum or opt for a more engaging lesson as a solution. Curriculum companies are often unaware and do not write content for these purposes. Recognizing that there is no clear definition of where the line is drawn, I work with school leaders and educators to bridge the divide between curricula efficacy and CM. The classrooms that are rife with distractions and dependent on curriculum performance are the very classrooms that demonstrate the most dramatic improvement after CM training.
Unveiling Curriculum Efficacy
Curriculum promises are often based on tightly controlled studies in meticulously selected settings that are not always reproducible in many everyday classrooms. Publishers may not conduct the research themselves to know what conditions warrant successful results. By the time these expectations land on the ears of school decision-makers, the research results have been disseminated, crossed continental divides, transferred from one institution to another, and then down the company chain internally. Curricula representatives may have little to no knowledge of the actual research—nor feel obligated to know.
Research norms dictate that when something is studied, all variables must be held constant except the one under scrutiny—in this case, the curriculum. If the curriculum is being researched, then classroom management must be held constant (in identical conditions for each trial) so that the impact of curricula alone can be irrefutably evidenced.
Put another way, institutions conduct efficacy research in well-managed classrooms. To replicate these research-proven results, schools must implement the curriculum in equally well-managed classrooms. The more chaotic the classroom (and less like research conditions), the less effective the curriculum—a reality often left for districts and educators to realize independently.
By identifying and clearing up assumptions that lurk in the in-between space of the two dance partners, I help schools make informed decisions.
The Call to Action: A Symphony of Learning and Management
Classroom management is a co-pilot to curriculum effectiveness. The solution for creating nurturing learning environments is available and practical. In fact, teachers do not have the extra instructional time not to invest in CM training. From my experience working with schools, I have witnessed classrooms transform from environments plagued by teacher attrition nightmares where teachers rediscover their passion for teaching. Students become actively engaged and focus on contributing to an environment of mutual respect. Let’s empower educators with effective management strategies that propel students toward academic excellence.