Amanda Koonlaba | November 2017

Classroom Management and Relationships Go Hand-In-Hand

Let’s face it.  Maker classrooms and arts-integrated classrooms bustle. The environment is lively, as it should be. This can be challenging for teachers. For instance, a teacher looking to start integrating some art into instruction might feel such an environment is out of control or might have a difficult time letting students talk, move around, or make a mess!

I know. I’ve been there. When I first started teaching, I thought I had to be in control of every little thing the students did. I remembered sitting in rows of desks as a student and I remembered thinking that was how school was supposed to be. So I really had to change how I thought about learning and instruction.

This is important. As I share some classroom management strategies here, I want you to understand that I have experienced what a lot of other teachers are experiencing. It is hard, but you must persist. I can say this because I have been there.

Relationships Matter

One of the most important things that you can do to establish good classroom management is to build relationships with your students. I remember a teacher saying this was a bad idea when I was a student teacher. She said, “If you get too close to them, they will run all over you.”

No. Just no. Students need to know you care about them. School might be the only place where they have that. You might be the only adult who provides care to them. So this must be done.

In my classroom, we have a motto. We say it at the beginning of each class. This motto was written by me, and my students know it comes from the bottom of my heart. It is all warm and fuzzy, I know, however, it gives us something positive on which to focus, sets the tone for the class, and helps me build relationships with them.

The more we say it, the more I believe they internalize it. They know I think highly of them, and they behave accordingly for the most part. I’m not saying this is a fix-all. Saying a motto won’t magically rid every classroom of problems… but it will help you build positive relationships with students, help them feel safe and loved in your classroom, and establish you as a caring adult.

Our motto is:

In this class we share, we love, we laugh, and we grow.
We are all in this together.
We are all good.
We can all be successful.

In this video, I share how we say our motto and talk a little more about how it helps me build relationships with my students.

Putting the Rest of the Classroom Management Puzzle Together

Now, a class motto is but one small way to build relationships, which can help with classroom management. However, it is also very important to think about the way the classroom operates.

Classroom management is nothing without good relationships. If you have a well-managed classroom, but your students don’t know you care; they won’t be as successful. Conversely, if you have good relationships with students, but chaos abounds; they won’t be successful either.

Make sure you think about things like how the students enter and exit the room. Think about the best way for them to use the restroom and water fountain. Maybe there is a better way for them to clean up their trash after they create.

Some other pieces to the classroom management puzzle include:

  • Managing arts supplies
  • Furniture arrangements
  • Transitional times and spaces
  • Whole groups
  • Small groups
  • Individual work spaces
  • Sharpening pencils

There are too many considerations for me to be comprehensive here. That is why I created a course called Managing an Arts-Integrated Classroom for EducationCloset. I know it is challenging, but management skills can be learned. There’s research to prove it!

The course takes you through four modules with three lessons in each module. The topics covered range from managing time to building relationships. If you are interested in learning more about this subject than I can cram into this one article, please check out the link.

Relationships and Classroom Management Go Together Like Peanut Butter and Jelly

The motto is but one way you can bring positivity to your classroom and begin to build relationships with your students. I highly suggest implementing something like this as soon as possible. Also, make sure you are giving consideration to the other pieces to the puzzle. Classroom management and relationships go hand-in-hand.

About the Author

Amanda Koonlaba, Ed. S. is an educator and educational consultant with over 12 years of experience teaching both visual art and regular education. Her career has been driven by the power of the arts to reach all learners. She is a published author and frequent speaker/presenter at education conferences. Amanda was named the Elementary Art Teacher of the Year for the state of Mississippi in 2016 and received the Arts Integration Service Award from the Mississippi Whole Schools Initiative (Mississippi Arts Commission) in 2015. She holds an Elementary and Middle Childhood Art certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. As a coach for The Institute for Arts Integration and STEAM, Amanda is on a mission to ensure every student in America has access to a high-quality arts-based education. She blogs at