Sunday, January 16, 2011

Three Classroom Problems...Three Solutions

One thing is certain: to be a good teacher, you have to be able to solve porblems quickly and with confidence. While most of us are very good at solving serious problems such as covering  massive amounts of curriculum and convincing a roomful of students that we really do have their best interests at heart, sometimes it's the small problems that can be energy zappers. Perhaps the suggestions offered here can help!

Problem 1: Heavy Backpacks Blocking the Aisles

Your school does not have a policy concerning student backpacks. Your students carry around all of their school belongings in backpacks that sometimes seem to weigh more than they do, and their backpacks block the aisles in your class.


This is a problem with two parts that you must handle separately. First, deal with the weight of the backpacks. Then, tackle the issue of the obstructions and disruptions in your class.

Backpack Weight

• This situation certainly requires collaboration with other teachers. When you speak with colleagues, suggest that you stagger homework deadlines so that students can leave some of their belongings in their locker, in the classroom, or at home.

• Talk to your students to let them know how concerned you are about their health and their stress level. Ask for their suggestions on how to solve the problem.

• Consider involving parents in finding solutions.

• Find out why students feel the need to carry so much. Do they need more time to go to their locker? Do they need advice on how to manage their materials?

Obstructions and Disruptions in Your Class

• When students have backpacks in class, expect them to place their backpack under their desk or as close to them as possible in order to leave a safe aisle.

• Take a team approach to keeping backpacks stowed safely. If they are involved in creating the solution, students will be able to police themselves and each other. Working together on the problem will increase the chances of successful resolution.

• See if you can provide a safe place for students to keep their backpacks other than near their desks.

• Teach students that it is disruptive to constantly search for materials in their backpack during class. Encourage them to keep their belongings as organized as possible in order to reduce search time.

Problem 2: Lost Papers

Problem: You hand back a set of homework papers and notice that some of your students do not have their papers. You tell them that you never received their work. They, in turn, assure you that they did the work, turned it in on time, and you must have lost it.


• Be very organized about how you manage student papers. By appearing very organized, you will prevent many false accusations because students will not think that they can take advantage of your disorganization.

• Grade papers and hand them back as quickly as you can. The longer you delay in returning papers, the harder it is to keep track of them.

• If you use an in-basket for students to hand in their work as they finish it, be sure to move their papers to a labeled folder before the next class can add theirs to the stack.

• If you are unable to check a set of papers within a day or two, at least check to make sure all students have turned in work. This will preclude any surprises for students who are expecting to receive graded papers.

• Do not be absolute in denying your guilt. Instead, try to solve the problem by first asking students with missing papers to check their own notebooks or lockers to see if they could have taken them from the room accidentally. If the papers do not turn up, then offer the students more time to redo the work and turn it in.

Problem 3: Students Without Supplies or Materials

Problem: Some of your students have problems keeping up with their materials. They come to class without pencils, pens, papers, or books. You find yourself growing increasingly frustrated as you wait for students to borrow the necessary tools to do their work, wasting valuable instructional time.

Off-task behavior and discipline problems are just two of the things that can go wrong when students come to class unprepared. Keeping extra supplies on hand will help you avoid many problems. You should implement a system that works for you and your students—one where students can settle quickly to work without fuss. You can do this without having to spend a fortune of your own.

Try to have extra textbooks on hand to lend to students if they forget theirs. When you lend a book to a student, make sure the student writes his or her name on the board or another safe place so you have a record of where the books are. You could also assign a responsible student to be in charge of issuing and collecting borrowed texts. Other teachers have found that expecting students to provide collateral is also effective.

If missing pens or pencils are a problem, set up a system where students can borrow from a shared bank of supplies. Here’s how:

Step 1: Select one or two students to be in charge of the supplies bank.

Step 2: Ask every student to donate a new pen or pencil.

Step 3: Mark the pens and pencils with a number.

Step 4: When students need to borrow a pen or pencil, the students who are

in charge of the bank can record the number and the name of the student who borrowed it.

Step 5: The students who distribute the supplies are also the ones who should remind the borrowers to return them at the end of class.

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