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CULTURE AND CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT: GROUNDED THEORY FROM A
HIGH POVERTY PREDOMINATELY AFRICAN AMERICAN ELEMENTARY
DIANE B. MARKS
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
Diane B. Marks
Maxwell and Caroline Marks who began the dream. Joseph Marks who provided for the
dream. Susan Marks who supported the dream. This is for you.
I must admit that the doctoral program and the process of creating this dissertation
have changed my life and the way I understand the world around me. My life as a
doctoral student has been filled with excitement, awe, anxiety, sadness, and a great deal
of satisfaction. There have been many people along the way who shared these feelings
with me and who I hope are aware of the impact they have had on my life. As I complete
this chapter of my life and move on to a new one, I want to thank them all one more time.
First I would like to thank Dr. Dorene Ross who has played a large part in my
experiences at UF. As my professor, she always inspired me to push to the next level and
never accept the status quo. As my mentor with the Lastinger Fellows she was incredibly
generous with her time and expertise. I learned so much from those long discussions we
had nearly every week for two years. As my chairperson, she helped me fashion a
doctoral program that was meaningful to me while at the same time encouraged me to try
new things. Throughout the dissertation process, she was invaluable as a teacher, mentor,
editor, and friend. Her continued support and unwavering belief in my abilities have
meant so much as I faced each new challenge. I would like to thank Dr. Ross for inviting
me to play.
I would like to thank my other committee members for their unique contributions to
my success. I thank Dr. Pringle, who showed me how one can walk the walk and not just
talk the talk. She is an inspiration. I thank Dr. Bondy, the world of critical theory was
exciting to explore and discuss. It changed my life. I thank Dr. Correa, every time we
talked I learned to see the issue from a new perspective. Her help and guidance with my
first attempts at research were greatly appreciated. Finally, I thank Dr. George, from
whom I learned so much. His generosity in allowing me to share his Core Classroom
Management class last spring was greatly appreciated.
I would also like to thank the three brave teachers who opened their classrooms to
me for the first three months of the school year. I learned so much from observing their
practice and discussing teaching with them. Their commitment to providing quality
education to their students is inspirational to educators everywhere.
Along the way there have been friends and family who have had to rearrange plans
or adjust to less "visit time" with me. They never complained and always supported my
commitment to this project. Cynthia, without her calming common sense perspective I
would be lost. Cindy, who is always ready to cut loose and forget about worries, Brenda,
who is only a phone call away. And my nephews, Andrew and Anthony I thank them for
understanding even when we celebrated their birthdays three weeks late. I am grateful to
my friends and family all for their love and support.
My parents, Nanny, and Sandy (my fan club) were always there for me no matter
what and celebrated the good times while supporting me through the tough times. And
finally, I thank Sneakers, my cat, whose warm furry body and comforting purrs kept me
company those many days and nights I was away from home.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
A C K N O W L E D G M E N T S ................................................................................................. iv
LIST OF TABLES ................................................................... .... .... x
ABSTRACT .............. .................. .......... .............. xi
1 IN TR OD U CTION ............................................... .. ......................... ..
State ent of the P problem .................................................................................. 1
Purpose of the Study ............... ................ .................................. .3
D definition of T erm s ................... .... ............................ ...... ........ .......... .......
2 REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE ........................................ ......................... 6
C classroom M anagem ent ............................................................... ....................... 7
Towards a Definition................... .... .. .... .. ...........................7
What is it that Successful Classroom Managers Do? .........................................9
Culturally R esponsive Pedagogy ...................................... .............. ................ .. ... 17
Toward an Inclusive Environm ent ............................. ..... ...................... 19
Culturally Responsive Instruction .............................................................. 19
Caring in a Culturally Diverse Classroom.........................................................21
Culturally Responsive Classroom M anagement.............................. ............... 23
Recognition of One's Own Ethnocentrism and Biases ....................................24
Understanding of the Broader Social, Economic, and Political Context of Our
E educational System ................................... ............... ... .. ... ...... ........ 25
Knowledge of Students' Cultural Backgrounds and Ability and Willingness
to Use Culturally Appropriate Classroom Management Strategies.................25
Commitment to Building Caring Classroom Communities .............................27
3 THEORETICAL PERSPECTIVE AND METHODOLOGY............................... 31
T h eoretical P ersp ectiv e ..................................................................... .... .......... .. ..... 3 1
Interpretivism ..................................................................... 32
G rounded T heory ............. ........................................................... ....... .. .. .. 33
M methodology ............... ..... ............. ......... .............. ........... 34
R research Q questions ..................... .... ......................... ........ .. ............ .... 34
C context of the Study .......... .... .. .... ............ ......................... .... 35
P articip an ts ................................................................3 6
D description of Participants ........................................................... ..................... 38
Data Collection .................. ........ ................ 39
D ata A n a ly sis ................................................................................................. 4 3
Trustw orthiness of the Study ......................................................... .............. 45
Conventions of the Language........................................................... ... .......... 48
Presentation of Findings ......................................................... .............. 48
4 K A TH Y : TH E M AESTRO ............................................... ............................ 50
Relationships ........... .......... ..... .................... 51
Belief in Students .......... ...... .......................... .... ...... .. ........... ...... 52
Com munity of Respect and Care.................. ...... ...... ........... .................. 54
Being Accessible to Students Both Inside and Outside of School ....................55
Rules, Procedures, and R outines ........................................ .......................... 59
Explicit Instruction ............................................... .... .... .. ........ .... 59
Remind, Rem ind, Remind ...........................................................................61
Positive R einforcem ent ............................................... ............................ 62
Curriculum and Instruction........................................ ................. ............... 64
Encourage and Motivate Students.................. .... .......... ...............64
A ctiv e L earn in g ............... .................................................. ........ .. .... .6 7
A ctiv e T teaching ............ ... ........................................................ .......... ...... 70
M isbehavior and D discipline ....................................................................... 71
Ignore M isb behavior .............................. ........................ .. ........ .... ............72
Prom pt/R direct ...................................................... ... ......... .... 72
M om m a M ode .................................... ..... .......... ...... ........ .. 74
C on sequ en ces ...............................................................7 7
5 LUCY: PART OF THE FAMILY............................................................ .......... 80
R e la tio n sh ip s ........................................... .. .......................................................... 8 3
Connecting with Students.............................................. .. ........... .... 84
B being H um an ......................................86.............................
B eliev e in Stu d ents .............. .................................................. .......... .... 8 8
Rules, Procedures, and R outines ........................................ .......................... 91
Practicing Routines.......... ..... ............ ........ .... ....... ...... .... .. ............. 91
Praise and Positive Reinforcem ent............................................................. 92
E xternal R ew ards........... ............................................................... .... .... ... .. 93
C curriculum and Instruction .............................................................. .....................94
E ncourage/M otivate ................................................. ............................... 95
A active L earning ...........................................................................................98
A ctive T teaching ........... .......................................................... .. .... ..... ... 100
M isbehavior and D discipline ......................................................... .............. 102
N ip in the B ud ....................................................................103
Prom pt/R direct .......................................................... .. ....... .... 105
M om m a M ode .......................................................... .. ............ 106
Consequences ......................................... ................... .... ....... 107
6 SU SIE:M OTHER DU CK .......................................................... ............... 10
R relationships ................................................................ ......112
Caring ............................................................... .... ..... ........ 112
Building a Com m unity ......................................................... .............. 113
R ules, Procedures, and R outines .................................. ........................... .. ......... 115
Practicing R outines ........................................................................ 116
Praise and R einforcem ent............................................................. ............... 117
External Rew yards ............................................. ... .......... .... ........ 118
C urriculum and Instruction ......... ................................................... ............... 119
Active Learning ................... .... ................ .................... ............. 19
A ctiv e T teaching ............ ... ...................................................... ........ ........ 122
E encouraging Students ......... ................... ................................. ............... 124
M isbehavior and D discipline ......................................................... .............. 127
Ignore B behavior ...................................................... .. .......... .. 127
Prom pt ................................. .......................... .... .... ......... 128
W warning ................................. .......................... .... ... ......... 129
Consequences ......... ..................... ...... ..................130
7 CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS .........................................132
Extending the Theoretical Framework for Classroom Management: The
Centrality of Relationships ........................................136
R elation ship s ............... ........ .... ........ ..... ....................136
Creating a Climate Where Academic Goals Are a Priority .............................139
Approaches to Inappropriate Behavior .............................................................143
Implications ....................................... ... .... .....................148
Implications for Preservice and Inservice Teacher Educators ........................149
Implications for Further Research ........................................152
A IN F O R M E D C O N SE N T .................................................................................... 155
B DATA M ANAGEM ENT LOG ................................................................. 157
C INTERVIEW PROTOCOLS ............................................................. .............159
D PERSONAL ASSUM PTION S ........................ ......................................162
E EXAMPLES OF RAW DATA AND CODING PROCESS ................................... 164
F KATHY: OBSERVATIONAL CODES ................................... ............... 175
G LUCY: OBSERVATIONAL CODES .............................................................. 177
H SUSIE: OBSERVATIONAL CODES ............................ ................................. 180
LIST OF REFEREN CES ....................................................................... ............... 182
B IO G R A PH ICA L SK ETCH .................................... ............ ......................................191
LIST OF TABLES
1 Observational time spent with participants and pages transcribed from
observations ........... .... ............................................ .... .... ........ 40
2 Interview time spent with participants and pages transcribed from interviews .......42
Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
CULTURE AND CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT: GROUNDED THEORY FROM A
HIGH POVERTY PREDOMINATELY AFRICAN AMERICAN ELEMENTARY
Diane B. Marks
Chair: Dorene Ross
Cochair: Rose Pringle
Major Department: Teaching and Learning
In public schools today, teachers and students alike are experiencing a great deal of
frustration and failure. Classrooms are becoming increasingly diverse while teacher
populations remain predominately white, middle class and female. The cultural
disconnect between teacher and student often results in behavioral problems. Teachers
report that their number one concern in classrooms today is classroom management. The
purpose of this study was to examine the beliefs, understandings, and pedagogy of
teachers who were considered effective classroom managers. The guiding questions for
this research were:
Research Question 1. How do effective teachers working in a low SES,
predominantly African American school context:
* Define classroom management
* Establish classroom culture (community, rules procedures, etc.)
* Define misbehavior
* Address misbehavior
Research Question 2. What part, if any, does culture play in this phenomenon?
Grounded theory research methodology was used to study three teachers during the
first three months of the 2004-2005 school year. Data sources for the participants
consisted of observations and interviews. From these data, three cases were constructed
to describe the participants' practice and their understandings in relation to classroom
Each case showed the teachers had unique ways of managing their classes but one
abiding theory emerged in all three cases: Student-teacher relationships were at the
center of all pedagogy and teacher decisions. The teachers did not subscribe to a "one
size fits all" theory of classroom management. Instead, they used the understandings
they had gained from their relationships with students to best engage and deal with
Preservice and inservice teacher educators can help novice teachers be more
effective managers in culturally and linguistically diverse classrooms in four ways:
connect theory to practice, be a warm demander in university courses, model culturally
responsive pedagogy, and cultivate communities of learners who examine their practice
and seek to learn about themselves and their students. With skillful scaffolding,
preservice and inservice teachers can learn to create caring relationships that provide all
students with an equal opportunity to learn.
Statement of the Problem
Teacher Shortage! Emergency Certification Needed! No Teachers to Fill
Classrooms! Local newspapers and magazines report teacher shortages with increasing
fever. What is going on? Are we in the midst of an educational crisis, as the media
would have us think? Who will be teaching our children? These are but a few of the
questions I am asked when people learn that I am a teacher. As I am often in a social
situation, my response is brief (and often found to be confusing) when I say that the
answer is both yes and no.
As with many other matters in America where there is famine in one household,
others are feasting. In some areas (often suburban), there are waiting lists for teachers to
find employment. However, in other areas (usually urban and poor), schools struggle to
fill classrooms with any available warm body. The warm bodies found to fill these very
challenging positions are often novice teachers with provisional credentials and high
ideals for their first "real" teaching experience (Darling-Hammond, 2003).
When novice teachers are hired at high poverty urban schools, they find that their
image of the context and the reality of that context are very different indeed (Feiman-
Nemser, 2003). Novice teachers are often given a full teaching load, are expected to take
part in several committee groups, and are measured for efficacy with the same ruler as
veteran teachers (Darling-Hammond, 2003; Renard, 2003). These are high expectations
for novice teachers and little support is given to help them achieve these lofty goals.
Inexperienced teachers are often left to sink or swim (Feiman-Nemser, 2003; Renard,
According to attrition studies, about one-third of new teachers leave the profession
within the first five years (Darling-Hammond, 2003; Wilkins-Canter, Edwards, Young,
Ramanathan, & McDougle, 2000) with teacher turnover in high poverty schools 50%
higher than in low poverty schools (Ingersoll, 2001). The continuous influx of novice
teachers does not allow expertise to develop and in the end greatly reduces overall
educational productivity. As Darling-Hammond (2003) succinctly stated, "The education
system never gets a long-term payoff from its investment in novices who leave" (p. 7).
The move from the teacher education program to a classroom in a high poverty
elementary school comes with a steep learning curve. As they begin their journey into the
world of teaching, novice teachers must simultaneously tackle issues of curriculum,
instruction, assessment, management, school culture and the larger community (Feiman-
Nemser, 2003). Often, novice teachers in high poverty schools experience more stresses
and more demanding workloads than their counterparts in middle class schools (Feiman-
Nemser, 2003; Renard, 2003). Working conditions in low-wealth schools are more
difficult than in schools with middle to upper class populations and teachers in high
poverty schools have less influence over school decisions. As if these challenges are not
enough, many novice teachers have limited experiences with diverse cultures and
struggle to make sense of their classroom experiences (Feiman-Nemser, 2003). While
novice teachers struggle (often alone) to master the many new skills their teaching
assignments require, they are being evaluated and assessed with the same criteria as the
veteran teachers who have had years to develop these skills (Huberman, 1989). The
novice teacher feels alone, isolated and overwhelmed. These feelings of failure and
frustration drive some of the brightest and best teaching candidates from the field and
continue the cycle of teacher induction in high poverty schools (Ladson-Billings, 2001).
The constant churning from novice teachers entering the teaching pool is catching
students in an undercurrent of inexperience and professional naivete. Classroom
management is one of the novice teacher's greatest concerns (Jones, 1996; Ladson-
Billings, 2001; Renard, 2003). About one half of novice teachers report that their teacher
education program did a fair or a poor job of preparing them to deal effectively with
student discipline (Ladson-Billings, 2001). In their study of 17 novice teachers, Mastrilli
and Sardo-Brown (2002) found that 12 of the 17 novice teachers solved their
management dilemmas with behavioral strategies. These included the combination of
positive reinforcement, individual behavior modification plans, ignoring negative student
behavior, individual reward charts, and changing the setting of the classroom. In
discussions about the chosen solutions, nearly half of the teachers who chose to employ
behavioral solutions indicated that they were unsuccessful.
Research is needed to examine what is happening in culturally diverse, high
poverty classrooms where teachers report success with classroom management. Merely
describing what is happening is not enough. Some explanation for why and how it is
working in these situations is needed so teacher educators can help preservice teachers
understand not just the strategies but the underlying theory that drives successful
classroom management in high poverty schools.
Purpose of the Study
In public education today, novice teachers are often placed in the most challenging
contexts with little or no support. They are given a great deal of responsibility and are
expected to succeed at veteran levels as they enter the field. As novice teachers struggle
to make sense of their experiences, they feel isolated, overwhelmed, and frustrated.
Classroom management is a main concern for novice teachers who understand that
without successful management, learning cannot occur in the classroom. Management is
based on the teachers' assumptions and understandings about what is normal and often
reflects the mainstream perspective. In classrooms today where cultural and linguistic
diversity accounts for an average of half the student body and in some areas 70% to 90%,
novice assumptions about behavior and management can cause cultural
misunderstandings and exacerbate management problems. Novice teachers are at a loss
as to how to manage culturally and linguistically diverse students successfully. In the
end, teachers leave the field and students turn off to school.
