Pamela Kramer Ertel joins Justin Baeder to discuss her book The ABC's of Classroom Management.
Interview Notes, Resources, & Links
About Pamela Kramer Ertel
Dr. Pamela Kramer Ertel is Dean of the College of Education at East Stroudsburg University and the author of The ABC's of Classroom Management: An A-Z Sampler for Designing Your Learning Community. She was a professor of early childhood education for 18 years and an elementary classroom teacher for nine years.
Subscribe to Principal Center Radio
Justin Baeder: Welcome to Principal Center Radio. I’m your host Justin Baeder and I’m thrilled to have as my guest on our show today, Dr. Pamela Kramer Ertel. She is Dean of the College of Education at East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania and the author of ABC’s of Classroom Management, an A to Z sampler for designing your learning community.
Radio Announcer: And now, our feature presentation.
Justin: Pam, thanks so much for joining me for Principal Center Radio. How are you today?
Pamela Kramer Ertel: I am very well. It’s my pleasure to be here with you.
Justin: I wonder if you could tell us a little bit about yourself and your career, and what brought you to the point of writing this particular book.
Pamela: Well, my passion has always been education. And I began my career as an elementary teacher. I taught elementary grades for about 9 years. And I had a passion to go into higher education, so I went on and got my master’s degree and my doctorate. And did a little bit of adjunct work and then moved into a higher ed position where I taught Early Childhood and Elementary Education courses for about 18 years as a professor. And then I moved in to the role of Dean of the College of Education.
So a large portion of my life has really been devoted to teacher education. That really has been my passion: to effectively prepare teachers that will have a significant impact on the students that they work with.
This book really came out of a labor of love. One of the courses that I used to teach dealt with principles and practices of teaching. All teachers, whether they’ve taught 30 years or 3 years, or their first year, struggle with classroom management. It’s one of the most difficult challenges that teachers face.
And so I worked together with a Kappa Delta Pi, the International Honor Society in Education. And we came up with this idea to have a very practical resource for teachers that would help them address classroom problems. And we did our first edition and that seemed to go over very well.
And within the last year, we…I co authored the book with Madeline Kovarik. And we came up with the second edition to try to make it a little more up to date, added some new resources. We really hope that it will be a very effective tool to help teachers manage their classrooms effectively.
Justin: Absolutely, Pam. And we know that classroom management is such a critical skill to develop in the early years of teaching. And rather than make this kind of a broad, philosophical framework, you’ve organized this book in an A to Z format. Could you talk about why you chose that A to Z format for this book?
Pamela: Yes. Interestingly, Kappa Delta Pi had come up with some other books. Using an ABC format, and they really felt that, particularly for beginning teachers, who don’t have a lot of time to do a lot of research that if they had a resource, where they could quickly turn to a book, let’s say they’re dealing with bullying, go to the B section, get some very quick, practical ideas for how to deal with problems that they’re facing at that minute. That, that would be a great tool.
We tried to brainstorm, what were the most common challenges that teachers would face in a classroom. And then came up with ideas, suggestions, and practical strategies for dealing with those issues. So with us, it’s organized in the ABC format with suggestions for how to deal with those kinds of problems as well as other resources that if they did want to go to more in depth in solving the problem, they would have a direction to go to explore those topics in more depth.
Justin: So Pam, as you worked with lots of teachers, lots of student teachers, to have them develop effectively classroom management skills, what are some of the biggest needs and the biggest misconceptions that you’ve seen?
Pamela: I think one of the biggest problems is that beginning teachers often think that their role is to get students to listen to them. And really, they’re missing the boat on that. Not that we don’t want students to listen to their teachers, but I think if you really are going to have effective classroom management, your goal really is to help students learn how to manage their own behavior.
And that’s the big difference. It’s not so much that you want them to do what you tell them to do. But your goal is try to get them to manage their own behavior. Now obviously, as growing children, they need guidance with that, at all ages, in an age appropriate way.
But philosophically, I think it’s very important for teachers to start out with, “All right. What can I do to help these children behave appropriately, so that we can have effective learning in our classroom?” And so that’s a very big starting point, to really frame it in that way. My goal is to help children learn how to manage their behavior so that they can focus on their learning, and the enjoyment of learning.
Justin: So Pam, your book, “The ABC’s of Classroom Management”, is set up as a reference that people can use to solve any problem that they’re noticing in terms of their classroom management. What are some of the more proactive strategies that you want people to be aware of, before they realize that they have a problem?
