I am not the queen of classroom management, but I have really improved over
the years so your situation touches my heart!
Remember that you are in charge, and the children must behave in a way that
is acceptable for school and society. It is not important that they like
you. It is important that they comply in your class so that they can meet
expecations. You need to have order in the class before you can start
making a difference. Most will end up respecting your management of the
classroom and the liking you will come later. Some of my favorite art
teachers I thought I would abhor at first because they came off so hardcore
at first. Now I am one of those. Very serious at first and to the point!
I second other posters on seating charts. This is the first year I've had a
classroom (I've been on a cart for last few years), but I plan to enact a
seating chart by the second day of class as well. Make changes as you need
to make them. When the whole class is being rowdy, stop what you are doing.
If you have stopped for a long period of time, grab a chair and have a seat.
Just look at the class. They will get the point that you will not continue
instruction until you have order, especially when there is not enough time
in the period to finish a project due to the disruption.
Be very clear on your expectations regarding conduct and work quality. Go
over procedures, rules, and consequences every day during the first few
weeks of class. When rules are broken or kids aren't meeting your
expectations, follow through. Have a clear cut list of consequences ("First
Offense: Warning, Second Offense: Moved from seat, Third Offense: Phone call
home." for example). I've had great success with calling home. Start with
a compliment to the child ("I'm glad to have your son/daughter in my class
this year."). Explain to the parent that you've explained rules to the kids
several times and describe their child's behavior. Give parents credit,
even if you don't yet know if they deserve it ("I know that you want him/her
to do their best in school."). Ask that they discuss the incident with
their child. That usually works, and if you need to call home again (or
request a conference) you already have a connection with mom and dad.
In some cases, kids are going through a hard time and are being looked at by
Child Study teams. Keep in contact with the classroom teacher, homeroom
teacher or guidance counselor so that you can identify these kids. Document
class and individual behavior. You may be able to use your documentation in
the future to help in securing services that will help the child's school
performance and general well being.
Remember: Its your classroom, students are there for art instruction, and
therefore, will behave in a manner that respects learning. You are a
professional and you know what's up!
Good Luck! Let us know how it goes.