In teacher education programs across the country, preservice teachers are enrolled
in classroom management courses where they are taught a variety of ways to prevent and
react to student misbehavior. Students are often provided with numerous theories and
practical applications for research-based practice and given opportunities to work with
cooperating teachers to observe management strategies in action. With this preparation,
teachers are still struggling to manage students and engage them in learning. What is it
that effective managers can teach us about classroom management in culturally diverse
This study was designed to look closely at effective managers working in low SES,
predominately African American contexts. The following questions were explored:
Question 1: How do effective teachers working in a low SES predominately African
American school context:
* Define classroom management
* Establish classroom culture (community, rules, and procedures, etc.)
* Deal with misbehaviors
* What is defined as misbehavior?
* What approaches or strategies are used to remedy misbehavior?
Question 2: What part, if any, does culture play in this phenomenon?
Definition of Terms
The definitions given here are not definitive or considered the only way to
understand the concepts. The definitions are given to clarify for readers what is meant in
this study by the terms used.
* Effective classroom managers are defined as teachers who demonstrate "a variety
of knowledge and skills that allow them to structure the physical class environment
effectively, establish rules and procedures, develop relationships with children, and
maintain attention and engagement in academic activities" (LePage, Darling-
Hammond, Akar, Gutierrez, Jenkins-Gunn & Rosebrock, 2005, p. 330).
* Culture is used to describe certain beliefs, customs, practices and social behavior
held by particular groups or group of people.
* The terms Routines and procedures are often used in this study together. Routine
is defined as "a prescribed, detailed course of action to be followed regularly; a
standard procedure" and a procedure is defined as "a particular way of
accomplishing or of acting" (Merriam-Webster, 2005).
REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE
The purpose of this study was to examine how novice teachers working in a high
poverty, predominately African American elementary school utilized a variety of
strategies to successfully manage their classrooms. Specifically, teacher actions and the
motivations, assumptions, and understandings behind these actions were explored as the
novice teachers began the year and implemented their management plans. To better
interpret and understand the collected data, a review of the literature was conducted
before, during and after the data collection process.
On bookshelves today, there is a plethora of literature concerning classroom
management. One can find everything from top-selling texts like Ron Clark's Essential
55 to Cotton's 2001 meta-analysis of 60 studies focused on school-wide discipline and
management. Unfortunately, much of the literature provides recipe style how to manuals
giving readers rules to follow, tricks to try, and reward systems that range from a simple
ticket system to highly complex systems with levels of rewards and numerous procedures
for earning them. These self-help manuals have some useful ideas that may or may not
work in a specific context but give little insight into the research or theoretical base that
supports each practice. This literature review focuses on frequently cited, research-based
studies around the constructs of classroom management, culturally relevant pedagogy,
and culturally relevant classroom management. The classroom management literature
suggests the core components of well-managed classrooms. Literature on culturally
relevant pedagogy and culturally relevant classroom management provide additional
insights about the ways that culture can be systematically addressed in classrooms in
order to motivate and engage culturally and linguistically diverse students. This literature
review provides a multi-dimensional picture of successful classroom management
understandings to date.
To begin the journey into classroom management, let us begin with the following
questions: What is classroom management? Is classroom management concerned with
preventing misconduct or punishing it? Classroom management means different things
to different people. Is a well-managed classroom one where students are silent for much
of the day (including lunch) and sit in their seats completing work assigned by the
teacher? Or is a well-managed classroom one where students are working cooperatively,
discussing opinions, and asking thoughtful questions? These are questions one must
address in reading the research about classroom management because what can seem to
be a well-managed classroom to one person can seem stifling or disordered to another.
Much depends on one's beliefs and perspectives about teaching, learning, social justice,
Towards a Definition
As discussed above, defining classroom management is not simple because one's
definition is based on a theoretical perspective. In the 1960's and early 1970's the focus
in psychology and management was centered on understanding students' problems and
helping them understand their problems and work to develop more productive behaviors.
Another perspective in the mid-1970's found that adults were more concerned with
controlling the disruptive misbehavior of students and teachers and were instructed to use
more behavioristic management strategies to control students (Canter, 1976; Jones,
1987). Behaviorists believed that discipline is external and controlled by the teacher and
is characterized by operant conditioning and behavior modification.
Yet Kounin (1970) found another perspective. He found that there was a definite
relationship between teachers' management and instructional actions and students'
classroom behaviors. Interestingly, in this study, thousands of hours of well-managed
classrooms were videotaped and subsequently analyzed to see how teachers reacted when
students misbehaved. No differences were noted. However, significant differences were
found in how teachers acted prior to student misbehavior. These findings turned the
classroom management focus from the student to the teacher and from teacher reaction to
teacher action. Brophy (1988) defined classroom management as
actions taken to create and maintain a learning environment conductive to
attainment of the goals of instruction (arranging the physical environment of the
classroom, establishing rules and procedures, maintaining attention to lessons, and
engagement in academic activities). (p. 2)
Subsequent research found that creating and maintaining a learning environment
conductive to the attainment of instructional goals includes more than arranging the
physical environment or establishing rules and routines. Charney (2002) who wrote from
her experiences teaching for 30 years explained that a learning environment must include
empathy as well as structure. This empathy will help teachers to know their students
more thoroughly, to understand their perspectives, and in the end to meet their needs
betteras a learner. Marzano (2003) supported the importance of empathy in classroom
management. In this meta-analysis of more than 100 studies, high quality teacher-student
relationships were found to be the foundation for successful classroom management.
They define high quality relationships in terms of teacher behaviors that are characterized
by the following: appropriate levels of dominance, appropriate levels of cooperation, and
an awareness of high-needs students. Teachers who demonstrated these behaviors and
had quality relationships with their students had 31% fewer discipline problems over a
year's time than their counterparts who did not have quality relationships with their
It is clear that current research supports the claim that classroom management is
more than reacting to student misbehavior or providing external incentives to promote
compliant behavior. In today's schools, successfully managed classrooms are created
and maintained by teachers who have "a variety of knowledge and skills that allow them
to structure the physical class environment effectively, establish rules and procedures,
develop relationships with children, and maintain attention and engagement in academic
activities" (LePage, Darling-Hammond, Akar, Gutierrez, Jenkins-Gunn & Rosebrock,
2005, p. 330).
What is it that Successful Classroom Managers Do?
In the past three decades, several landmark research studies provided critical insight
into the differences between well-managed and poorly managed classrooms. Kounin
(1970) began with several studies including college students, kindergarten students, boys
in summer camp, high school students, and a video-taped study of 30 elementary
classrooms from middle-class suburbs. While he was looking for information on desist
techniques he found evidence that changed the way classroom management was
understood. Most importantly, Kounin found that it was not what the more effective
teachers did to address misbehavior (desist techniques) but that effective teachers worked
to prevent misbehaviors. Kounin found that effective managers used overlapping, and
had what he called 1 iirime,,\\ where the teacher was able to communicate to the student
by her actual behavior that she knew what the children were doing. In addition, effective
managers were skillful in managing movement in their classrooms by keeping the
momentum up and transitions smooth.
Ten years later, Emmer, Evertson and Anderson (1980) conducted a study with 27
third grade teachers in eight elementary schools (four of which were Title 1 and the other
four served populations from upper-lower to lower-middle class students). This study
focused on what effective and ineffective managers did in the beginning of the school
year to set up rules and classroom procedures. Results were consistent with previous
research and Emmer et al. (1980) found that effective managers were leaders who
assertively managed behavior and instruction, planned for student concerns and were
skillful in dealing with constraints. In the first days of school, effective teachers had a
workable system of rules and procedures that they taught to their students and carefully
monitored students as they worked to master the new rules and routines. Misbehavior
was stopped sooner than in ineffectively managed classrooms, and consequences were
clear and applied consistently in effectively managed classrooms.
Bohn, Roehrig, and Pressley (2004) extended this line of research when they
observed the practice of six primary school teachers (all white) in five schools (upper
middle class to middle class) during the first few weeks of school. Of the six teachers
observed, Bohn et al. found that two were effective managers while the others were
considerably less effective. Findings from this study were consistent with Emmer et al.
(1980) in that effective teachers were clear in communicating classroom routines so that
students could learn them, closely monitored students and responded to their needs,
provided many opportunities for students to succeed, rewarded them often, and provided
a positive environment with less criticism and punishment. In addition to these findings
that concur with previous studies, Bohn et al. found that the effective teachers in their
study also showed a great deal of enthusiasm for teaching and learning, provided a great
deal of both teacher and student modeling, encouraged self-regulation, and explicitly
taught routines and procedures to students.
In the sections that follow, the principles of strong classroom management reported
by these researchers and supported by subsequent research are described.
Research provides evidence that it is the teacher who creates and maintains an
environment where students are well behaved and successful but what does this look
like? Are there some general themes or components in what successful teachers do to
promote an environment where students demonstrate desired behaviors? In the past two
decades researchers examined this question and found that effective classroom managers
create an environment conducive to academic learning, provide challenging and
interesting instruction, and build strong teacher-student relationships.
Classroom environment When one first begins discussing the classroom
environment within the context of classroom management, room set up comes to mind.
Indeed room set up is crucial to classroom management and successful managers know
that it is important to keep traffic areas clear, make materials and supplies accessible, and
to keep instructional and work areas clear so both students and teachers are able to see
each other (Everston, Emmer, & Worsham, 2003). Classrooms also need to reflect and
facilitate the types of instruction used most often. Teachers who use small group learning
circles, provide inquiry-based science or math activities, or use learning centers need
specific physical accommodations within their classrooms (Randolph & Everston, 1994).
Beyond the physical accommodations, teachers must think of the ways in which
students will interact within the classroom. Will students sit in their seats quietly and
wait for materials to be distributed or will students get their own materials? How are
bathroom and drink breaks to be performed? Will students hand in their homework and
folders or will the teacher or student collect them each day? There is no one right way to
answer these questions and successful managers implement many different rules and
routines for students to follow. What is common among successful managers is that they
spend a great deal of time at the beginning of the year explicitly teaching, practicing, and
reinforcing classroom rules and routines (Bohn Roehrig, & Pressley, 2004; Emmer
Evertson, & Anderson, 1980; Sanford, Emmer, & Clements, 1983). Rules and routines
must be explicitly taught to students, and simply telling them the rules and routines is not
enough. Students will be more able to perform expected behaviors when they understand
the rule or routine and are given some time to practice the new routine before
consequences are implemented (Everston, Emmer, & Worsham, 2003).
Knowing how long to reinforce and practice rules and routines before
consequences are used is one part of what Kounin (1970) called ii iiilinc\\ In his study,
Kounin defined this term as the teacher knowing what is going on in the classroom and
with the students and the ability to communicate this knowledge to the students.
Teachers who are successful managers know that to stay in i/h it they must continuously
monitor their students and respond to their needs and concerns. In their observational
study of six primary teachers (all white) from five schools (upper middle class),
contrasting effective managers with ineffective managers, Bohn et al. (2004) found that
teachers spent a great deal of their time monitoring their students and often used the
information gathered from monitoring to direct instruction, change rules and procedures,
or to redirect students. Emmer et al. (1980) found that successful teachers perceived how
students felt about the classroom and this knowledge was used to make decisions about
which rules and procedures they would teach first in order to set in place a sense of safety
In responding to perceived student needs, teachers who are effective managers are
less likely to punish or criticize students and more likely to praise positive behaviors,
remind and redirect students who are off task (Cotton, 2001). This is not to say that
students who are misbehaving are ignored. Effective managers enforce classroom rules
promptly, consistently, and equitably (Brophy, 1983; Doyle, 1989). They are credible and
perceived as the authority in the classroom. These teachers are not authoritarian in a
negative sense (forceful control or command over others) but are skillful in providing
clear purpose and strong guidance regarding both behavior and academics (Marzano &
Instruction In the current environment of high stakes testing it is apparent that
academic achievement is often considered the ultimate goal of education and students
must be engaged and on task in order to reach this goal. The connection between
instructional strategies and classroom management often was perceived as linear with
well-behaved students attending to instruction. But in fact, the connection between
instruction and classroom management is cyclical with engaging and appropriate
pedagogy creating an environment where students' time on task is high and behavior
problems are low (Evertson, & Harris, 1992).
Emmer et al. (1980) found that more effective teachers communicated clear
directions and instructions more skillfully to their students, used more effective materials,
and kept the pace of the classroom brisk with smooth transitions and little time wasted.
In Cotton's 2001 meta analysis of 60 documents she found that effective management
was linked to smoothness and momentum in lessons and also found that stimulating
seatwork that provided students with a variety of challenging activities was an important
component in successful management. Evertson et al. (2003) concurred that the majority
of behavior problems arose while students were working individually at their seats.
When the work was too easy or boring or the work was too hard, students became
disengaged and behavior issues ensued. Similarly, in a study of fifth-and sixth-grade
science classes, Blumenfeld, Puro, and Mergendoller (1992) found that cognitive
motivation was higher when teachers focused lessons on development of understanding
and moved students forward with feedback, participation, and scaffolding. Appropriately
leveled, varied, and stimulating instruction is the key to keeping students engaged and on
task in the classroom.
Teacher affect is also important in instruction. Bohn et al. (2004) found that the
teachers who were most effective in engaging and managing students were enthusiastic
about teaching and managed to skillfully build enthusiasm for lessons in their students.
This was done by clearly communicating to students the exciting and interesting purpose
of the lesson to be taught. Brophy (1987) listed 33 motivational strategies and among
these are 4 related to modeling an interest and excitement about learning. Brophy
advocated that teachers (1) model interest in learning and motivation to learn, (2) project
intensity, (3) project enthusiasm, and (4) model task-related thinking and problem
solving. Morse (1987) concluded,
If school is not inviting, if the tasks are not clear, interesting, and at an appropriate
level, how can we expect pupils to be on task? Adverse student reactions should be
expected when classes are dull, teaching is uninspired, and failure is built in. Their
oppositional behavior is a sign of personal health and integrity. (p. 5)
Student-teacher relationships As teachers feel more and more pressure to have
students perform well on high-stakes tests, many focus more on instruction and student
behavior and less on student-teacher relationships. By the end of seventh grade, more
than half of the students believe that teachers and principals are their adversaries
(Glasser, 1990). Yet, there is a significant body of research that indicates that academic
achievement and student behavior are influenced by the quality of the teacher-student
relationship (Jones & Jones, 1998; Marzano, 2003). What are the characteristics of a
quality student-teacher relationship? Is this where students and teachers are friends? Can
quality relationships only be formed if the teacher is charismatic and popular with
students? In fact, none of these factors are part of successful student teacher relationships
rather successful relationships are formed when teachers exhibit appropriate levels of
dominance, appropriate levels of cooperation, and are aware of high-needs students
(Marzano & Marzano, 2003).
There is a difference among teachers who are passive, aggressive, and assertive.
Emmer Evertson, and Worsham (2003) defined assertive behavior as "the ability to stand
up for one's legitimate rights in ways that make it less likely that others will ignore or
circumvent them" (p. 146). In their study, Emmer and colleagues found that assertive
behavior is a balance where the teacher uses body language that is insistent and serious
but not threatening to the students, uses an appropriate tone of voice, and insists on
appropriate behaviors (not ignoring inappropriate behaviors). This would include erect
posture and eye contact but not leaning over the student or otherwise trying to intimidate
the student, speaking clearly and deliberately in a slightly elevated tone of voice, and
listening to legitimate explanations and not being diverted by arguing or denying. Jones
and Jones (2003) concurred that teachers who create and maintain effective relationships
with their students find ways to blend warmth, concern, and firmness.
Even though the teacher must be perceived as assertive she cannot be a dictator. In
quality student-teacher relationships, teachers work as a team with students in appropriate
levels of cooperation. Teachers begin developing relationships by taking a personal
interest in their students. There are numerous ways that teachers can make personal
connections with their students. McCombs and Whisler (1997) listed several easy and
quick ways to promote personal connections: Talk informally with students, have lunch
with a few students each day or once a week, be aware of and comment on important
events in students' lives, and compliment students on important achievements both in and
outside of school.
Caring about students is certainly one way to form quality relationships. Emmer et
al. (1980) found that an important part of a successful teacher's management plans was to
accommodate students' concerns. Effective teachers were more skillful in using
students' interests and background knowledge in class than ineffective teachers. Bohn et
al. (2004) found that effective managers consistently listened to students' thoughts and
needs and responded compassionately. In addition, they emphasized democracy and
self-regulation in the classroom. In these successfully managed classrooms, students felt
that they were cared for and that their concerns and thoughts mattered.
