The structure and worldview of the classroom always takes time to establish, but when there is an environment that is constantly in flux, we cannot forget that there are multiple classroom cultures and also individual student cultures to consider and, therefore, multiple pools of meaning coming into contact. These pools may be at odds with one another.
We need to have a shared pool of meaning that allows people to rise above the fray and work together as a team in “rough” schools. Students and staff need a shared vision to bring out their best selves in the service of learning. What often happens, however, is the combining of classes multiple times a year to accommodate the unique demands school districts. I recently had the privilege of consulting for just such a classroom, and the behaviors of the students were much improved once we established routines that specifically enhanced the rapport between teacher and students and also horizontally among students more broadly.
The more you can create that shared pool of meaning in the classroom through a class charter and team building exercises, routines and protocols, the sooner the students will know what to expect. Behavior issues will be minimized because there will be less anxiety and uncertainty. It will be hard, but it will pay off ten fold. Then you’ll be home free – until the next students come a few weeks later to throw a wrench in it. But that’s why those structures exist: they will set the tone in a classroom that is continually in flux. And student ownership of classroom roles will make it so students teach other, newer students, how to fit in. The more things are in flux, the more pronounced those roles need to be.