The task of managing a classroom is very difficult and, without a way to organize the different decisions and elements, it can be overwhelming. This is especially true when things begin to spiral out of control. Attempting to process the events of a very difficult day or put things in place to avoid those days, requires a structure that allows you to categorize and prioritize. The Three Phases of Management, provided by Di Giulio in his excellent book, are just the ticket for breaking the unwieldy challenge down into bite-sized pieces.
Just like it sounds, the preventative phase is about avoiding management problems before they start. This happens before the learning occurs. So, it could be before the start of the school year as you design the classroom. It could be at the beginning of the school year as you work with the students to decide on class rules or procedures. However, this doesn’t mean that the preventative phase only happens before or at the beginning of the year. It could be the beginning of the day as you review the expectations for a special event about to occur. It is even part of individual lessons or activities. For example, if you set out the supplies in a way that prevents (there’s the key word) a bottle neck when students begin an activity, you were using preventative phase strategies to manage the classroom effectively.
Once the lesson is under way and the learning has begun, you are out of the preventative phase and into the supportive phase. This phase occurs during the learning. Here your management strategies are about helping students continue to make the prosocial choices needed for their own and their peers’ benefit. In the supportive phase you are present and available for students, you keep the learning engaging and challenging, you constantly employ informal assessments to check for student understanding, you use praise or encouragement to promote the prosocial behaviors happening. The supportive phase is the active one—you’re in the learning environment with your students, doing school!
The ultimate goal is to avoid this phase as much as possible. The better the job in the preventative and supportive phases, the less time spent in the corrective phase. One of the reasons teachers struggle with management and ultimately burn out is because they are doing little in the preventative and supportive phases and are instead trying to let the corrective phase do all the work. This reactionary mentality is frustrating for both students and teachers. This doesn’t mean that you won’t need the corrective phase. You are working with humans, so correction will be part of what you do. When it is needed, this phase happens during the learning and after the learning. Anytime you are correcting (there’s the key word) students, you are in the corrective phase. It might be as simple as giving a student, who has gotten off task, a signal to get back to work. It might be as involved as having a meeting with the student, school counselor, and the parents.