Believing and showing that every student matters is important in creating quality
relationships with students. In most classrooms today, 12% to 22% of students have
special emotional, behavioral, medical, or academic needs and up to 18% of students
have extraordinary needs (Marzano, 2003). Though regular classroom teachers may not
be in a position to address directly more severe issues, successful managers have a
repertoire of specific techniques for meeting students' needs in the classroom. Successful
managers know that fair and equitable treatment of students does not mean treating all
students the same. Brophy (1996) and Brophy and McCaslin (1992) found that the most
effective teachers were sensitive to student needs and employed different strategies for
different students based on these understandings. For teachers to be sensitive and
understanding of all students' needs, they must take the time to build a relationship with
those students and keep lines of communication open so needs and concerns can be
addressed as they emerge.
Research on classroom management shows that effective classroom managers
provide a safe and stimulating haven where students are cared for and encouraged to
succeed both academically and behaviorally. Teachers are assertive and insist that
students demonstrate appropriate behaviors while working to meet the individual needs
of all of the students. Kohn (1991) succinctly stated, "Preceding and underlying specific
techniques for encouraging particular behaviors is the practice of nesting all kinds of
discipline and instruction in the context of a warm, nurturant, and empathetic relationship
with students" (p. 503).
Culturally Responsive Pedagogy
If teachers are to create supportive and challenging environments for students,
utilize appropriate and motivating pedagogy, and foster quality relationships with
students then they must know and respect their students. Who are the students in public
schools today and who are their teachers? Student enrollment statistics showed that
culturally and linguistically diverse students comprised nearly 50% of elementary school
enrollment in 2004 with 33% living in low-income or poverty environments. On the other
hand, teachers remained predominately white, middle class, monolingual, and female
(NCES, 2005). Many teachers working with predominately culturally and linguistically
diverse students have limited experiences with diversity and have little knowledge of
their students' lives outside the classroom (Van Hook, 2002). The cultural incongruence
between teacher and student is at the center of many academic and behavioral issues.
Teachers often come to school with assumptions and biases about their students that can
lead to lowered expectations and lower achievement levels in their students (Neito, 2000;
Weiner, 2003). Behavior is affected when students perceive teacher biases or when
teachers misinterpret student behaviors and inadvertently create an environment of
resistance (Howard, 2001; Kaplan, Gheen & Midgley, 2002; Weiner, 2003). Teachers
today want to be effective and help their students to achieve but many are at a loss as to
how to go about creating a learning environment, developing engaging and stimulating
lessons, and fostering quality student-teacher relationships with students who seem so
completely different from everything they know and understand.
Advocates for culturally responsive pedagogy argue that we must bring culture
from under the rug and into the fabric of the classroom. Gay (2000) defined culturally
responsive pedagogy as teaching that uses the "cultural characteristics, experiences, and
perspectives of ethnically diverse students as conduits for teaching them more
effectively" (p. 106). Culturally responsive pedagogy is based on the assumption that
when students' school experiences are situated within their lived lives and cultural
understandings, motivation and academic success are increased and behavior problems
are decreased (Gay, 2000).
Toward an Inclusive Environment
Culturally responsive teaching is multidimensional and should be reflected in the
classroom environment. Toward the goal of creating an environment where students feel
accepted, comfortable, and valued, teachers need to set up a room where diversity is
apparent and imbedded in the classroom environment. In her vignette about a
multicultural kindergarten classroom, Gay (2000) described a classroom environment
filled with visual examples representative of the students' cultural lives. Bulletin boards
reflected students' varied languages, occupations, native countries, and cultural rites of
passage (marriage, adulthood, baptism). One of the most interesting uses of cultural
visual imagery is a multicultural alphabet streamer where different ethnic groups and
contributions are associated with each letter. For example the words "Japanese
American, "Jazz," and "Jamaican" are listed under the letter J. With this vignette, one
can begin to understand the importance of providing more than a colorful, well-
organized, classroom where students and teachers can see each other and move freely
through the room.
Culturally Responsive Instruction
Instructional strategies are the cornerstone in the culturally responsive pedagogy
literature. Students must experience academic success (Ladson-Billings, 1995).
Academic success begins with high expectations. Teachers must believe in their
students, accept nothing less than high levels of success, and work diligently to achieve
these goals (Gay, 2002). Howard (2001) interviewed 17 elementary school students about
their experiences in a culturally responsive classroom and found that students attributed
much of their academic success to teachers who pushed and challenged them.
A key to successful instruction is to link it to students' lives and experiences. In
her study of six successful teachers of African American students, Ladson-Billings
(1994) found that teachers taught concepts like algebra and grammar by linking them to
students' interests such as rap music and the African origins of algebra. In these
classrooms, motivation and engagement levels were high with little off-task behavior.
When teachers link students' interests to instruction it makes for stimulating and fun
activities. Many African American students come from homes that accommodate large
numbers of family members, with lots of stimulation, noise, and activity (often
surrounding physical movement) (Boykin, 1986). In a study by Howard (2001) some
students described engaging teachers who use theatrics to portray stories with different
voices, and actions. Other students in the same study mentioned how exciting it was
when their teacher used their names in stories.
Successful teachers also communicate effectively with their students. Students
need to know and understand the instructions for their lessons. This seems to be a simple
concept but within diverse classrooms there are many discourse patterns, cultural norms,
and linguistic understandings that can impede understanding between teacher and
student. Many African American families use more directive modes of communication
while Caucasian families use more indirect styles of communication (Delpit, 1995, 2002;
Villegas, 1991). This difference in communication styles can result in behavior problems
when students are perceived as not following directions, surly, or uncooperative (King,
One type of African American discourse, call and response, is active rather then
passive with more fluid and interchangeable roles between speaker and listener than more
common passive discourse found in mainstream communication (Delpit, 1995; Gay,
2000). The effective teachers observed and interviewed in Ladson-Billings' 1994 study,
The Dreemkeepers, consistently used both directives and call/response strategies in
successfully teaching their predominately African American students.
However it is important to stress that there is no one best way to teach culturally
and linguistically diverse students. Although there is research that advocates direct
instruction (Delpit, 1995), cooperative learning (Putnam, 1997), afro-centric centered
curriculum (Hale-Benson, 1986) and many other types of instruction, most research
suggests that teachers who are successful use a variety of strategies to meet the needs of
their students (Gay, 2000; Irvine, 1990; Ladson-Billings, 1994). Although there are many
different ways to teach multicultural students, there are some similarities in the practices
of multicultural teachers. These teachers are all interactive teachers, have extremely high
expectations for their students, scaffold and support them as needed, maximize learning
time, balance choice and structure, use culturally congruent materials and pedagogy, keep
a brisk pace with varied activities, and show students they care about them (Banks,
Cochran-Smith, Moll, Richert, Zeichner, LePage, Darling-Hammond, Duffy, &
McDonald, 2005; Gay, 2000; Irvine, 1990; Knapp & Shields, 1990; Ladson-Billings,
1994; Noddings, 1992).
Caring in a Culturally Diverse Classroom
Many teachers struggle to make connections with their students. Often students'
modes of dress, speech, entertainment, and behavior are unfamiliar to teachers and no
common ground is apparent from which to build a relationship, but build a relationship
they must. Research tells teachers that caring is one of the key characteristics in being
effective in urban diverse schools (Darling-Hammond, 2000; Gordon, 1999) and that
students who have caring relationships with their teachers are motivated to perform at
higher academic levels than students who are not (Gay, 2000; Irvine, 1990).
Teachers cannot care for their students from a distance; they must become
detectives and seek out information about their students in order to bring them closer
together (Villegas & Lucas, 2002). Effective teachers in both Delpit (1995) and Howard
(2001) not only learned about their students but also shared their own lives and emotions
with them. Students, who have quality relationships with their teachers, reported that they
knew their teacher cared about them because she shared stories and pictures about her
own family and frequently showed emotions like humor, disappointment, and sadness.
Caring is also demonstrated by actions that communicate respect and unconditional
acceptance. This type of caring is often called empathy where teachers take on the
perspectives of another culture and are i/ i/h the student in a non-judgmental way
(Goleman, 1998; Noddings, 1984). When teachers have empathy for their students, they
are more likely to modify curricula and pedagogy to meet diverse student needs
There is some research that questions the role of empathy in working with
culturally and linguistically diverse students. Rosenberg (1988) found that in white
preservice teachers empathy could provide a false sense of involvement where the
teachers felt that they knew and understood their students well but in reality they may
have had only a superficial understanding of the students (p. 8). When teachers feel that
they really know students they may equate their own experiences with the other person's
experiences and essentially erase the distinction between the two experiences (Spelman,
1995). In light of these studies, teachers must be cautious in assuming they know and
understand their students and must keep lines of communication and acceptance open as
they seek to learn continually about and nurture quality relationships with their students.
Culturally responsive pedagogy is based on the premise that culture is an important
and deciding factor in schools today and that teachers who are successful in teaching
culturally and linguistically diverse students use their knowledge of students' lived lives
to create environments, teach lessons, and build relationships with their students in
culturally congruent ways.
Culturally Responsive Classroom Management
The literature on culturally responsive pedagogy addresses several components of
management but primarily focuses on instruction. Is there a framework that focuses on
the intersection of culture and classroom management? The past five years have seen the
emergence of a framework that connects ideas of culture and classroom management.
Culturally responsive classroom management (CRCM) is consistent with the findings
from current classroom management research that advocate prevention strategies and
promote an approach that where students behave not out of fear or a desire for rewards
but out of a sense of personal responsibility (Weinstein Tomlinson-Clarke, & Curran,
2004). CRCM is consistent with assumptions of culturally responsive pedagogy in its
explicit acknowledgment and use of cultural understandings to work effectively with
students. Understandings from both classroom management and culturally responsive
pedagogy literature bases are used to create a framework for classroom management that
is focused on meeting the needs of both teachers and students in 21st century classrooms.
CRCM is not a recipe to be followed for successful classroom management rather it
is a frame of mind for teachers to use. Weinstein et al. (2004) proposed a set of five
components essential to CRCM: "(a) recognition of one's own ethnocentrism and biases;
(b) knowledge of students cultural backgrounds; (c) understanding of the broader social,
economic, and political context of our educational system; (d) ability and willingness to
use culturally appropriate classroom management strategies; and (e) commitment to
building caring classroom communities" (p. 27). Unapologetically, CRCM is political
and its goal is not to have control over compliant students but to promote a style of
management that will be equitable for all students. The focus is one of social justice
where all students have equal opportunities to learn (Weinstein et al., 2004).
Recognition of One's Own Ethnocentrism and Biases
To achieve equitable management for all students, one must begin by recognizing
one's own ethnocentrism and biases. Most teachers are not blatant racists, rather they are
cultural hegemonists (Gay, 2000). Novice teachers who have few experiences with
cultures other than their own perceive all behavior based on their own standards of
normalcy. In this situation, students who are outside the mainstream of expectations and
assumptions are often perceived as behavior problems (Sheets, 1996). Teachers often
blame students for the misbehavior rather than looking at the role culture might play in
the situation. Successful resolution of problems is more likely when teachers understand
that they inadvertently might have caused a problem because of their own cultural
assumptions, seek out the problem and solutions, and adapt their practice to
accommodate the student. Weinstein et al. (2004) described a teacher who was having
difficulty managing her predominately Haitian preschool class. She observed effective
teachers managing the same group and realized her communication style was incongruent
with those of the students. She made some changes in her own pedagogy and found the
new strategies to be much more effective. This sounds like a simple task, but, in fact,
there is a plethora of literature documenting the difficulties in teachers from the dominant
class experience in gaining the insight they need to examine their understandings and
assumptions from another perspective (Mcltyre, 1997; Pajares, 1992; Richardson, 1996;
Zeichner & Hoeft, 1996).
Understanding of the Broader Social, Economic, and Political Context of Our
Education is moral and political (Neito, 2000; Tom, 1997), and teachers will be
more successful with classroom management when they understand and use this
knowledge in their practice. One of the most common issues documented in urban
schools is student resistance. Teachers often respond with increased control that in turn
causes behavior problems to escalate. Research suggests that student resistance is a
response to a system that does not value their culture, thoughts, interests, or emotions
(Munns & McFadden, 2000); that is, when students act out, when they perceive this as
the only way to be seen and heard (Macedo & Bartholome, 2000). Hernandez and Sheets
(1996) interviewed 16 students about this very topic and found that many of them felt
that their teachers did not care about their perspectives, and problems between teachers
and students escalated because teachers did not bother to listen to them when they wanted
to explain. Teachers who are successful in overcoming student resistance listen to their
students and consider their perspectives (Valenzuela, 1999).
Knowledge of Students' Cultural Backgrounds and Ability and Willingness to Use
Culturally Appropriate Classroom Management Strategies
Just as teachers who wish to increase student academic achievement must use
culturally appropriate strategies, teachers who wish to be successful managers must be
willing to identify when something is not working, to abandon it, and use another strategy
that is more appropriate for the students. Teachers who take the time to learn about their
students as individuals will be better able to use this knowledge to intertwine skillfully
culturally responsive methods that will be congruent with students' lives outside the
classroom. As teachers learn more about their students they must remember that all
students are individuals and be careful not to make broad generalizations or to propagate
stereotypes (Cazden, 1999; McLaren, 1995).
When teachers gain more knowledge about themselves, their students, and the
surrounding socio-political environment, they are in a position to create and use strategies
that will promote equal access to learning. There is no one- best way to meet the needs
of culturally and linguistically diverse students. In fact, one of the difficulties teachers
face in trying to meet the needs of their students is in their attempts to homogenize
classroom management and student behavior according to school norms and expectations
(Sleeter, 2001). However, there is research to recommend certain management strategies
that are effective in culturally and linguistically diverse classrooms. In his study of 13 K-
12 teachers in seven U.S. cities, Brown (2002, 2003) found that successful management
strategies included caring for students, the use of authority, and congruent
communication patterns to create a productive learning environment. In addition to these
findings, Weinstein Curran, and Tomlinson-Clarke (2003) advocated high expectations,
working with families, and dealing with problem behaviors.
Many educators might question the idea of culture affecting how one determines
what is misbehavior and how to respond to the behavior. It would seem that either
students are behaving (on task, following rules) or they are not. As with most
educational issues the subject is not nearly as clear-cut as it seems. For example, African
American students perceive authority as a function of personal actions based in strength
and assertiveness (Delpit, 1995; Irvine, 1990; Ladson-Billings, 1994). With this
perspective, students are more likely to challenge teachers rather than to give them the
response they expect due to their position in the school hierarchy. Teachers not
understanding this cultural norm will perceive the student as disrespectful and disruptive.
Punishment will ensue, and the student and teacher will feel disrespected and
misunderstood. Instead, a teacher who understands his/her students' culture may choose
to take the time to explain and discuss the classroom rules or may even find the intensity
and passion with which the student is responding is acceptable in the classroom, thus
broadening the teacher's own definition of acceptable behaviors (Weinstein et al., 2003).
Commitment to Building Caring Classroom Communities
As discussed earlier in this review, teachers must care for their students. They
must care for them in more than a warm and fuzzy way. Culturally and linguistically
diverse students need teachers who are warm demanders (Kleinfeld, 1975;Vasquez,
1988). The most successful teachers push their students to achieve and will accept
nothing less than success. However, it is not enough to build successful student-teacher
relationships teachers must build caring communities of learners.
Part of the challenge in establishing caring communities in culturally diverse
classrooms is with student-student relationships. It is imperative that teachers provide
and encourage classrooms where students are valued, accepted, heard, and where
opportunities for student interaction are provided in many different forms (Gay, 2000;
Noddings, 1992). Cooperative learning is one way that students can build relationships
with each other. In fact, many culturally diverse students prefer this dynamic and social
way to learn (Losey, 1997). Students who participated in cooperative learning
environments, showed among other effects, positive interethnic group social interactions
and friendships (Slavin, 1995; Stevens & Slavin, 1995). It makes sense that as students
form friendships and come to understand and value each other, the instances of student-
student misbehavior (fights, name calling, stealing, etc.) decrease and positive classroom
behaviors increase. Culturally relevant communities are often like extended families for
African American students. Ladson-Billings (1994) documented how one of her
teachers, Hilliard, used the idea of family as a theme throughout the year. Students were
encouraged to care and support their "brothers and sisters" and were responsible for each
other's academic success (p. 69). This idea is consistent with the African American
cultural norm where the individual is seen within the context of the group.