Pamela: I think one of the most important things is, at the very beginning of a school year, I think teachers need to sit down together with their students, no matter what the grade level, and develop together rules for the classroom. And with that, they develop what kind of an environment they want to have? What will the rules be? What will the consequences be? And you’ll be amazed that even very young children can be very serious and smart about what has to happen for learning to occur.
And so doing that in a very democratic way is a wonderful way to start a classroom management plan. And then those rules are posted, people are held accountable for following those rules and then you get buy in because everybody has contributed to developing this plan.
Justin: So Pam, for our audience of school administrators, what would you like to see school leaders doing to promote effective classroom management?
Pamela: I think one of the most important things school leaders can do is to help teachers know that they are behind them, that they will support them, and provide guidance as needed. I think the days are gone where the idea of a child misbehaving and you send them to the Principal, that really is not an effective way to manage classrooms. But I think on the teacher’s part, it’s very important that they communicate to their school leader what their classroom management plan is so that when problems do occur, the principal knows the philosophy and the guidelines that the teachers are going to follow, so that they can back them up if they’re challenged by a parent or if they run into some serious problems.
So that communication that the teacher has to take the initiative to communicate with the Principal, what the classroom management plan is for that grade level and then what the consequences are. And then as challenges occur, the teacher can feel free to go to the Principal and say, “You know what? This is what’s going on. Can you give me some help? Or can you backed me up on this?”
So I think if they work together, that’s really important. And sort of the third prong to that is the parents. Parents play a very important role in an effective classroom management system. So again, it’s important for the teacher to communicate that plan to the parents. So that if there are problems again, they can work together to solve the problem. And then everybody is on the same page.
Justin: So the book is the “ABC’s of Classroom Management”, An A to Z Sampler for Designing Your Learning Community. Pam, if people would like to find out more about the book or find additional resources, where can they go online?
Pamela: They can go to www.kdp.org. There’s information about all of KDP’s publications there. There also is an ABCs online resource. And there are entries for each of the topics that are in the book. There, those entries will link people to additional articles and resources that deal with those topics so that if someone wanted more in depth guidance, they could seek that out. That’s a great resource that goes along with the book that’s provided by Kappa Delta Pi.
Justin: Well, Pam, thank you so much for joining us to talk a little bit about the book and about what we can do as school leaders to support all of our teachers in developing the kind of learning communities that we want to see.
And thank you for sharing your expertise and your experience, both through that resource that you’ve created through the book and in our interview today. It’s been a pleasure speaking with you. And thank you so much.
Pamela: Thank you. It’s been a pleasure to talk about what I think is one of the most important topics of effective teaching. Thank you.
Radio Announcer: And now, Justin Baeder on high performance instructional leadership.
Justin: So high performance instructional leaders, what can you do to support teachers who are struggling with classroom management or other issues like assessment or lesson planning? As we saw in our interview today with Pam, having the right resources available, being able to look up a problem and quickly find a solution is extremely valuable. You probably have resources like that in your school already, and you also probably tend to rely on your personal expertise.
I would encourage you to take advantage of the resources that are available to you for looking up problems, for looking up solutions. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. And I think we especially tend to reinvent the wheel and come up with what we think are original solutions, when we do have a fairly high level of expertise.
So even if you are an expert classroom manager or even if you are an expert in lesson planning, if you’re working with a teacher, don’t be afraid to consult a resource that can give you some additional ideas and give you kind of some reminders of what you probably already know, but may have either forgotten over time or what may be such second nature to you that it’s a little bit hard for you to communicate that to someone who’s just starting out.
I truly think when we were working with teachers, it’s entirely possible to suffer from the curse of expertise. And the curse of expertise is simply that situation that we find ourselves in, where we know how to do things, but we don’t necessarily remember how we learned them. You might be great at planning a lesson, but you may not remember what it was like to be a new teacher or to really be struggling with planning a lesson. And identifying those specific steps for people to take can actually be a lot of work.
So if you’re working with someone on an improvement plan or just trying to help out a new teacher, don’t be afraid to look at a resource, like the “ABC’s of Classroom Management” or a similar book on whatever topic you’re helping a teacher with because that can save you a lot of time and make the action steps that you give the teacher a lot more clear and a lot more practical.
Radio Announcer: Thanks for listening to Principal Center Radio. For more great episodes, subscribe on our website at principalcenter.com/radio.