This is a sequel to "Failure," a posting I wrote-- I think-- about a month ago. (Just checked. Friday, February 6th is when I wrote it.) In it I told the story of my worst day of substitute teaching, ever, which ended up with me having a much clearer (and more effective) classroom management strategy. In that posting I did not answer the question which always comes up, which is: what is that strategy? so I am doing it now, finally.
Caveats: This works best for the short term, and was developed specifically for Junior High. I change what I do with different ages (I have taught people from preschool through retirement age), and it is a whole different ball game, with a LOT more relationship building, when you have a class of your own over a longer period of time.
I explain all of the stuff in the following two paragraphs at the beginning of the class, which may surprise some vetran teachers, but it works well for me. What I learned that day boils down to the fact that I have two different levels of discipline. I explain that for small stuff I am very lenient, because I really don't care about small stuff that much. Small includes lateness, talking quitely when you aren't supposed to, not raising your hand, passing notes, and asking questions in such a way as to show that you were completely not paying attention the first time I explained something. It isn't like I'm not count you late when you were or whatever, but I am not personally going to get bent out of shape over it, and the same goes for the other stuff. If you engage in these activities, I will ask politely for you to change what you are doing, and I will thank you once you have changed, but that's as far as it goes.
Big stuff I take very seriously, and you will go straight to the office if any of it occurs. Big stuff basically comes down to swearing or hurting other people, including with words. (As a substitute teacher, I rarely administered tests, but cheating is also on my "big stuff" list, and instead of going to the office they just get a zero on that particular test or assignment, with a warning that they will get a zero in the class if it happens again.) On big stuff, I will listen to arguments that you didn't do it, because I don't consider my perception to be infalliable, but if it is clear that you have actually done one of these things, no amount of crying, arguing, temper tantrum throwing, etc., is going to get you out of the previously announced consequence.
My other two secret weapons for short-term discipline are profusely thanking people who are for doing what I have asked, never mentioning that other people aren't on task (works for absolutely everyone); and physical proximity. Misbehavior goes waay down when the teacher is three feet away, although I myself have forgotten this fact more than once and had to relearn it.
Comments! Please! Also, thank you for liking the photos. Hopefully I can get more up soon.