Caring communities are hard to construct and maintain in an environment where
there is little enough time to teach academic subjects and focus is often on test scores and
individualized learning. Successful classroom managers make the time and exert the
effort because they know that their students will learn more and demonstrate positive
behavior when they are part of a caring community of learners (Battistich, Watson,
Solomon, Lewis, & Schaps, 1999).
Many culturally and linguistically diverse learners do not ever experience CRCM
and are left alone to struggle through minefields of culturally incongruent management
strategies. In her text, Black Students and School Failure, Irvine (1990) profiled African
American students' school experiences with chilling statistics that show the following:
Black students (males in particular) as three times more likely to be in lower track or
special education classes, more likely to receive controlling statements and qualified
praise, more likely to be labeled deviant and described more negatively than white males,
more likely to be sent to the principals office for challenging the teacher, and more likely
to be judged inaccurately by teachers. With these statistics and others that show novice
teachers working in urban schools using the majority of their instructional time
addressing management problems, there is an obvious need for research about new, and
more culturally congruent, strategies for classroom management.
Currently, there is a lack of research examining the connection between classroom
management and culture. Much of the past research was connected to instruction (Delpit,
1995; Gay, 2000; Ladson-Billings, 1995) rather than classroom management. The recent
interest in CRCM from Weinstein et al. (2003, 2004) is theoretical in nature rather than
researched based. However, Brown (2002, 2003) conducted a study of 13 urban teachers
(1st -12th grade) from seven U.S. cities. Brown used an extensive interview to gain
insight into how the teachers effectively managed their culturally and linguistically
diverse classrooms in mostly low income, urban schools. Brown's research was linked to
culturally responsive pedagogy literature (his research preceded Weinstein et al. 
CRCM framework) and examined what teachers said they were doing to manage their
classrooms successfully. Results from this study showed that the 13 teachers interviewed
said they cared about their students and their success, acted with authority and
assertiveness, and used congruent communication patterns with their students. Brown's
research incorporated many of the components of CRCM but only went so far as to
describe what teachers said they did. Brown had no observational data to back these
claims, and neither does the interview data show what these strategies looked like in the
Currently, we know what Weinstein et al. (2003, 2004) proposed as necessary
components for CRCM and we know that 13 successful teachers from Brown (2002,
2003) said they were caring, assertive, and used culturally congruent communication with
their students, but we do not have a clear picture of what this looks like in different
classrooms. My research of 3 elementary teachers in predominantly African American
classrooms utilized both observational and interview data to add insight into the strategies
used by teachers who were effective managers in predominately African American, high
THEORETICAL PERSPECTIVE AND METHODOLOGY
The purpose of this study was to examine the beliefs, understandings, and
pedagogy of novice teachers who were considered to be effective classroom managers in
high poverty, predominately African American classrooms. Specifically, how did these
novice teachers define classroom management and establish classroom community,
routines, and procedures, define misbehaviors and address misbehavior in the classroom?
Last, what part, if any, does culture play in successful classroom management in the
context of a low SES, mostly African American student body?
Understanding more about successful classroom management in low SES,
culturally diverse contexts can help novice teachers working in these contexts and teacher
educators who are preparing new teachers to take on these very challenging positions. In
addition, this research added to the relatively small body of research literature that
examined the intersection of culture and classroom management.
My purpose for this study was to gain a deeper understanding of effective novice
teachers' definitions of, beliefs about, and strategies for classroom management. I also
was seeking to understand what role, if any; culture played in their success with
classroom management in a high poverty school. My interest in these components was
framed using interpretivism and grounded theory. These two perspectives can be found
throughout the study from design to analysis and finally in the presentation of the
findings. Interpretivism and grounded theory as they relate to this study are briefly
explained in the following sections.
Interpretivism is connected with the human sciences where researchers are
concerned with understanding (Verstehen). Interpretivists believe that human actions
(especially social actions) are inherently meaningful, and to understand them, one must
grasp the meanings that constitute that action (Schwandt, 2000). In this study, I sought to
understand effective practice in low SES culturally diverse contexts. I wanted to
understand the meaning of their actions and how these actions fit into their larger systems
Verstehen (understanding) has different meanings depending upon which
perspective one subscribes to. In this study the process of interpreting or achieving
verstehen was connected to empathetic identification where the researcher gets "inside
the head of the actor to understand what he or she is up to in terms of motives, beliefs,
desires, thoughts and so on" (Schwandt, 2000, p. 192). However, as the study progressed,
I was not sure that as a white, middle-class female I was entirely able to get into the
heads of my participants who were from non-dominant cultures and who described
themselves from low SES backgrounds. In this sense, I felt that I was not so much in
their heads as I was looking over their shoulders (through observations and interviews) in
order to ascertain their understandings, motivations and the meanings of their actions as
they understood them (Geertz, 1979).
This distance that I perceived in not being inside the heads of my participants but
rather looking over their shoulders helped me to understand the participants' motivations
and meanings in an objective way. This objectivity is another feature of interpretivism
where the meaning that the interpreter finds is considered the original meaning of the
action. In order to attain this perspective, one must employ some method to step outside
of one's assumptions and understandings and look at the observed actions with a purely
theoretical attitude of observer (Outhwaite, 1975). For this, I employed grounded theory
where a series of carefully planned steps generates theoretical ideas.
A central assumption of Verstehen and interpretivism is "that meaning of human
action is inherent in that action, and the task of the inquirer is to unearth that meaning"
(Schwandt 2001, p. 134). The methodology I used to unearth the meaning of effective
classroom management was grounded theory. Sociologists Glaser and Strauss (1967) are
considered the founding fathers of grounded theory. Until this time, conventional theory
was deductive in nature. The ultimate goal of deductive theory was to produce universal
laws of behavior and societal functioning (Glesne, 1999). Initially, Glaser and Strauss
(1967) also believed that their grounded theory would inductively function as explanation
and prediction, but a more modern understanding of grounded theory is that those
theories that are developed are not grand theories but substantive theories. Substantive
theories have their roots in everyday-world situations and are often more specific and
thus useful to practice (Merriam, 1998). In my research, I collected and analyzed data to
inductively form a substantive theory about effective classroom management. My study
added new understandings about what makes some teachers effective classroom
managers in diverse, low-income classrooms where classroom management is a
challenge to many novice and experienced teachers.
In grounded theory methods, like other qualitative research methods, the researcher
is the lens through which the data are viewed. The researcher collects, selects, and
interprets the data. The process of developing the grounded theory must be theoretically
sensitive. Strauss and Corbin (1990) explained that this is the ability to recognize what is
important in data to give it meaning. It is of paramount importance that a researcher
using grounded theory not only be aware of his/her own biases, prejudices, and
assumptions but find ways to combat them so the data form the theory.
The purpose of this study was to observe and interview teachers considered
effective classroom managers working in high poverty predominately African American
classrooms to comprehend better the teachers' practices and understandings about
successful classroom management in their specific contexts. In my work in classrooms at
Green Meadows Elementary School in the year prior to this study, I realized that many
teachers were struggling with classroom management and could not move beyond
addressing student misbehavior and applying increasingly severe consequences in their
efforts to try and control their students. This common approach was not effective, and
the teachers and students remained frustrated and learning suffered. In other classrooms I
noticed that teachers seemed to be effortlessly engaging and managing the students. The
atmosphere in these classrooms was warm and engaging with more on-task behavior
from students and less punishment from teachers. I began to wonder what was happening
in the well-managed classrooms and if it would be possible somehow to capture the
essence of these teachers' practices and understandings in order to help those who were
struggling with classroom management issues.
The following questions guided my interactions with the three participants in this
Research Question 1. How do effective teachers working in a low SES,
predominantly African American school context:
* Define classroom management
* Establish classroom culture (community, rules procedures, etc.)
* Define misbehavior
* Address misbehavior
Research Question 2. What part, if any, does culture play in this phenomenon?
Context of the Study
Green Meadows Elementary School is a public school located in the southeastern
portion of the US. At the time of this study, 531 students were enrolled at Green
Meadows Elementary School with a predominately English-speaking population (99.8%)
comprised of 88% African American, 6% White, 3% Hispanic, 2% Multi-Racial, and 1%
Asian ethnicities. The school population is considered high poverty with 92% of the
students on the free and reduced lunch system.
The three classrooms observed for this study were representative of the school
demographics listed above. The kindergarten class was composed of nineteen students
whose ages ranged between five and six years old. Students in this class are
predominately African American with only two students labeled as "mixed" ethnicity.
The fourth grade class observed for this study rotated classes throughout the day and
observational data included all three "homeroom" groupings. The fourth grade class as a
whole was composed of 60 students whose ages range from nine to twelve years old
(several of the students have been retained two times and one had been retained three
times). The students were predominately African American and four students were
white. All students in the fourth grade cited English as their first language.
The teachers in this school are highly educated and rate above the state average for
advanced degrees with 59.4% of the faculty holding degrees beyond the bachelor's level.
Not only are the teachers at Green Meadows Elementary School well educated but they
are experienced practitioners with an average 11.1 years of teaching experience.
Teachers work in classrooms averaging 18.7 students (approximately 5 students less than
the state average of 24.1 students per classroom).
In the 2004-2005 school year the school was in a state of transition with a principal,
Curriculum Resource Teacher and Behavior Resource Teacher who joined the faculty the
year before. In addition to the faculty changes, the school received a "D" on the state
achievement test and was under pressure to raise student achievement scores. To this
end, new reading and math programs were purchased and implemented in the 2004-2005
Three participants were chosen for this study. All were teachers at Green Meadows
Elementary School and had less than 10 years of teaching experience. In qualitative
research, participant selection is deliberate and purposeful (Patton, 1990). Qualitative
research is not concerned with finding ri /lih and adding to theoretical knowledge but with
transferability and adding to conventional wisdom (Patton, 2002). Participants were
selected using extreme case sampling. Glesne (1999) defined extreme case sampling as
choosing participants who are unusual or special in some way. Since this study focused
on understanding what teachers in high poverty contexts do to deal with student behavior
1 All statistics were downloaded fio l Ihllip \ "\ \ .greatschools.net
effectively and create a positive classroom culture, I chose participants considered to be
effective classroom managers.
The Professor-in-Residence2, Behavioral Resource Teacher, Curriculum Resource
Teacher and school principal were contacted to gain insight into participant selection.
Participants were selected using the following criteria:
1. Had taught at least one full year
2. Had no intern in the classroom for the 2004-2005 school year.
3. Had positive interactions with students
4. Nurtured high academic success in students
5. Had a lower than average number of referrals to the BRT
The Professor-in-Residence, the Behavioral Resource Teacher, the Curriculum
Resource Teacher, and the school principal were asked to assess teachers for these
criteria. Assessment was conducted in two ways. First, each knowledgeable professional
(as noted above) was given a list of all the teachers in the building who had taught for
more than one full year. Each was asked to rate each teacher using the following ratings:
* "E" meaning the teacher was "effective" in meeting these criteria
* "NS" meaning "not sure" if the teacher meets the criteria
* "NO" meaning the teacher did not meet these criteria
When teacher placements were completed for the 2004-2005 school year, teachers
who were rated as effective by three of the four professionals were contacted and asked
to participate in the study. Three respondents were selected for the research (all female).
Each was given an informed consent form to sign to ensure her understandings of both
the study and her rights as a participant (Appendix A). The participants and school at
which the study took place were assigned pseudonyms: Green Meadows Elementary
2 The professor-in-residence is a faculty member from a nearby university who spends 25% of her time at
Green Meadows. Her role involves running a collaborative staff development program and coaching
teachers through classroom observation and consultation.
School, Kathy, Lucy, and Susie. In addition, permission to conduct the study was
attained from the principal as well as the local school district.
Description of Participants
All three participants were from non-dominant cultures, were female, and ranged in
age from mid 20s to early 30s. I had the opportunity to work with each of the teachers
the year before this study through a staff development program. In the previous year, I
was in the participants' classrooms on average once a month and often spoke with them
about educational dilemmas and successes in informal conversations during the school
day. Through the staff development program, I also worked with the participants in a
more formal role as co-facilitator at the monthly three-hour meetings focused on staff
development and inquiry.
Lucy Lucy is currently teaching fourth-grade writing three periods of the day and
fourth-grade reading one period of the day. She is an African American woman who had
taught in high poverty minority schools for her entire career including her internship.
She holds a bachelor's degree in elementary education from a local college and is
certified by the state to teach elementary-aged children. Lucy is in her eighth year of
teaching at Green Meadows Elementary School and previously had taught a combination
class, fourth grade and fifth grade. She was raised not far from the community and has
many relatives and friends who live near the school and even attended school with many
of her students' parents, cousins, aunts and uncles.
Kathy Kathy is currently teaching fourth-grade math three periods of the day and
fourth-grade reading one period of the day. She is an African American woman who is in
her fourth year teaching at Green Meadows Elementary School where she took over a
classroom as a long-term substitute to begin her teaching career. She holds a Bachelor's
degree in elementary education and a Master's degree in educational leadership from a
local school and is certified by the state to teach elementary aged students. Kathy's
experiences in high poverty minority schools began with her internship at a local school
near Green Meadows Elementary where her son now attends elementary school. Kathy is
very active in the church and often sees her students on Sundays while attending services.
She also has three sons who are active in extra curricular activities in the community and
interacts with her students and their caregivers through these informal meetings.
Susie Susie, who considers herself to be multi-ethnic (Japanese and Israeli, among
others), is currently teaching kindergarten at Green Meadows Elementary School. This is
currently her third year at Green Meadows Elementary School and her second year
teaching kindergarten. She spent her first year at Green Meadows teaching high needs
students in a pull-out program at Green Meadows. She holds a Bachelor's degree and
Master's degree in elementary education from a local university and is temporarily
certified to teach elementary-aged students. Susie conducted her internship year at a
local school that is composed of mainly White, upper-middle class students. After her
internship she sought to work with non-dominant students and came to work at Green
Meadows Elementary School.
Since this study focused on classroom management and the most crucial time to
establish community, relationships, and routines is in the first six weeks of school, data
for this study were collected from August through October with member checks in April
and again in June (Emmer et al., 1980). I conducted all of the interviews and
observations and was solely responsible for transcribing each as they were conducted.
All data were recorded in a data log to keep track of who was observed and interviewed
as well as what dates and what time of day they were observed (see Appendix B). Data
collection was interrupted for two weeks in September due to two hurricanes hitting the
area, resulting in school closings and making travel impossible.
Observations In the first two weeks of observations, participants were observed
twice each week (except for Susie, who was observed only once the first week) for
approximately two hours each time. For Weeks 3 through 8, participants were observed
once a week for approximately two hours, totaling in an average of eight two-hour
observations per participant. Observations were scheduled ahead of time. The time of
day for observations was varied in order to observe different classes, subjects, and
transition times. Observational notes (questions, reflections, etc.) were kept on paper and
were often discussed in the post-observation interviews to clarify teacher understandings,
strategies, and intent. Observational time spent with participants and total number of
transcribed observational data are reported in Table 1.
Table 1. Observational time spent with participants and pages transcribed from
Participant Logged Observation Time Pages transcribed
Kathy 18 hours 95 pages
Lucy 18 hours 86 pages
Susie 16 hours 82 pages
I had worked with the teachers at this school during the past year and spent time
observing and helping out in the classrooms. I had many opportunities to converse with
teachers in both formal and informal situations about classroom topics. As I collected
data for this study, my role was one of observer-as-participant (Merriam, 1998). My
primary role was to gather evidence as an observer in selected classrooms. The role of
observer as participant allowed me to continue my relationships with these teachers
(which was important in gaining an insider's understanding of those phenomena
observed) but not take part in the classroom activities. While in these classrooms
collecting data, I did not interact with the students or with the teacher and resisted giving
management advice. Teachers were well aware of my presence and purpose in these
observations and, for the most part, ignored my presence in their classrooms while I was
Interviews Three types of interviews were conducted with each participant: Post-
observation, follow-up member check, and background (see Appendix C). Post
observational interviews were conducted as soon as possible after each observation and
lasted for approximately 20-40 minutes depending on time constraints (interviews
scheduled after school rather during planning times were often longer). In the first two
weeks of school interviews were limited to once a week due to the teachers'
overwhelming schedules in beginning the school year. Each participant took part in six
to seven post-observational interviews throughout the data collection process. These
interviews were extremely useful in answering questions and confirming themes and
understandings I had begun to generate from observations. Interview time spent with
participants and total number of transcribed interview data are reported in Table 2. The
table shows that Susie's interview time was over an hour more than Kathy or Lucy's
time. The reason for this difference is that Susie was a novice teacher who was highly
reflective and verbal. The interviews were often longer because she enjoyed talking
about her practice, the students, and future pedagogical choices she was considering.
