Many of us tend to equate classroom management with discipline (and for that matter, to equate discipline with punishment, but that's another story). I see classroom management as the processes and procedures that are in place to mitigate the need for punishment, leaving discipline to cleave to its roots of "to follow." Anything else is not classroom management. It’s damage control.
Classroom management starts, for me, with very clear expectations, and firmly established procedures. I begin the year (or semester) with a more formal, regulated tone, and have so far been able to end each year and semester with an atmosphere of relaxed mutual respect. I value students’ self-control over my being in control.
One of the goals of my room set-up is to minimize non-instructional interaction. This sounds a bit impersonal and harsh, but its intent is to keep students on task, give them consistency in behavioral expectations, and to minimize their attempts to derail my teaching. Everyone benefits.
There are clear procedures written on the whiteboard behind my desk for absentees, make up work, and getting extra help. There areFAQ signs about work being for a grade, the temperature, whatever all around the room. I try to maintain a predictable schedule so students know what's expected of them during each part of the 98 minutes we spend together each day -- and don't have to ask. The agenda and objectives are on the board behind my desk. (I balked at this requirement during summer school, but have found that it allows students to know what's expected of them. They do look at it, and are quick to ask questions about the items I post that are intentionally ambiguous.)
I have a peninsula table at the entry where students find the IN BOX, where all work is turned in (I never accept a piece of paper into my hand. It has to do with chain of possession and organization.); the DAILY NOTES binder containing each day's lesson and copies of notes; the ABSENTEE FILE, where copies of handouts -- with absent students’ names -- are filed each day along with any work that was handed back while they were gone.
I don't use the traditional 5x5 or 5x6 rows. I have sets of 3x3 or 3x2 blocks facing in perpendicular directions. It allows me to move more freely in the room and I'm never more than three seats away from a given student, and facilitates group work. It also eliminates any sense of a clear back or front of the room.
Students are given assigned seats; I call them Mr. and Miss by their last names. The last names began as a way to make it easier to remember names (oh, those Delta names!), find them on the roster and grade book, and file papers. It turns out, though, that it helps establish the boundaries between teacher and student; classroom and non-instructional time. When I see students outside the classroom in the hall, at games, or in town, calling them by their first names switches us instantly into a different...