The Importance of Strong Directions

by Jo Lein, Executive Director of Teaching and Leading Initiative of Oklahoma

In my first year of teaching, I would consider myself a bit all over the place when it came to classroom management. One day I was on top of everything and the next I wanted to throw in the towel. My principal told me that I needed to work on my classroom management.

“Duh!” I thought.

She told me to visit another teacher’s classroom down the hall – Ms. Tome. I walked into her classroom and it was like magic. Students were meeting every one of her expectations. I left thinking, “Well, this is it for me. I will never be this teacher. It’s all over for me.” I felt like I just didn’t have ‘it’ but it turns out ‘it’ is a learnable skill. 

Ah, yes, not magic at all, but a learnable skill. I can handle that. 

Ms. Tome was ‘it’ because of her subtle moves when she gave directions… among other things. Here’s a quick run-down of her technique:

  • She got all of the students’ attention before giving the directions.
  • She squared up to the class.
  • She used a formal register.
  • She was clear and concise and she didn’t help a student until she observed the majority of the class doing what she asked.


Also, Ms. Tome’s directions included…

Classroom Management Workshop.

Join us to learn effective strategies for managing your classroom while being relevant, having rigor, and building meaningful relationships. Learn from veteran teachers, instructional coaches, and professional development leaders that know what it’s like to teach in today’s classroom. Dig deeper during our interactive breakout sessions specifically for SPED, Elementary, Middle, and High School teachers.

…what students should be doing with their bodies, their mouths, and their brains. According to Teach Like a Champion, there are three reasons why a student may demonstrate “situationally inappropriate behavior” or misbehavior:

  1. Incompetence. (I don’t like this word) This can be defined by students simply not understanding a direction.
  2. Opportunism. This is where students take advantage of gray areas (i.e. silent vs. quiet).  
  3. Defiance. This is the act of a student saying “you cannot control me.” Keep in mind, only 10% of students are considered defiant. 

In other words, you can use magic like Ms. Tome and address 90% of your students by giving strong directions.

Oh, that’s right, it’s not magic at all!

For more information about effective classroom management strategies for new teachers, please visit our Classroom Management Workshop page. We’d love to have you attend our one-day workshop! 

Jo Lein

Executive Director, Teaching & Leading Initiative of Oklahoma

Dr. Jo Lein is the founder of the Teaching and Leading Initiative of Oklahoma, a nonprofit organization that brings instructional coaching to under-resourced districts and trains existing leaders in areas of instructional leadership. She is also currently an adjunct professor at York College (Nebraska) and Johns Hopkins University and a commissioner at Oklahoma’s Office of Educational Quality and Accountability.

Would you like Jo to come to your school as a Professional Development Speaker? Reach out today!

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