Table 2. Interview time spent with participants and pages transcribed from interviews
Participant Interview time Pages of transcription
Kathy 131 minutes 74 pages
Lucy 144 minutes 71 pages
Susie 200 minutes 89 pages
Near the end of the data-collection process, teachers participated in a background
interview after school that lasted for approximately 60 minutes. These interviews were
scheduled for this time so that teachers had a chance to settle into their schedules, recover
some equilibrium from the hurricanes, and be able to spend the time needed to complete
the interview. The purpose of the background interview was to gain an understanding of
the teachers, their experiences both as students and teachers, and to allow them a forum
in which to explain their understandings about teaching and learning with respect to
classroom management and issues of culture.
In addition to asking questions and clarifying themes as data collection progressed,
member checks were used to ascertain formally that the conclusions reached about each
participant were true to their own understandings. In mid-April, I sent each participant
the draft from her case study and a member check form to complete and return to me in
the self-addressed stamped envelope. By the end of August, I had either received
member check forms from the participants or spoken to them over the phone to confirm
their approval of their cases.
Development of interview protocols In qualitative research, interviews are
extremely important. Within some genres of theory, interview transcripts constitute the
entire set of raw data. In this research, interviews did not compose the entire set of data
but were still very important in giving the researcher insight to participants'
understandings and motivations. The interview protocols (see Appendix C) were adapted
from other interview protocols used in past research projects. All interviews were semi-
structured, meaning that each began with questions and intended probes but was not
limited to these questions. My main intent when constructing the interviews was to
encourage the participants to discuss their understandings, beliefs, and thoughts about
culture and classroom management. My questions were not intended to direct the
interview or to trick the participant. I wanted to encourage the participants to speak
freely about their understandings of the phenomenon.
In grounded theory, the theory comes from the data, not from the researcher. The
interview must encourage the participant to tell her story her way, not guide her in telling
the story I wish to hear. Also, when using grounded theory, the data are constantly
analyzed and hypotheses, questions, ideas, and summaries are recorded. As I gathered
data from initial observations and preliminary interviews, I often added questions to
interview protocols to include these new understandings and initial theories.
Grounded theory was used to analyze and interpret the data collected. The founders
of grounded theory methodology, Glaser and Strauss (1967), stated that theory is more
inductive than deductive. This means that the theory emerges from the data and does not
conform to a theory presupposed by the researcher. The grounded theory approach
consists of a set of steps that guides the researcher in carefully analyzing data, coding
data, and constant comparison leading to the construction of a substantive theory
(Moustakas, 1994). However, Strauss (1987) explained that there are no sequential steps
that guide all of grounded theory; each research project is unique and researchers must
conduct their research as best fits the data, researcher's interpretations and experiences,
and the contingencies that influence the research.
Grounded theory proceeds in cycles where data are analyzed throughout the
research, and theories, summaries, hypothesis, and connections are recorded. These
initial analyses are then used to drive the next wave of data collection. Ultimately,
saturation is reached and data can be analyzed to uncover the theory that explains the
phenomenon in question. The following are components and descriptions of grounded
theory methods I used for analyzing data as discussed by Strauss and Corbin (1990) and
Glaser and Strauss (1967).
Open coding Open coding was used to identify, name, categorize and describe the
phenomena found in the data. As observations were conducted and interviews
transcribed, I wrote initial codes in the margins or on a piece of paper (attached to the
interview/observation). Some of the open codes from the data included: concern,
respect, trust, question, teacher control, order, support, etc. After each interview and
observation were coded, questions, reflections, summations, and emerging themes were
recorded to use in further data collection and analysis. When all data were collected, the
codes were compiled into a list and refined until it was non-repetitive and non-
Axial coding As open codes were identified, they were also related to each other
via a combination of inductive and deductive reasoning. Since I was not only striving to
describe the phenomenon but to explain it as well, my axial codes fit into a basic frame of
generic relationships that included the following elements: phenomenon, causal
conditions, context, intervening conditions, action strategies, and consequences. Some
examples of axial codes from the data are humor, reminding, modeling, praise,
scaffolding, etc. When all data were collected and coded, a list of axial codes was
compiled for each case. The codes list was refined until it was non-repetitive and non-
Selective coding The purpose of selective coding is to find the big concepts that
encapsulate the data. As data were collected and initially coded I analyzed the coded data
for consistent concepts both within cases and between cases. These concepts defined the
selective codes and included relationships, rules and routines, instruction, and addressing
misbehaviors. All coded data for the three participants were found within these four
Lastly, I looked across all three cases to identify similarities and differences. The
original data were then recorded to find confirming and disconfirming evidence of these
Constant comparison In this process I constantly reviewed my data and analyzed
my emerging themes. This process was imperative in order to note relationships and links
between data and to "continually question gaps in the data-omissions and
inconsistencies, and incomplete understandings" (Moustakas, 1994, p. 5).
Memos As noted earlier, the data in this study were immense. A codebook was
developed in order to inventory my codes and their descriptions. I also kept memos
(code notes) that discussed the codes and ideas I had for theory development,
relationships, questions, etc. As I worked with and analyzed the data, I developed
theoretical notes that helped to connect data or codes to the literature.
Trustworthiness of the Study
Several techniques were employed in this study to enhance the trustworthiness of
the findings. These are discussed below using criteria for evaluating qualitative research
found in Crotty (1998), Glesne (1999), Guba and Lincoln (1994), and Patton (2002).
Credibility Qualitative researchers admit that there are many potential biases in
their research and must describe processes used to ensure credibility in their studies. In
this study, I used prolonged engagement with participants and triangulation of data to
enhance credibility. While conducting this study, I invested significant time to learn
about the classroom cultures, build trust with the participants and worked to detect and
minimize any distortions that may have influenced the data. I was in classrooms on a
weekly basis for the first 8 weeks of school accumulating 16-18 hours of observation in
each room for a total of 52 hours of observation.
Interviews were conducted with participants and also served to triangulate data
from observations. A total of 8 hours was spent talking with teachers about their
understandings resulting in 234 pages of transcribed data.
To reduce biases and distortions, it is important that the data be examined from
another perspective. For this study, the professor in residence, who was familiar with the
context, reviewed and discussed with me emerging themes as well as developing theories.
These discussions and my audio taped interviews and observations served as an
additional source of triangulation.
Dependability Dependability is achieved when the researcher is scrupulous in
documenting the process and procedures used for generating and interpreting data (Guba
& Lincoln, 1994). Qualitative researchers provide a clear and concise paper trail to help
readers understand how data were analyzed and conclusions drawn. In this study, the
paper trail was recorded in journal. All decisions about data collection and analysis
were recorded in this journal. Another way that I showed dependability in this study was
with member checks. Member checks were on-going as I collected and analyzed data. In
post-observational interviews, I often asked questions about themes and theories for the
teachers to clarify or discuss. More formal member checks were conducted after most of
the data were collected and in the later stages of theory development. I brought
preliminary findings to the participants and asked their opinions on the "truth" of these
theories in relation to their own understandings and experiences. In each case there were
minor details (terms, numbers, names) to be corrected but each member agreed that the
findings represented their understandings of classroom management.
Confirmability Confirmability relates to ones subjectivity as a researcher. In this
study, I enhanced confirmability in two ways. One way was to state explicitly my
theoretical perspective and assumptions (see Appendix D). The second was to include
examples of raw data, data analysis procedures, category and theme development, as well
as process notes (see Appendix E). By including this information, readers could see for
themselves how conclusions were generated.
Transferability Though qualitative researchers are not as concerned with
replication as quantitative researchers, qualitative researchers are concerned with
transferability which means that other researchers can decide if and how to apply the
findings from this study to their own situation. By describing the context of both the
classroom and the teacher as well as using numerous quotes and anecdotes, I provided a
thick description of the research process and how conclusions were developed. This
description allowed readers to decide if findings from this study could be transferred to
other contexts due to shared characteristics.
Limitations One limitation of this study was the fact that all three participants
were from non-dominant ethnicities. Another limitation of this study was that the
students in each class observed were predominately African American and spoke English
as their first language. In many classrooms today, it is white teachers who are teaching
students whose cultural, ethnic, and linguistic backgrounds vary greatly from each other.
However, this study does begin to illuminate effective practices used in high poverty
African American contexts and future research can extend the generalizability of these
Conventions of the Language
This research is a combination of reporting what teachers said and did, interpreting
their actions and words, and creating conceptualizations from the interpreted data.
Because of this messy business of qualitative research, some explanations about language
* When I am discussing teachers' abiding beliefs that we assume will continue
beyond this research, the present tense is used (i.e., Lucy believes in her students
and wants what is best for them.)
* Interview and observational data are presented in the past tense because they were
recorded at one particular time in the past (i.e., Susie leaned forward and made eye
contact with the student while she held her hand up).
* Participants' words are represented verbatim and can be identified by indented text
followed by codes (described below) or contained within quotation marks.
Troy, sit down! [II-o923p2]
Presentation of Findings
This study includes well-documented and detailed descriptions of the teachers, their
classrooms and the school context in which they work. Chapters 4, 5 and 6 represent
each teacher's case study organized according to the larger selective codes discussed
earlier in this chapter. Within each case, data are represented with the following codes:
* Teacher code: Kathy (I), Lucy (II), and Susie (III)
* Data source: observation (o) or interview (i)
* Date of data collection: month/day (923=Sept. 23)
* Transcript page: page from which the data comes (p2).
In the end, a code like this II-o1012p4 can be interpreted as Lucy, observation, October
12, page 4.
In Chapter 7, I summarize the findings and present conclusions derived from a
cross-case analysis to develop a theory about the centrality of relationships to classroom
management. (Readers who prefer to peruse this theory and its explanation before
reading the three cases are advised to skip to Chapter 7 at this time. Readers who would
rather peruse the three cases and construct their own understandings about these teachers'
practice are advised to continue reading.) Literature is used to situate the findings within
the broader research base. This chapter concludes with implications for teachers, teacher
educators, and further research in the area of culturally responsive classroom
KATHY: THE MAESTRO
Kathy is at the board firing math questions at the group offourth grade students
sitting at desks placed in groups offour or five. Students are sitting up in 11thi seats il ith
books and papers out juggling their attention between Kathy and the answers they have
written on their papers and sometimes c v~fI I ing i i: ith others in their group about
answers. Kathy models the new math concepts and invites students to come to the board
and complete a problem for the rest of the class. As a group of students come to the
board, Kathy continues to monitor the group and prompts students at their seats to "look
up here" and "check your paper. She notices that one of the students at the board
needs some help and quietly moves over to her and scaffolds her to complete the problem.
As students return to their seats and Kathy asks them to explain the completed problems,
she notices that Juanita is it king i/ ith a neighbor (she was spoken to about this twice
already). "Juanita, I'm gonna call your momma and you know what will happen then. "
Juanita stops talking. Students are finished explaining their problems and Kathy asks
everyone to make sure they have this written down because the homework is 'just like
this. Kathy then directs students to clear off desks and waits, i/th her hand up in the air
and her other hand covering her lips, for students to settle down. When the class is quiet,
Kathy plays the CD "Math Rap. As Kathy walks around the room she and the students
sing and move to the familiar song reinforcing important mathematical definitions and
In this fourth-grade math class at the beginning of the year, Kathy, a fourth-year
teacher, shows students how exciting math can be. Kathy, an African American woman,
is closely connected to the community both as a teacher and as a private citizen. She
knows her students and their families and carries these understandings into her classroom
in relationships, instruction, and management. Kathy is a caring teacher who will push
students to achieve and accepts no excuses for not meeting the high standards she sets in
Much of Kathy's practice was focused on preventing student misbehavior and
promoting academic achievement through pedagogy (see Appendix F). Students who
misbehave were more likely to experience a prompt, directive or warning than a
consequence (100 to 4). Though specific instances of"relationship building" were
observed only 36 of a total 571 times, Kathy's care for students and her commitment to
providing a positive learning environment for them was evident in all of the other areas
of her practice.
Kathy is like the maestro who expertly guides, teaches, and supports her musicians
to perform skillfully exciting and challenging symphonies. What follows is an analysis
of Kathy's practice for the first three months of the2004 school year.
As noted in Emmer et al. (1980), the purpose of classroom management is to
prevent misbehavior and promote a classroom environment where students feel safe,
cared for, and valued. The importance of relationships in the construction of such an
environment can be found in classroom management literature (Marzano & Marzano,
2003), culturally responsive pedagogy literature (Ladson-Billings, 1994), and culturally
relevant classroom management literature (Brown, 2003; Weinstein et al., 2004).
Though specific relationship-building data were coded less often than other components
of her practice, Kathy was quite consistent in reinforcing several themes important to
building successful relationships: Believing in students, building a community of respect
and care, and being accessible to students both in and outside of school. These themes
were observed in isolated instances (as noted here) but were also woven into other
aspects of Kathy's practice (interactions with students, pedagogical choices, and dealing
with misbehaviors). As the leader of the orchestra, Kathy knew that her ability to draw
out each player's best performance was largely based on the relationship she developed
with him or her.
Belief in Students
Kathy believes that all students can and will succeed and is relentless in her
insistence that they will succeed.
And a lot of kids they act up when they do the things they do because they don't
get it at home. They don't get the love they don't get the kindness and some of
them at home all they hear is you little ignorant child or you're stupid and this and
that. And that's what they give you because that's what they hear, but if you let
them know that 'you're better than this and you can do better than this,' a lot of
times they'll start striving to show you that they can. And then they'll start
believing it themselves. And so I believe that if I instill it in them (and I let them
know I expect your best, 'nothing but your best,' you're not giving me your best
you can do better than this), eventually they'll start believing it themselves and start
doing it. [I-ill8p26]
Kathy would not give up on a student even if that student had given up on himself or
herself. Though she was insistent, she was not militant and worked with the student to
find a way to help him or her to be successful (on task and engaged). This was apparent
when she adapted her management to meet the needs of two challenging groups of
students: low achievers and those students labeled with special education needs. When
Kathy recognized that her low-achieving students needed more one-on-one instruction
(they can get rowdy waiting for a teacher to come and help them), she solicited the help
of another teacher and split the class in half. This way, each teacher only had seven or
eight students and student wait time for assistance was cut in half. When this change was
implemented, Kathy noticed an increase in on-task behavior and a decrease in
Green Meadows Elementary School had recently become an inclusion school and
Kathy had several special needs students in her classroom. Kathy understood that they
have unique needs and worked hard to build a relationship with them so she could better
determine both management and instructional strategies that would be most effective in
moving the students toward success. Kathy's interactions with Dequan demonstrated
how her belief that a child can and will succeed enabled her to give a student space to
control his behavior successfully and function as a member of the classroom. Dequan
has an emotional handicap that sometimes means he erupts in class. Something will set
him off, and he becomes disruptive (e.g., yelling, complaining, stomping feet, slamming
book, turning over desk, flinging his book bag, or hitting another student). Kathy
expected him to settle himself and participate in instruction but she was also willing to
give him space to calm himself down. For example, he was allowed to walk out into the
centrium to cool off and return when he was ready. This strategy cut down on his
outbursts in the class and his behavior evened out. More important than the strategy is
the fact that it was not developed as a plan to control his behavior. Instead, this solution
was negotiated through many discussions between Kathy and Dequan about his feelings
and needs. When Kathy worked to develop a relationship with her students she was able
to better understand their needs and structure a management plan that will meet these
needs; that is, through her relationship with students, she conveyed her belief in each one
and communicated that she was "on their side"(Strachota, 1996) and that they could solve
problems together. The ability to work i/ti students rather than to control them from
above is obviously related to Kathy's respect and care for her students.
