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How The Three Rs of Classroom Management Can Help Struggling New Teachers

A group of multicultural students at a desk with their teacher behind, looking on happily

From Lesson Plans to Classroom Control: A New Teacher's Reality

As a new teacher, the initial excitement of lesson planning and sharing knowledge can quickly be overshadowed by the harsh reality of classroom management. Disruptive students can derail meticulously crafted lessons, leading to a feeling of helplessness and frustration. 

A Rutgers University survey highlights this concern, with nearly a quarter (24%) of new teachers leaving the profession due to behavior management. This statistic underscores the urgency of addressing this challenge and equipping new teachers with the necessary skills.

A Growing Problem: Disruptive Behavior in Classrooms

Disruptive behavior in classrooms is not isolated. The National Center for Educational Support (NCES) reports a significant increase in the frequency and severity of behavioral problems. 

Problem behaviors include bullying, tantrums, defiant behavior, eloping, self-injury, aggression, unresponsiveness, emotional outbursts, and non-compliance. A major contributing factor is the negative impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on student’s emotional development with 87% of schools reporting increased incidents of misconduct, rowdiness, disrespect toward staff and peers, and prohibited use of electronic devices.

Why Are New Teachers Struggling?

New teachers, often those with provisional licenses, frequently lack sufficient training in behavior management. This throws them into classrooms unprepared, leading to a stressful and overwhelming experience. The result? Teacher burnout and a revolving door of educators leaving the profession. This ultimately hurts students, creating an unstable learning environment that hinders their academic progress and safety.

Many new teachers enter classrooms without adequate training in behavior management. Traditional teacher preparation programs often prioritize content knowledge and pedagogy over practical classroom management techniques. In addition to the lack of appropriate training in behavior management, teachers frequently suffer from extreme stress and burnout. This adds to teacher shortages and has a negative impact on students. The level of burnout is directly related to classroom management skills of the teacher and can have profound consequences such as emotional exhaustion, difficulties with emotional regulation, depersonalization, negative perceptions of students, and poor job satisfaction.

In his excellent book, The Bully Proof Classroom, author and educator James H Burns outlines 10 reasons why educators need professional development in the areas of behavior management and anti-bullying. He explains in detail how the landscape of the student’s behavior in the classroom has deteriorated in the past 40 years and how classrooms are now bombarded with increasingly disruptive and/or disrespectful students that the teacher is tasked to deal with. He states that 80:20% is the number of students who behave vs those who require most of the teacher’s time and attention.

James H. Burns and the 3 Rs of Classroom Management

Education expert James H. Burns argues that effective classroom management goes beyond traditional methods. He emphasizes the importance of building respect and responsibility in students, alongside the traditional 3 R's of reading, writing, and arithmetic.

Burns highlights that strong teacher-student and parent-child relationships are the key to fostering a positive and safe learning environment where much learning will take place and where all students will become capable, connected, and contributing members of their classrooms, school, or family.

“The behavior in our schools has deteriorated to the point that we don’t worry about school violence, we worry more about school shootings. We are forced to get everyone to the finish line without mastery of basic content… Schools would find different environments for the kids with severe behavior problems (then about 10%) and send them down the path of the army, get a GED, or a trade school. Today there are so many kids with chronic behavior problems that are both conduct and clinical and you can’t throw out the entire twenty to thirty percent of the school population. These kids are now here to stay, and they are going to make it tough for kids who want to learn to learn. So, if we want to teach the other seventy-five to eighty percent, we better figure out how to manage behavior problems.”

High-quality professional development programs can be a game-changer for new teachers. These programs should equip teachers with a toolbox of behavior management strategies, including positive reinforcement, proactive classroom management and de-escalation techniques. In what is now quite an influential study, Knoff. et. al proposed a behavior management rewards program that is now implemented across several schools in the U.S. It proposes both positive rewards for good behaviors and a point system to better manage challenging behaviors in the classroom.

Supporting New Teachers: Beyond Behavior Management

In addition to building classroom management skills, it is important to help educators learn to handle their own stress and improve their mental well-being. Teaching them skills in emotional wellness and mental health, in conjunction with improving behavior management skills, can improve job satisfaction and create a safer and more positive classroom environment.

New teachers are the lifeblood of our education system. By providing them with adequate training, professional development opportunities, and mental health support, we can empower them to create positive learning environments where all students can thrive. This requires a collaborative effort from school administrators, teacher preparation programs, and mental health professionals. Investing in the success of new teachers is an investment in the future of education.


Marble table with a laptop on it, as well as a clipboard with Sylvia Jankowski's head shot



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Sylvia Jankowski

Sylvia JankowskiSylvia Jankowski teaches Middle School Spanish in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. A Psychology major in college and fluent Spanish speaker, Sylvia used her undergraduate preparation to pursue a career in teaching through the Rutgers Alternate Route. The University of Sydney graduate is driven by a passion for sharing her love for language learning, connecting with students, and imparting life-enhancing lessons.