Classroom management is a major part of any classroom. Yet, my teacher-prep required classroom management class didn’t teach me much about managing the CTE classroom/shop/or lab.

I started teaching high school at 23. That put me only 5-7 years older than my mostly male students. I’m also 5’6”. Several times during my first year of teaching I would get stopped by a hall monitor or another teacher thinking I was a student.

During my third year of teaching, I (along with Jared, my welding teaching husband), was asked to speak to students in our undergrad program. At the time I had a former female student (from my first year teaching) ask advice on how to manage a class of senior boys.

I didn’t have all the answers then as I myself was still figuring them out, but today I want to share with you what has worked. How to get control of your secondary classroom–even if you are teaching in a shop or a lab. 

We’re going to go over how you can use your posture, your omnipresent mic, and attention getters to quickly gain control of your class.

Using “Square Up, Stand Still” to Regain Control of Your Classroom

The first classroom management strategy has to do with your body language and location in the classroom. 

Before I go into the specifics of this strategy, I’m going to warn you that you are most likely going to need to practice this one at home so that you can know how it “feels.”

While I was in high school and college I taught figure skating. My students were mostly young kids, but I also taught adults.

I learned quickly that there was a major difference in teaching kids and adults.

I could show a skill to a child and they would just try it. For the adults, they wanted a little more explanation. They wanted to know how it “felt” to do the skill. 

Since you cannot actually see me demonstrate this when using this strategy you are going to feel like you are a couple of feet taller than you are. 

Practice by taking a deep breath, elongating your body, and rolling your shoulders back. You can also stretch your arms above your head to get into this position. Paul Bambrick-Santoyo calls this “Square Up, Stand Still” in his book “Get Better Faster.”

By deliberately thinking about your posture, your body language will instantly give you authority. But, your posture is only part of this strategy. The next piece is location.

Decide on a place in your room that you would like to establish as the location from which you give instruction. 

By giving instruction or calling attention from the same place every time, you will be alerting students. They may even start to quiet down as they see you approaching this location. 

They will also know where to focus or look whenever they hear you begin to speak. This leads us to the next strategy.

Why Your Mic is Your #1 Classroom Management Tool

Use your dang mic! 

You may have a great “teacher voice.” Did you realize that when you use your teaching voice, students hear you yelling? And they can interpret this as anger. 

We’re here to teach students and build relationships. That doesn’t happen when they think you don’t like them and that you’re always yelling.

Not only does the omnipresent mic save your voice, but I have startled some students. You always sound like you’re right next to them.

One of my previous principals had done some research. He claimed that using the omnipresent mic was the single-best classroom management tool. 

So, even if you feel awkward, or you’re worried about leaving it on while you’re in the restroom, make sure that you are wearing it when giving instruction.

Attention-Getters for the CTE Environment

The previous classroom management tips are good and well when you’re in a typical classroom. So what do you do when students are working on projects? What if they are in a lab setting or shop?

Attention-getters such as verbal cues, sounds, or songs are key in these situations. 

Elementary teachers are masters at using verbal cues. Not only that, but they have trained your secondary students. You do not need to reinvent the wheel here. 

Try saying, “One, two, three, eyes on me.” You will most likely get some students to respond automatically with, “One, two, eyes on you.”

Do a quick Google search and you’ll find all sorts of ideas from raising your hand, using a bell, to parts of a song like you saying: “Alright stop” with the response of “collaborate and listen.”

My genius 1st-grade teacher trained us like Pavlov’s dog. She had a bell. One ding and we’d all stand. Two, we’d all sit. Three, we’d place our heads on our desk.

While the bell probably won’t work the same way as it did in elementary, you can use sounds or even songs to get attention.

This works well with transitions like bell work or cleaning up. 

Jared gets excited every year to choose his clean-up song. He usually chooses a song that is meant for toddlers. The music is so different from the classic rock or punk music he plays in class, that students recognize and start taking action.

The great thing about these transition songs is that they can be programmed to play automatically by setting an alarm on your computer. You can use Windows Task Scheduler to do this on a PC. 

We’ve only used it on a PC since that’s what our school has for teacher computers, but you can probably find an alarm for Mac that will play a song.

As a recap, we talked today about the following ways to regain your class: posture and position, using your mic, and attention-getters. Use these simple classroom management strategies that will demonstrate your authority in your classroom while maintaining positive relationships with students.

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