Community of Respect and Care
Belief in her students is the foundation for Kathy's relationship with students but it
is not enough to guarantee success. Kathy knows that her students often experience lives
where respect and courtesy can get lost in the hectic business of survival. She sees it as
her responsibility to teach students about respect and courtesy and model these desired
behaviors. Kathy could certainly be firm and, she explained, even "hard" in expecting
students to behave but she never demeaned or humiliated a student in class. Her
interactions with students were often conducted with a soft voice and even when Kathy
raised her voice to be heard or to emphasize her point, she remained courteous and
respectful of students. The second week of school, Kathy's students were working on
placement tests. When they finished, they could choose a book to read quietly. On one
occasion Troy carelessly put his book back on the shelf sideways and sticking out. In
response, Kathy firmly explained that is not how books are to be placed in the shelf and
asked him to please replace it correctly. Troy calmly walked back to the shelf and
replaced the book correctly. Kathy responded, "Thank you." In everyday interactions,
Kathy often used common courtesies like please, thank you, and excuse me (70 instances
of these social conventions were noted from the overall 571). Students were thanked for
helping out in class (passing out supplies, collecting supplies, cleaning up), helping
others (either to get on task or to complete work), and for participating (answering
questions, coming to the board to explain a problem).
The environment of respect that Kathy built in her classroom was also evident in
student behavior. It is interesting to note that in Kathy's class, students responded to her
questions with "Yes, ma'am" and "No, ma'am" (with no visible instruction from Kathy)
but did not use these terms of respect with the other teachers they rotated through each
day. Relationships among students were also affected by Kathy's focus on building
community in her classroom. In the first few weeks of school, Kathy reinforced ideas of
respect and care for others when she admonished students to "listen while others are
talking" and to "help your neighbors." In coded data, these remarks were found
significantly less often in the last two months of observation with all 11 remarks limited
to August observations and remarks praising community goals recorded sporadically in
August but more regularly throughout September and October.
The students in Kathy's class had no doubt that they were part of a supportive and
caring community. Kathy was a model for the students as she interacted with them using
common courtesies and respectful strategies to create an environment where they felt safe
and successful. Students responded to this environment by behaving with respect and
care for Kathy and for each other.
Being Accessible to Students Both Inside and Outside of School
Students were extremely respectful to Kathy but were not scared of or intimidated
by her. It was not unusual to see Kathy talking with an individual student or small groups
of students between classes, after school, or during her planning period. Kathy's
classroom door was nearly always open, and students felt comfortable coming into the
classroom and talking with her about their successes, frustrations, dreams, and dilemmas.
All of these occasions were opportunities for Kathy to continue to develop relationships
with her students.
... have fun with the kids and just be myself with the kids. I think that I wouldn't
get the results I do if I couldn't to that. I think that the kids being able to see me in
an unprofessional way. It makes them feel better able to come and talk to me when
they have problems or come to me when they need help. Because they don't feel
like I'm unapproachable. And I think that is important that the children feel
comfortable coming to you and seeking your help when they need it, that they're
not intimidated by you. So I think being able to put my guard down and have fun
with them and dance around the room and joke with them every now and then let
them know that I'm a person just like them. [I-il 18p24]
Though Kathy is a very structured teacher with firm ideas about classroom
management, she sees the humor in certain situations. One day while students were
working independently, a boy complained that his neighbor was distracting him by
singing. Kathy walked over to the student and casually said,
Jassey, we know you have a beautiful voice but right now you need to be quiet.
One day you can showcase your voice in front of the whole class but now you need
to be quiet. [I-ol01p4]
The class, including Kathy and Jassey, laughed and then got back to work. Here Kathy
chose to react with humor and, in doing this, showed students that she could laugh with
them. Kathy sees school as serious business, and joking is not often observed within the
context of instructional times, but it was not unusual to see Kathy smiling or joking with
students in her informal interactions before school, after school, or between classes.
Kathy also showed that she is "human" and accessible to students by sharing
personal information with them. There are pictures of Kathy, her family and friends,
awards, and pictures created by former and current students hung on walls and placed on
bookshelves for all to see. She often discussed her children with her class and related
their experiences to her students' experiences. Kathy's students know she has a life
outside of school and often find that her experiences and their own are similar.
Kathy extends her relationships with students outside of school. One of the best
ways to understand better and build a relationship with her students is to interact with
them in the community.
I know that a lot of them are involved in things. A lot of them go to church. I see a
lot of them in church. They are involved in different things. Sports. Some go like
there's a dance troupe that's big in the African American community. They do
ballet and different dances. Some of the girls are in that. I see students at the city
basketball games and things. Community center-a lot of them go to community
centers after school. I see some like in our town we have different community
centers. Different communities have little different names (names 4 of them) and
I'll see the kids in different little areas. And they'll be like, "Ohh Ms. K what you
doing in [name of local community]?" (laughs) and so I get to relate to them in
different aspects outside of the school. [I-i 1l8p20]
As Kathy's relationship with the students grows, her understanding of them grows as
well. Kathy often incorporated this added knowledge of students into her management
I'm very involved with the church, and so I see a lot of them in church. And I know
the different churches they go to. And I'll use it. "OK I'm gonna tell your pastor
on you." (laughs) and I'll tell the kids sometimes, "Now, is that what...I know I
seen you in church...and is that how you're supposed to be acting? What would
Jesus do?" Cause I know a lot of them their churches teach them WWJ. And I say,
"What would Jesus do?" Because I know that they're into the churches so I kind of
use that (laughs). [I-i 118p21]
This is just one example of how Kathy used her relationships outside of school to manage
students inside school. Throughout lessons, Kathy casually reminded misbehaving
students that she knows their grandma or that she knows they can behave "like I saw you
in church on Sunday." Students are no longer anonymous but are known to Kathy.
Because of this knowledge, Kathy has a deeper understanding of the students she teaches
and uses this knowledge like the conductor who is first a musician and really understands
the perspective of each musician.
It is interesting to note that Kathy uses her identity, situated both in the African
American community and in the mainstream community, to teach students explicitly
about mainstream norms they might not know.
I want them to know that, yes, we act this way at home but when we get in a
different setting we have to change the way ... we can't act the same way when
we're in a professional setting or when we're in a school setting. It's fine to act
this way at home but when you get in a different environment, you have to adapt to
that environment. That's just the way it is. [I-i 118p3]
One example of this is the ability to code switch. Code switching involves teaching
students whose first language may not be Standard English the "language of power" and
giving them practice in using the two languages in appropriate contexts (Delpit, 1995).
... like when I'm at home I do talk in Ebonics and slang. And I even talk with
the kids when I see them on the street I'll be like "OK hey wass up?" But then
when I'm at school it's "hello. How are you doing today?" And so I just let them
know that yes, we can talk this way here at home but when we are at school, we
talk a different way because when we are at home some of them might call me
Kathy. They'll play around and we'll kid and they'll maybe say something and I'll
say, "Your momma." And they know when we get to school we can't do that same
thing and I just want them to be able to know that there is a difference. There is a
difference even when you grow up there's a difference from the way you act at
home. You can do certain things at home but when you get into a professional
setting or a different environment you can't do those same things. [I-i 118p3]
Building quality relationships with students was very important to Kathy, who used
many different strategies to build trust, respect, and understanding in her classroom. She
understands the importance of knowing her students in different contexts and, in return,
being known by her students as well. As Kathy began to know her students better, she
understood their motivations and unique needs more accurately and used this knowledge
to create a management plan where students could positively interact in the environment.
As students began to know Kathy and understood that she was more than just the teacher
they see in the classroom, she was humanized, and students felt more connected to her.
This kind of trust brings the student/teacher relationship to another level and makes
classroom management more effective (Marzano & Marzano, 2003).
Rules, Procedures, and Routines
Kathy built strong student/teacher relationships from the first day of school and at
the same time, she also worked to teach rules and routines to students. Kathy is the
conductor of the orchestra, and the rules and routines of the classroom are like the
musical score that lends structure to the selection being played. When one walks into the
classroom, one sees students who are engaged and well behaved while going about
meeting their individual needs with some autonomy. One hears the harmonious music but
rarely sees the score from which it generates. How does Kathy achieve such beautiful
music with her students? Kathy's success with rules and routines is based on (a) explicit
instruction, (b) rule and routine practice/reminders, and (d) positive reinforcement.
Emmer et al. (1980) and Bohn et al. (2004) conducted research that showed effective
classroom managers explicitly taught expectations to the students, allowed students time
to practice the routines, and gave students appropriate feed back on their performance.
The similarities between Kathy's practice and those of the other effective managers are
In the first few weeks of school, one can see how important rules and routines were
to Kathy. Especially in the first two weeks, Kathy spent an extraordinary amount of time
explicitly teaching rules and routines to the students. Kathy left nothing to chance in this
crucial process. Many students who come to Kathy's class may be unaware of certain
school norms or may be used to performing certain routines differently than is expected
in Kathy's class. She knows that her students may not already know how to perform the
routines of the class so like the good conductor that she is, Kathy taught every rule and
routine to her students. In the beginning of the year, she started with the simple and
graduated to more complicated routines later on. One of the most basic procedures Kathy
taught on the first day of school was the bathroom routine. The fourth graders were
allowed to use the bathroom at one specific time. Students must take the pass from the
hook, and then they were free to leave the room to go to the bathrooms located across the
hall. Students were allowed to go to the bathroom when Kathy was not instructing or
giving directions. Kathy discussed this procedure with the class and then showed them
where the passes were kept. It was amazing to see how much instruction it took for this
seemingly simple procedure. Students got up during instructional time or they got up and
met another student at the door to get the pass from him/her (this caused some traffic
issues in the class). Each time that Kathy saw a student not following the specific
procedure, she stopped and re-taught the correct procedure. Later in the semester, data
showed that students were going to the bathroom at the appropriate times, and class ran
smoothly as students took care of their bathroom needs without as many reminders from
Explicitly teaching the rules and reinforcing procedures takes a great deal of time
and effort at the beginning but has great benefits in the end. In October, students were
working in their reading textbooks where small group reading and discussions were
suggested. When Kathy said, "OK, get into your reading groups and read the story, then
discuss the questions at the end of the story with your group," students moved their seats
and got to work right away. Reading and quality discussions were taking place with only
one request from Kathy. Later Kathy explained how this miracle was achieved.
We talked about it. Last week was the first week we had our reading groups, and I
discussed with them the teams and the responsibility of team members, what I
would be looking for. We did practice having group discussions last week, and I
told them, OK, I want to hear you going back into the story to find the support for
your answers. Give me details from the story. Don't just tell me something. You
have to find it. Find it in the story and support it from the story using details. So
we did discuss it the week before, and I'm finding that they did-they're using it
When teachers use explicit instruction to teach their students classroom rules and
routines and give them time to practice them, students are better able to understand the
expectations inherent in the rule or procedure and are more successful in following them.
Though it seems that students should know the rules and routines, the reality is that many
students often do not know the rules so explicit instruction and reinforcement is crucial in
order for teachers to lay the foundation for student independence.
Remind, Remind, Remind
Just as learning a new piece of music takes a great deal of practice, so does learning
new rules and routines in the classroom. Kathy knows that students will not always
remember the correct rules and routines. Instead of punishing them for infractions, she
reminded them of her expectations.
Today, it was interesting. I had to keep repeating it. 'Open your planners get your
HW out. Open your planners get your HW out.' But I suppose that by next week
they'll automatically open it up have their HW out. The first day today it was
pretty much a matter of getting them to listen and pay attention when they first
come in. But we're doing it one-day at a time. One step at a time. [I-i824p9]
Kathy did a great deal more reminding than punishing (62 to 4) but she did expect
students to follow rules and procedures independently. From her experiences with the
students, she had in her mind about how long it would take most students to master the
skill. Kathy kept reminding students up to this point and even told them when she
expected that they should be able to perform the skill without her reminders,
Next week you will be responsible for bringing in your homework and your planner
must be signed or you will not get full credit. [I-o83 lp4]
Kathy believes that as the conductor it is her job to help students to succeed in
performing rules and procedures. Students were not left to sink or swim alone, and
Kathy did not perceive her job as that of policeman to punish infractions. She knows that
for order to be achieved, students must understand and be able to perform desired
classroom routines. They needed many opportunities to practice and often needed to be
reminded of expectations. She was not interested in catching misbehaviors but in
creating an environment where well-behaved students could learn and achieve.
Kathy's goal was to have students who were on task and who were independently
engaged in following classroom rules and routines. She explicitly taught and frequently
reminded students of expectations in order to get students into the habit of performing
desired behaviors. She told students what they were doing correctly in the hope that
others would emulate it and that the student being praised would continue with the
Kathy's classroom was an overwhelmingly positive place. An observer would both
see and hear the numerous ways that Kathy positively reinforced student behavior. One
use of positive reinforcement was to calm the class and gain student attention. On several
occasions, Kathy followed the students into class and noticed that many students were
talking, out of their seats, or otherwise not on task. Instead of yelling and punishing, she
gave those who were behaving a treat (M&Ms), a stamp for their card (to redeem for a
prize after 20 stamps), or specific praise. Though she did not use external rewards often
(4 out of 29 total reinforcing incidents) Kathy said that she found these strategies to be
successful in "catching the students' attention." Once she had their attention, she began
the lesson for the day.
Kathy worked hard to catch students doing something good and made a conscious
effort to let them know she noticed and appreciated their efforts. The fact that Kathy
used a great deal of positive reinforcement is notable. In the average classroom, positive
statements are used every 20 minutes while negative statements can be heard every 2 to 5
minutes (Algozzine & Ysseldyke, 1997). Throughout the day, Kathy could be heard
reinforcing positive student behavior.
Thank you for waiting patiently. [I-o826p4]
Good job! You're the first one to have everything out and ready. Good job. [I-
Thank you for those who were working quietly. [I-ol01p2]
Denny, thank you for quietly following directions and getting your book out. [I-
Most of the praise Kathy gave was genuine and specific, indicative of effective praise
(Brophy & Good, 2000). This kind of interaction creates a positive snowball effect where
positive behavior elicits positive teacher attention that then promotes more positive
behavior and positive teacher attention (Vitto, 2003). In all, this lead to a well-behaved
and positive environment for student learning.
Kathy used explicit instruction, reminders/practice of rules and routines, and
positive reinforcement to make sure her students understood what desired behaviors
looked and sounded like. She understood students would not be perfect the first time and
gave them a grace period to work toward mastery of the new skills. Throughout the
entire process, Kathy looked for the positive and amply rewarded students for their
efforts with her regard in front of their peers.
Curriculum and Instruction
Classroom management research has documented the connection between well-
behaved students and appropriate, challenging, and varied instruction and curriculum
(Bohn et al., 2004; Cotton, 2001; Emmer et al., 1980). Teachers who are successful
managers also engage and motivate students in active learning through active teaching
strategies. Kathy is an effective and skillful teacher who encouraged and motivated her
students with scaffolding, second chances, and praise. She engaged students in active
learning through fun and participatory activities and used her knowledge of her students'
culture to make links between school and home. Like the maestro who wants to inspire
his musicians to brilliance, Kathy supplied students with a score that was stimulating,
challenging and novel.
Encourage and Motivate Students
In her classroom, Kathy described a successful lesson as follows:
The majority of the class grasped the concept, they have an idea of what they're
doing, they understand the overall point. They were into the lesson. And hopefully
they had a little bit of fun somewhere during that period. [I-i 105p6]
Kathy believes successful classroom management is more than students sitting
quietly in their seats listening to the teacher. Students need to be engaged and motivated
by their learning. How does Kathy encourage her students to keep trying and motivate
them to participate in the lessons? Kathy primarily used three strategies: scaffolding,
second chance, and praise.
During the observation period, Kathy primarily taught math (3/4 of the day) and
reading one period each day. Kathy's math classes were comprised of the entire fourth
grade placed into three leveled periods that rotated through her room each day. One way
that students can become disengaged from their learning is when new concepts or skills
are taught and they do not understand the connection to skills already learned. In these
cases students who fail to get it become frustrated and disengaged, often resulting in
Kathy met this issue head on. When she saw that students were getting frustrated,
she stepped in and used scaffolds to move them to the next level. One example of this
was seen in late August. Kathy had students working at the board writing numbers in
standard, expanded, and word form. Shekisha was working on writing expanded form.
