A Comprehensive Guide to Classroom Management
Louise Porter
Allen and Unwin
ISBN 9781743311745

Like many of my colleagues, I became a teacher because I wanted to help children reach their potential. I assumed that a love of my subject areas and a commitment to student welfare would make teaching a dream career. Once I got into the classroom I realised that no matter how much I loved the content of what I was teaching, a lot of time was going to be spent on actually managing the class. Just because I wanted to be there didn’t mean my students did. At times it seemed disheartening, and I even gave up teaching for a while when I felt like I was spending more time getting annoyed at my classes and less time actually teaching. I needed help before we all went mad and this is where Louise Porter comes in.

Dr Porter is a highly qualified (PhD, MA(Hons), MGiftedEd, DipEd, BA, BIntStuds) Child psychologist with a clear interest in helping children succeed. On the face of it, her book A comprehensive guide to classroom management should help teachers ensure the same goal. At over 400 pages, along with a further 100 pages of tables, references and footnotes it certainly lives up to the title ‘comprehensive’. But how approachable is it?

Honestly, at first, not so much. The first chapter of the book features 30 pages of explanations for children’s behaviour difficulties and I felt that it was saying most of the issues lie with the parents or guardians. While on the one hand that might seem like a boon for teachers so we can say ‘it’s not our fault’, on the other hand it is very saddening, and I found myself wondering what the point of it all was, if I wasn’t going to be able to influence my students’ lives in the three hours I spent with them a week as a high school teacher. How could I change what happened in their home lives? Was there even any point in trying?
However Porter’s book does go on to actually provide some information and techniques that can help. She discusses in detail two main theories that can be used in the classroom, the Controlling Approach and the Guidance Approach. The Controlling Approach looks at modifying the behaviour of students with the intent of changing their future behaviour, and the Guidance Approach focuses on the needs of the students in the present. Porter’s experience is obvious and her advice appears sound. Unfortunately this is not the easiest of books to read. Yes the information is interesting and informative but the style is more akin to a university handbook than something a busy classroom teacher would necessarily have time to look at.

I have no doubt it could be beneficial, but I fear that many teachers would not have the time to really devote to studying the book, which is a shame, because anything that can help us help our students to learn and face the world is going to be worthwhile.