Classroom Management and CPS 101

Date of Event: September 18, 2013.   Location: Gilda’s Club


Essential Highlights

  • Vital information about the ins and outs of Chicago Public Schools by former CPS employee, AmySue Mertens
  • Fun and engaging dramatizations of the perils of working in Chicago Public Schools by actors from Imagination Theater
  • Helpful hints for avoiding and managing negative behaviors in the classroom from two current classroom teachers


  • AmySue Mertens, Ingenuity Incorporated
  • Actors from Imagination Theater
  • Liz Fornek and Trish Weathers-Weidig, classroom teachers

Summary of Events:

As this training was designed for new facilitators in our community partner network, we kicked off the morning with a basic overview of CPS. We have found, over the years, that community partners who understand the needs and concerns of the schools they work in are more successful in connecting with schools and making an impact on students. AmySue Mertens, a former CPS central office employee, gave us a comprehensive summary of the entire school district, its student body, concerns of the current CPS administration, and system-wide initiatives.

What’s the number one most common concern for both classroom teachers and community partner facilitators? Yup, you got it. Classroom management. The content of a presentation is often the easiest component of a classroom presenation, but learning to manage and engage students effectively can take years of practice. Seasoned classroom teachers Liz Fornek and Trish Weathers-Weidig have had decades of experience engaging students and dealing the with the common behavior challenges that all teachers face. Liz and Trish walked us through the vital preemptive steps for avoidable problems in the classroom. As an illustration of the need to be overly prepared to enter a classroom, the talented actors from Imagination Theater re-created a skit of an under-prepared and flustered presenter entering a school. Running late with no parking directions, no ID, no prior communication with the school, and an incomplete lesson, the presenter floundered in front of her “students” in a hilarious, but truthful recreation of a common scenario.

Liz and Trish then took us through preventative measures that all teachers should take:

  • Preparing an agenda for the class that includes clear objectives;
  • Entering the classroom with confidence (aka “biting the bit”);
  • Communicating needs to the classroom teacher;
  • Avoiding lectures by using “chunks” of teaching time peppered with engaging student activities and “hooks”;
  • Utilizing various levels of intervention strategies when and if things go wrong

By the end of the presentation, participants were ready to try out some strategies on their own. Several volunteers were given a scenario and a classroom of “students” (Imagination Theater actors). All three of the volunteers were able to demonstrate some of the skills learned to successfully address the student behavior, and they gave us all a chance to analyze how to improve our management skills.

Materials from training:

AmySue’s CPS 101 presentation can be viewed here: CISC – presentation 9-13

Liz and Trish’s Prezi can be viewed here.

Liz and Trish’s materials for engaging “hooks” can be viewed here: Students hooks for classroom management training.


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