Kathy noticed that Shekisha was struggling with the problem. Kathy moved next to her
and quietly asked questions to talk her through the process until she could succeed
independently. Scaffolding can be as complicated as this example or as simple as when
Kathy asked a student to identify which number was greatest: 582,411 or 572,4011. The
student struggled in reading the numbers. To help, Kathy covered part of the number and
had the student read it again uncovering the second part after the first part was read. In
the end the student read each number correctly and correctly identified the largest
number. Rather than letting students struggle and fail, Kathy caught them before they
could fall and supported them in gaining a foothold.
Another way that Kathy encouraged students to continue to try was by giving
students a second chance. In many classrooms teachers ask students questions and after a
brief wait time, or if the student answers incorrectly, they move on and ask another
student to answer the question or to help the previous student. In Kathy's class, students
had a second chance to answer the question. One way that Kathy gave students a second
chance was to allow them time to consider an answer. For example, she asked Rakeem a
question, and he did not have an answer. Kathy gave him some more information
(scaffolding) and said she would come back to him. Then she moved on and asked
several children similar questions eventually returning to Rakeem, who answered the
question correctly. Rakeem stayed engaged because he knew that Kathy would come
back to him and he needed to have an answer. Interestingly, later in the data-collecting
process, Kathy asked a student a question that he was not prepared to answer; he asked
her to come back to him. She nodded and moved on, coming back to him after several
others had responded to other questions. When she came back to him, he was ready with
the correct answer.
Another time that Kathy gave students a second chance was when they were
completing their work. If they did not complete the page, or forgot to write the number
in two forms, Kathy would give the papers back to the students and ask them to complete
them correctly. When students got a second chance, it showed that Kathy valued the
work they did and expected them to meet the high standards she had for them. Much of
this kind of encouragement was documented in the first month of school with few
incidences in September or October. As students understood that Kathy expected them to
do the work as assigned and would not accept anything less, they were motivated to meet
Kathy used praise most often to encourage and motivate her students' academic
success (25 out of 59 total encouraging incidents). Kathy used academic praise to
reinforce those behaviors that were beneficial to the students' learning. As students
continued to try working through a hard problem, attempted to work a new problem, or
completed problems at the board, Kathy gave praise for their accomplishments. Kathy
did not only praise correct answers, she also praised students who tried new things and
took a risk. Praise where student effort is noted is found to be highly encouraging and
effective (Brophy & Good, 2000). In August, Kathy asked Katrina to write a particularly
long number in expanded form. She completed the problem and sat down at her desk.
When Kathy had the class discuss the problem, they found that Katrina had an extra zero
in one place. Kathy erased the zero, again explained the rationale, and then moved on to
finish the discussion and the problem, ending with praise for Katrina's efforts. Rather
than concluding the problem was wrong, Kathy focused on the parts that were right and
the fact that Katrina took a risk to come up and try such a challenging problem. When
students feel that their efforts are appreciated, they will stay engaged and continue to
work toward success.
Kathy knows her students and understands that they learn best when they are active
participants in their learning. Research shows that many African American homes are
busy places with many people, much activity (usually centered around the physical), and
high levels of stimulation (Irvine, 1990). Many behavior problems occur in classrooms
where students are expected to sit passively as information is disseminated to them and
then work independently to complete assigned work. Kathy avoided this pitfall by
engaging her students in fun/participatory lessons and used cooperative learning to
achieve her academic goals.
Cooperative learning has received mixed reviews from teachers. Some feel that it
is a good way to support and engage students while others feel that it is a way for
students to shirk responsibility and can lead to chaos in the classroom. As Bohn et al.
(2004) and Putnam (1997) explained, those who are most successful with instructional
methods often have the best strategies and management routines in place for the chosen
method. Kathy is an effective manager and, as discussed earlier in this case, explicitly
taught her expectations and routines to the students and allowed them to practice
expected behaviors before engaging them in cooperative tasks. Kathy used cooperative
groups as one way to keep students interested and involved in the lesson.
I think with all kids you have to keep them engaged and motivated. I'm finding
that they really like having the discussions with their team members. And they're
more eager but they're more umm motivated to do the questions than when they
have to do them on their own. It's not just throwing them out there. They've had a
chance to talk about it. Get different ideas and then when they're writing, when
they have to write on their own, they're doing it with a little bit more eagerness. [I-
Students supported each other in understanding the content and processing it in different
ways. When students had the opportunity to share ideas and perspectives, learning
became personal and interesting. Students were more engaged in explaining their
perspective (which helps to define it) as well as listening and questioning other points of
Cause they get to hear other viewpoints. Maybe they didn't think about the
viewpoint that one of their partners brought up. It just exposes them to other
viewpoints, hearing others' ideas and I'm finding their doing a lot better. We're
doing it with math and it just makes the children .. they get more into the lesson.
Everybody's participating now. I don't have anybody daydreaming. Everybody's
When students engage in this kind of cooperative learning, their understandings are often
deeper, which increases academic success as well as students' time on task.
Kathy emphasized that in cooperative groups "everybody's participating."
Participation was a very important part of Kathy's practice. It was rare that one observed
students sitting in seats listening or working independently for extended periods of time.
Even when Kathy was at the board teaching, she drew students into the lesson with
call/response or unison/choral response patterns. One day in October, Kathy was at the
board teaching the definitions for addition properties. Instead of reading the definitions
to the class, she engaged in a common African American discourse pattern: Call/response
(discussed in Chapter 2, the literature review). At this time, Kathy wrote the definition
on the board, then began to call (say the definition with a rhythm). When she stopped,
students responded by echoing the call. This pattern continued several times for each
definition, and each time Kathy changed the rhythm or tone, students responded with the
new rhythm and tone. The pace was smooth and brisk as Kathy led the group through the
definitions. Students were highly engaged and bobbed their heads, waved their hands, or
tapped their feet as they responded to Kathy's calls. At the end of the session, Kathy
called on individual students to tell the group the definitions of each rule (several students
were given the opportunity for each rule). All were able to do this correctly and often
answered with a rhythm from the call/response activity. The call/response strategy was
used intentionally by Kathy to engage and teach her students the properties of addition.
... for OUR group I think that it is. A lot of them love music and do a lot of things
with music and the call and response. We do it in different beats, different tones,
and different rhythms. They're more into it. They pay more attention than if I just
say it in the same monotone voice. [I-i105p3]
Because Kathy knew that her students loved music, she incorporated it into her lessons.
One might wonder how music and math are connected? In Kathy's class she used a CD
produced by a local teacher called Math Rap. The CD uses the call/response pattern
along with a rap beat to teach fundamental math terms and definitions (perimeter, area,
mode, median, mean, pentagon, isosceles triangle, etc.). Kathy used this CD to engage
students in learning these important terms. Students loved the CD and were on task
singing along while they learned. It was a perfect example of how students' participation
in lessons can heighten their motivation and engagement.
Kathy certainly did not expect her students to do all the work in her class. She
understood that she has a part in keeping student engagement up and misbehavior down.
Kathy orchestrated the active lessons that kept students engaged. She is an extremely
active teacher who modeled/re-taught, created clever and challenging activities for the
students, and explicitly explained instructions/directions for the students to follow.
Kathy's class was fast paced with well-organized transitions between activities.
Kathy knows that students often learn best by example and modeled new
mathematical procedures often or re-taught a concept utilizing modeling.
Children learn by modeling a lot of times and so in order for them...if you expect
something from them, then you need to show it to them. And so I do try to do that.
When Kathy perceived that many students needed to be re-taught a concept or when she
introduced a new concept, she often modeled expected procedures at the board or
overhead projector. If Kathy noticed that isolated groups or individual students needed to
be re-taught, she went to their desks and quietly worked with them there. Students in
Kathy's class were not left to guess what to do; she showed them, and if they needed it,
she would show them again until they understood and were able to perform the task.
Bohn et al. (2004) found that effective managers were more explicit and clear in
their directions and instructions than were less effective managers. It only makes sense
that when students are clear about what they are to do they are able to do it correctly the
first time. Kathy was very explicit and clear with her directions and instructions to the
Now write this, this and this down on your paper (points to rules and signs on
board) so you can have it at home tonight. Make sure you write it neat. Write the
signs and everything. Make sure your signs are facing the right way. [I-o83 lp8]
Do set A and set B when you are done, bring your papers to me. If I am with
somebody you need to wait or go on and do other problems (repeat). Go on and get
busy. Get started. Write your first and last name on your paper. [I-ol01p8]
Since Kathy's instructions were so clear, when students began working there was very
little confusion. When students turned in their work, it was usually done correctly. This
cut down on the amount of academic time that is often wasted in other classrooms when
students are unsure as to what they are to do for the assignment, and more time on task
means less time for misbehavior.
In Kathy's classroom, increased time on task and decreased misbehavior were not a
function of punishing students or reinforcing rules. Good management involved
instructional methods that called for student participation, engaging and supportive
methods of teaching, and curriculum and pedagogy that were aligned with students'
culture and interests. When students experienced learning that was exciting, diverse,
cooperative, and interactive, they could not help but be energized to succeed in each new
task they were given.
Misbehavior and Discipline
Though effective managers spend the majority of their time preventing
misbehavior, they cannot prevent all misbehavior. Teachers who are effective at
redirecting and stopping misbehaviors were not found to be so different in what they did
but in when they did it. Skillful managers stopped behavior sooner than less effective
teachers and their interventions got results more quickly (Cotton, 2001; Emmer et al.,
1980). Kathy is an effective manager who rarely ignored student misbehavior (5 out of
32 total misbehaviors coded) and used a hierarchy of increasing pressure to promptly
address infractions in her class. Observational data show that Kathy had four levels in
her hierarchy: (1) Pick your battles (choose which to address); (2) Prompt/redirect; (3)
Momma Mode and (4) Consequences. Kathy's goal was to orchestrate a classroom of
engaged and motivated students who were focused on academic success. Misbehaviors
in her class were defined as any action that was contrary to this goal and included playing
with friends or in backpacks during instructional times, talking when others are speaking,
not participating in class, and being disruptive to others' learning.
Kathy spent a great deal of her time monitoring the students as they were working.
She walked around the class, looked up as she was working with individuals, looked at
each student as she taught at the board, and watched small groups at work. As Kathy
monitored her class, she noticed when students were beginning to get off track and then
decided how best to address the problem. Kathy rarely ignored student misbehavior but
the data show that she did ignore misbehavior 5 out of 32 times. Why did she ignore
these behaviors and not others? In reviewing the contexts of these incidents, Kathy
ignored student misbehavior in favor of continuing with the pace of the class. In all five
situations, Kathy ignored minor student disruptions (tapping pencil, shuffling through
book bag, off topic comment) and continued with the pace of the lesson. The
misbehaviors stopped as students became engaged with the lesson. In these situations,
Kathy did not want to overreact to a situation and allowed students to self-correct as they
received no attention for the action and abandoned it in favor of the engaging lesson.
There were other times when ignoring misbehavior was not an appropriate choice.
In these cases, Kathy choose to prompt students to do the right thing with a waiting
strategy, proximity, gestures, attention cues and reminders.
There were times when students were misbehaving and Kathy did not continue
with the lesson and felt that she needed to wait for student behavior to improve before she
could move on. Kathy did not use this strategy very often (7 out of 32 total
misbehaviors) but when she did use it, she got results quickly. When does Kathy use her
waiting technique? Data show that Kathy used her waiting technique when large groups
of the class were off task. In these cases, she knew that to go on was not productive so
she usually gave the quiet signal (one hand up and one hand on lips, standing in front of
class making eye contact with students) and announced that the class was waiting for
everyone's attention. During the quiet signal, Kathy's tone and body language exuded
authority and not surprisingly, students quickly quieted down. As the class quieted down,
Kathy thanked them and then promptly moved on with the lesson.
At other times, Kathy used proximity or gestures to redirect the students' behavior.
Kathy was often at the front of the room during instruction (over-head projector or white
board) so using proximity usually occurred as students were working independently.
Kathy used this type of prompt infrequently in her practice and only when students were
fooling around and needed to be prompted to get back on track. A more frequently used
prompt was gesturing. For example, Kathy continued teaching as she gestured to students
to put away inappropriate materials, throw away paper they were playing with, and sit up
in their seats. Kathy also shook her head to gesture to students to stop what they were
doing (talking, playing with materials, and rocking in seats). Again, she made eye
contact with students, and her expression showed she meant business. The students
usually stopped the behavior immediately.
Sometimes a student misbehaved (his or her attention is focused elsewhere) and
Kathy could not catch his/her eye. To get his/her attention, Kathy called the student's
Calvin, Alli? You aren't listening. [I-ol01p8]
When students heard their name they stopped what they were doing and looked up at
Kathy who returned their look with one of authority (direct eye contact, serious
expression, raised eyebrows). These were quick and effective and did not interfere with
the progress of the lesson.
Reminding was also used to prompt students to get back on track.
If you come back from the b-room with the pass you must hang it on the hook. Do
not give it to someone. If you are waiting to go, then take it off the hook. [I-
Now my hand is up and stays up until everyone is looking at me and not talking. [I-
Interestingly, the data show that Kathy did the majority of reminding in the first month of
school as students were in their practice mode of learning classroom rules and routines
and lessened as time progressed. Kathy used reminding as a scaffold to help students
master the behaviors expected of them in the classroom.
Later in the year, as students were expected to know and adhere to the rules and
procedures of the classroom, Kathy used two techniques to help misbehaving students get
back on track: Directives and warnings. These warnings are called momma mode
because, as Kathy discussed these two techniques, she referred to treating the students as
if they were her own children and she was their momma. Directive statements and
warnings are two types of discourse that are common in African American culture
(Delpit, 1995; Hammond, Banks, Cotton, Dent, & Reaves, 2003; Irvine, 1990).
Directives were used almost exclusively at this level (41 out of 5 Itotal momma mode
codes) while warnings were rarely used (10 out of 51 total momma mode codes).
Directives differed from reminders in that they no longer gave information but directed
Alli close that book [I-ol01p6]
You need to get out a piece of paper and copy down what's on the board [I-
Calvin! Get out the worksheet. [I-ol05pl2]
When students heard Kathy using directives they were in no doubt as to what behaviors
were expected of them. As Kathy issued the directives, students generally reacted with
haste and did as they were told. Though many teachers who are unfamiliar with this type
of discourse may assume it is harsh or disrespectful and that students' feelings may be
hurt, this is not the case. When students were on the receiving end of directives, they
often looked up at Kathy, lowered their eyes, and corrected the behavior. Then they
looked up at Kathy again for approval. As the students got back on track, Kathy nodded
and made eye contact with them so they got the positive feedback they were seeking and
the positive behavior was reinforced.
Kathy used warnings very sparingly. When all else failed and students had hit her
last nerve, Kathy used warnings to address student misbehavior.
I know in the African American community a lot of them get spankings and so I'll.
In knowing a lot of their parents I can threaten them with, 'OK you know if I call
your grandparents you know what's going to happen to you.' And I know that a lot
of their parents when it comes to their education, they don't play. Then the kids
know that they will get in trouble. And I'll tell them. And I'll kind of hang it over
their heads. 'You know if I call home, you know what's gonna happen. You don't
want me to call home do you?' or 'Do I need to call home?' [I-i 118p12]
Here, she used an African American parenting style that to some might seem harsh
(Hammond, Banks, Cotton, Dent, & Reaves, 2003). But students interpreted these as
warnings to do the right thing. Kathy delivered the warning in a teasing manner, usually
with a smile. Students often smiled back and got back on track and the class moved on.
There were other times when Kathy used warnings, and she was not teasing.
Like I had a student who was acting up a lot and just playing in class. And he's a
very bright student. He does real well but he was just playing a lot and he was
getting in trouble because he was playing a lot. And so one day after school I just
pulled him to the side and I was like, 'Listen. So-and-so I'm sick and tired of you
doing this mess. I was like, you better straighten up your act right now or I'll go
and take you outside and I'll tear you up. Because I'm sick and tired of you acting
up in my class.' And I was like 'Do you understand me?' he was like 'Yes.' I was
like, 'yes? Where do you get that yes mess from? You'd better straighten up right
now. What are you supposed to say?' 'yes ma'am.' And I was like, 'From now on
that's what you're supposed to say when you address an adult. Do you hear me?'
(quietly) 'Yes ma'am.' I said, 'Do you hear me?' because he had his head down.
He was like, 'Yes ma'am.' I said, 'You better hold your head up and look at me
when I'm talking to you boy.' (laughs) and it was like the same thing I kinda do
with my own children or my nieces and nephews. 'Now I don't want this behavior
from you anymore. Do you understand?' he was like, 'Yes. Ma'am.' 'What are
you gonna do?' he's like, 'I'm gonna come to class and I'm gonna do the right
thing.' 'When are you gonna do it?' he's like, 'Every day.' 'When?' he's like
'Every day.' I was like, 'Am I gonna have anymore problems from you?' and he
was like, 'No.' 'And what's gonna happen if I do?' 'Me and you gonna go
outside.' I said, 'That's right. Now you'd better get out of here.' (laughs). [I-
With this type of warning, Kathy used direct eye contact, a firm voice, and dialect
frequently associated with family and community. Her words were direct and explicit,
and her emotions were apparent to the student. In the African American culture these are
signals of a powerful and authoritative adult (Delpit, 1995; Marzano & Marzano, 2003).
The student knew Kathy meant business and indicated his understanding with lowered
head and, at the end of the conversation, showed his willingness to do better and comply
with Kathy's directives. Kathy reported that after this talk the student's behavior was
"fine, no problems."
These warnings might seem startling to readers who have never seen them in
action. Remember, the threats are delivered in an environment of care and familial
familiarity. Kathy also explained that she threatens the students with a punishment but
does not have any intention of following through with them.
Well I know some people disagree with writing sentences but I always threaten
them with sentences because they just hate writing sentences. And if I just threaten
(smiles) them and say there going to have to write sentences, then it catches their
attention. Like today I just wrote a sentence on the board and I just threatened
them and when see me writing it, they know automatically that someone was going
to have to do it if they acted up so that kind of catches their attention and gets them
on track. I rarely give it to someone but I just do it to threaten them. [I-i105p4]
Even though Kathy rarely followed through with the punishments, warnings were still
effective with the students. Students were familiar with this strategy (often used by
caregivers at home) and knew that the use of warnings meant the adult had hit their last
nerve and they had better straighten up.
Directives and warnings were used sparingly but were useful strategies because
they are aligned with the students' cultural lives at home and conducted within an
environment of care and respect. Many student misbehaviors are a product of disconnect
between home and school cultures. Kathy is familiar with the students' culture and used
this familiarity to manage her class. Students often reflect on favorite teachers who made
the classroom seem like home and who sounded like a beloved grandmother, aunt, or
parent (Howard, 2001).
Kathy used many effective strategies for getting misbehaving students back on
track and rarely had to resort to consequences. In the three months that she was observed,
Kathy used consequences only 4 of 571 total instances coded. Consequences Kathy used
were: moving seats (3 times) and moving a student out of the room (1 time). All four of
these consequences were enacted after Kathy had moved through her hierarchy of
discipline and the behavior persisted. Interestingly, Kathy enacted these consequences
with a minimum of disruption to the rest of the class. In the cases of students being
moved to other seats, Kathy called their name and pointed to the new location or she
made eye contact with them and pointed to the new location. In all three cases, students
got up and moved to the new seats (though they had grumpy looks on their faces) without
complaint or disruption as the lesson continued. In the case of the student asked to leave
the room, Kathy just pointed to the door and the student got up and went out to wait in
the centrium where Kathy later discussed his behavior and classroom expectations with
him. When asked about the students' reaction to the consequences, Kathy replied that
students knew what they had done wrong and were aware of the consequences so when
they were asked to move or leave, they could not be angry with her. They just got up and
moved or left the room. All of these events took place in October when classroom norms
and expectations were clearly understood by the students and showed how Kathy moved
from reminding and prompting to expecting appropriate behavior from the students and
enforcing appropriate consequences when misbehavior occurred. These consequences
were not punitive but were used to stop disruptive behavior (talking and joking with
others) so learning could continue.
Kathy is the Maestro who skillfully orchestrated her fourth grade reading and math
classes. She developed relationships with her students both in and outside of school so
that students came to trust and know her and she got to know them better in order to
motivate, engage, and direct them toward success. Kathy believes in her students and
would not give up on them even when they had given up on themselves. She constructed
her classroom in a way that promoted student success by explicitly teaching rules and
routines that may be unfamiliar to her students and building bridges to scaffold students
toward mastery of vital skills and concepts. Kathy did all of this with engaging,
culturally relevant, and challenging pedagogy and clever and creative curriculum ideas.
Students in Kathy's class were captivated by her methods and behavior was usually very
good. In cases where student behavior was an issue, Kathy approached the matter as a
problem that both she and the student could and would solve. Kathy's interactions with
misbehaving students were marked by explicitness, consistency, and patience. She
treated students as if they were her own children and used culturally relevant strategies to
turn misbehaving students into engaged, successful, and well-behaved learners.
LUCY: PART OF THE FAMILY
It is the last period of the day, and Lucy is reviewing Fact and Opinion ii i/h her
third-period writing class. Lucy keeps a quick pace and solicits responses from students
explaining important concepts and definitions as they come up in the lesson.
"I want to know what is a fact. Troy."
"St iumeihilng you can look up or see." (She repeats his answer 2 times.)
"OK, now I need an example of a fact. (Calls student to answer.)
"My mom has a car. "
"Can we check it out?"
"Another one." (Calls a student to answer.)
"Ms. Lucy has on Jordan's. "
Lucy goes to the board and writes, "False statement. She explains that she is wearing
"Can you check it out?"
"But it so happens that it is false. What's an opinion? Alli?"
(He is sitting in Lucy's chair at her desk because he felt that he needed space away
from the students in his class and discussed this i ith Lucy before class began.)
"This is the best school in the world. "
"What makes that an opinion? (Calls on student to answer.)
He thinks it."
"Ms. Lucy is the best teacher. "
"Honey, that is a fact!" (Everyone laughs.) "Another opinion. (Calls on student
"This is the best school ever. "
"That's an opinion. Another one." (Calls on student to answer.)
"That's ugly. "
"'That's?' What is "' that's? '" Tell me a sentence. Pick ,,iiethilig over there."
(Points to board.) He won't talk. Turns his head away.
"Baby, I can't let you talk like that. You're in fourth grade. (He is sulking.)
"Come on andpick \,inehinig over there. (Won't talk).
Lucy moves on to another student and leaves him alone (Later, when others are working,
she comes back over and discusses this i/ ith him.)
Now you have eight sentences on the board (overhead). What you are going to
do is write these sentences down. Put an 0 if it is an opinion. I'll do the first one
ii ith you. (Lucy reads it aloud) Fact or opinion? Don't say it. Write it. "
Trendarious is epll ending ii /h a grunt after each word she says. She walks by him and
stops by his desk.
"Trendarious, don'tplay i ith me. (He smiles and stops.) If there is ,\,ueinithig
you do not know, think about ifyou can check it out; or ifyou can go ask somebody about
it. Then you can do the problem. "
Students begin working (some talking to others about the questions and some
working independently) while Lucy walks around helping students and monitoring their
One student asks about #3, "Prime TV time." Lucy explains what "prime time"
means (8, 9, 10 o 'clock). Laterious gets up to put his paper in the bin for completed
(Quietly.) Hey, baby. (Shakes her head.) There are eight. I need to move it up."
One boy is still not done. Lucy walks over and reads the sentence to him spelling the
hard words. (He is looking grumpy but working.)
(Quietly.)" Baby, I'm helping you out."
He finishes, and Lucy puts 6, 7, and 8 up.
"For #9 & and #10 write your own opinion and your own fact."
She walks around the class checking papers, andfinds a student not completing his
"What's s this? You don't have #3 either? You all gotta work faster than this."
Lucy is an African American teacher who has been teaching in local high poverty
predominately African American schools for eight years. She is no stranger to her
students or their parents, having lived either in or near the community since she was in
elementary school and was classmates with many of her students' relatives and
Relationships were important in Lucy's classroom (see Appendix G), and the lines
between community and school were often crossed, creating a family-like environment
where students were cared about and expected to succeed both academically and
behaviorally. Rules and routines were important to Lucy but were not a focus of her
practice (76 of 848). Lucy wanted her students to be comfortable in her class and not feel
overwhelmed with lots of rules and routines taught in the first few days so she taught
those routines needed, provides practice, and offered reinforcement. Later she added
rules and routines as needed. Lucy knows that her students must succeed academically,
and engaging instruction was one of the largest components of her practice. Instruction
was culturally aligned, providing motivating and engaging strategies, active teaching, and
a great deal of student participation. Students were engaged three fourths of the time and
misbehavior was usually minor and swiftly handled with a hierarchy of management
strategies including, monitoring, reminding/cueing, directives/warnings, and
consequences. Lucy conducted all aspects of her management program from an insider's
perspective and treated all of her students as if they were her own children. What follows
is an analysis of Lucy's practice the first three months of school 2004.
Walking into Lucy's classroom was like walking into a family's living room filled
with children and adults who shared common understandings, close relationships,
common goals, and informal speech and behavior patterns. The sense of family that one
feels when visiting Lucy's class was no accident. Relationships were important to Lucy
and observations show that she spent about one quarter of her time specifically building
and reinforcing relationships in her classroom (219 of a total 848). She skillfully drew
students into her family through a strong belief that the students could and would be
successful, connecting with students and creating a sense of community in her classroom.
Connecting with Students
Lucy related to her students on many levels. She had previously established
relationships with many of her students' families and was imbedded in the local
Because I've grown up in this neighborhood. I know either their aunts, uncles or
cousins, or mom, dad, grandma. I know somebody that's related to them. And that
helps too [II-923ip6]
Lucy said that knowing the students and being a part of the neighborhood helped with
classroom management. In observations, Lucy used family connections to address
management issues in two ways. The first way that Lucy used her status as an insider to
manage students was to gain insight into the why of behavior. Instead of developing a
standard way of behaving, Lucy used the context of the students' lives to make decisions
about how best to proceed. In one instance, a boy was talking quite a bit in class and
after repeated warnings, Lucy asked him to go outside and call home. Lucy went outside
with him and, as they began to call home, he started to cry. Lucy knew that at the time,
he was being shuffled between relatives' homes and was feeling a bit unsettled. Instead
of calling home, she decided to speak frankly with him about expectations and in the end
they reached an agreement. He returned to class and was much better behaved thereafter.
In this case Lucy knew that calling home would not be as helpful as she wished since at
this time the student's homelife was unsettled. Instead, Lucy chose to be frank with the
student and dealt directly with him to solve the problem.
Another way that Lucy used her inside knowledge of students' lives was to
reinforce her expectations with similar expectations of the family. In this example, a
student came to conference with Lucy about his writing assignment.
I know your momma would not say it's OK to write like this here. [II-ol012p4]
Lucy showed him what she expected and sent him back to his seat to correct the
assignment. The student went back and diligently corrected the assignment without
resistance. When Lucy used her knowledge of family members to reinforce the
expectations of the class, students experienced a united front and showed little resistance.
It is important to note, however, that her strategy would backfire without intimate
knowledge of the children's families.
Lucy treated students as if they were a part of her own family. Nearly half of all
statements that Lucy used to connect to students were statements reflecting this
perspective (23 of 52 total connecting with students incidents). For example at the end of
the day students were given 20 minutes of free time to read or catch up on writing and a
student, who was having a difficult day, wanted to leave school early. He was hovering
around the classroom door holding his backpack and looked like a caged tiger walking
back and forth. This was a management problem waiting to explode. Lucy looked up and
Oh no, come on baby, come over here baby. Come and talk to your mama. Your
mama at school.
The student walked over to Lucy kicking his backpack. Lucy asked in a quiet voice,
What you doing?
He responded that he wanted to go home.
Baby, we got 20 more minutes of school. You can't stand there for 20 minutes.
Go find something to do. Come on baby. Hang in there then you can go and do
whatever you want. Just hang in there with me. [II-ol012p5]
The student put his backpack down by Lucy's desk and sat with her and a group of
students who were looking and talking about pictures of past students (many are siblings
or cousins) displayed on her desk until class was dismissed 20 minutes later. Here Lucy
used her relationship with the student to diffuse a potentially explosive situation. Instead
of ordering the student to sit down, she invited him to come and talk to "momma," and
just like a family member Lucy showed understanding, support, and guidance to the
student. The student felt that Lucy was "on his side" and that she was there to support
him in finding a solution to his behavior issue (Strachota, 1996).
In schools today, students often feel disconnected from their teachers and in some
cases feel that teachers are not on their side and are against them (Glasser, 1990) Sharing
her life outside of school with her students was another way that Lucy fostered
relationships with her students.
I always tell them some story about my daughter, my mom, my brother something
that happened the day before or something we're reading about and I think ohhh. I
meant to tell you all and so I tell them stuff about like with me so I'm not just the
teacher the writing teacher. [II-i 026p8]
Lucy wanted her students to know that she was more than the writing teacher. She is a
person, just like they are, with family, friends, likes, and dislikes. One story that Lucy
told to help students understand this perspective was the story of her own experiences as
a child who knew what it was like to have the power turned off and be unable to do
homework. She explained that she knows the students and their lives and understands
certain circumstances that might pose a challenge to school success. She asked that
students come and talk to her and told them that together they would find a way to make
it work (do homework in class in the morning or after school). Again, Lucy aligned
herself as an insider who would not judge the student but would be there to help and
support the student in his/her quest for academic success.
Humor was often used (20 of 47 total of being human incidents) in Lucy's
classroom to create a relaxed and informal environment where students could feel
comfortable. Lucy set the stage for these interactions from the very first day when she
called students by nicknames and joked with them about relatives, clothes, and summer
school experiences. Students reacted with big smiles and lots of laughing. When Lucy
began the year with these kinds of interactions, one could see the students visibly relax
and felt the atmosphere in the class warm up. One morning, (after several days of
difficult placement tests) students were taking another placement test when one boy
looked up from his test and asked for a dictionary (half joking). Lucy walked over and
rubbed his head and face in an affectionate way.
I know you. I had you over the summer. I know your people. I know you are a
real bad boy (smiling and laughing). Do you think I'm going to give you a
The boy smiled up at Lucy and shook his head and then got back to the business of taking
his test. The atmosphere of the class before this encounter was stressed and tense with
students holding their heads and sucking their teeth over the test questions. Lucy's use of
humor and care to react to what was clearly a cry for help broke the tense atmosphere and
students got back to work feeling a little better.
At times, Lucy's teasing was directly focused on building relationships with
students. One morning, a student's father walked into class with a bag of donuts for him
(interrupting class). Lucy took the bag and thanked the parent then walked over to the
Ohh, thank you for bringing me breakfast! Ohh, donuts! [II-o820p3]
She put the bag on his desk and gave him a big hug. The student responded with a
radiant smile, and the rest of the class smiled and laughed as well. This particular student
was retained twice and has a reputation for disruptive behavior. The positive attention
and real affection that Lucy showed through her teasing helped to build a foundation for a
relationship with Calvin that was later used to promote desired behaviors in the
The relationships that Lucy built with humor and teasing were also used to address
minor misbehaviors in the classroom. As classes switched in the afternoon, a student
walked ploddingly to his desk and put his head down.
You slower than my grandma. I bet your grandma walks faster than you do. [II-
The student smiled at Lucy and sat up ready for class. Instead of criticizing or
demanding that students behave, Lucy teased and joked with them to get them back on
track with desired behaviors. Using this strategy allowed students to save face and at the
same time corrected behaviors that were not productive in the classroom. Lucy's humor
was never at the expense of her students' sense of pride or dignity. Rather the teasing
came from the perspective of a family member who knows inside information and could
see the humor in the situation. Even when students were being corrected or gently
reprimanded for minor misbehavior, she used a familial, friendly tone coupled with a
great deal of affectionate touching. Students were left in no doubt that Lucy understood
them and appreciated them for who they were even if they were not perfect. This
unconditional positive regard was a crucial component in the quality of her student-
Believe in Students
Lucy worked hard to create a community in the classroom where all students were
understood, accepted, and connected to the teacher and each other. Lucy believes in all of