Updated date:

How to Be a With-It Teacher and Developing Withitness


What is a With-It Teacher?

Does a with-it teacher listen to hip-hop and come to class with the cool rapper-endorsed headphones?


A with-it, frequently shortened to withit, teacher is a one who has developed the ability to effectively manage his or her classroom at all times. A withit teacher seems to have extra eyes and ears and can spot discipline problems before they form. A withit teacher can also keep his or her classroom on-task, even when interrupted by classroom visitors or messengers. A withit teacher has a well-managed classroom and a helpful learning environment.

Do you want to be a with-it teacher? Read on to discover withit qualities and how to develop them.

Overlapping Ability - a Withit Prerequisite

Before you can be withit, you must develop your overlapping ability, or ability to tend to more than one matter at a time. If you have overlapping ability, you use body language, your position in the classroom, facial expressions, and even hand gestures (classroom appropriate hand gestures, of course!). Examples of using overlapping ability include:

  • Making a gesture to acknowledge a messenger who just entered to the room while continuing instruction and walking to the door to see what the messenger needs.
  • Taking attendance visually while monitoring students performing a warm-up activity or "bell ringer."

Classroom management strategies differ. Techniques that work well, like giving out prizes, in elementary grades may insult secondary students! Always make sure to create age-appropriate policies.

Guidelines for Developing Withitness

Withitness was described by educational theorist Jacob Kounin. Developing withitness is an ongoing process. It takes practice to become truly withit and, without practice, your skills can slip. With practice and experience, anyone can become a withit teacher.

Constantly monitor the class for signs of off-task behaviors, restlessness, lack of understanding, boredom, etc.

  • Communicate to an off-task student that you are aware of his/her behavior. If it is minor and non-disruptive, you may not want to call attention to the student and stop the rest of the class from learning. Instead, give a look, nod, or some other signal that you are aware of the issue.
  • Student behavior and expressions can tell you a lot. If everyone looks totally lost, it may be time to stop and check for comprehension or ask for questions.

You must avoid spending too much time with any one student or group. It is convenient to always talk to the kids in the front row or cater your lesson to the group of students that seems to be paying attention, but this only increases classroom management problems.

  • Any more than 30 seconds may be "too long" to spend with any student/group.
  • By focusing on the "chosen few," you send the signal it's okay for the other students to ignore you and that you don't expect much from the rest of the class.

Avoid turning your back to the class, or a portion of the class, as much as possible.

  • This is particularly challenging if you need to write on the board. You must turn your back, but it is important to avoid standing with your back to the class for prolonged periods of time. Try to stand more to the side of the board, instead of directly in front of it, to keep an eye on at least part of the class. Or, you can write a line, turn around to face the class, and discuss what you just wrote before proceeding.

Keep the small things big.

  • By dealing with 'small' issues as they arise you can help ensure you do not have to deal with major discipline issues.
  • Consistency is key. Develop a classroom management plan with policies and procedures on how you deal with inappropriate behavior. Make sure the students know your policies and always enforce them every time.
  • Enforcing your behavior policies helps you take advantage of the ripple effect. When students see you effectively deal with a classmate's misbehavior, the other students become less likely to act up. The reverse is also true - students who see others get away with inappropriate behavior will test your limits, themselves.

If you see two or more misbehaviors occurring simultaneously, deal with the more serious misbehavior first, but make sure to give the other offender(s) a nonverbal gesture to communicate your awareness of the situation.

  • A nod or a frown may be sufficient to communicate your awareness of the less serious issue(s) while you deal with other behavior problems.

Keep your students alert.

  • Call on them randomly. Ask a question, pause for a second, and then call on a student. For example, ask "What event sparked the United States' entry into World War II?" Then pause and, finally, call on a student. Do not reverse this order! If you say "Kelly - what event sparked..." the other students didn't even hear the question. If they know they're off the hook, they are not paying attention.
  • Circulate through the room checking on individual and group assignments while students work.

Keep an eye on the whole class, even if you are talking to a specific student or group.

During direct, or teacher-led instruction, attempt to make eye contact with each member of the class about once a minute.

  • This one takes some practice! Try to be natural and don't follow the same pattern around the room each time.

Classroom Management - Withitness

Being Withit is Challenging

Being constantly engaging and proactive is tiring! There is no doubt about it - being a withit teacher is difficult. However, if you take the time to practice your withit abilities, you will be rewarded with a more manageable classroom and a better learning environment in which students can learn more effectively.

Are you already a withit teacher? Do you have any additional tips and hints to share on how to maintain your withitness? I'd love it if you have the time to share some of your techniques.


Natasha (author) from Hawaii on October 08, 2012:

Thank you! Yes, there are all types out there in the classroom, but like with any job, but hopefully there are more with-it teachers than not! Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment.

Denise Mai from Idaho on October 08, 2012:

Wow. You've just described the exact type of teacher I would want educating my kids. As a parent who has volunteered in many classrooms over the years, I have seen it all. From the best of the best to the most scattered people I've ever witnessed. Your article gives such wonderful tips for educators who wish to remind themselves how to do their best. Well done!

Natasha (author) from Hawaii on September 16, 2012:

Thank you! I'm glad you found it useful. Yes, it is totally a balancing act - a difficult nd tiring one, and times. It's especially hard to talk to a group when you're answering one person's question, but if one student asks a question and you ignore everyone else, the rest of the group is sure to stop paying attention!

Thanks again for stopping by, taking the time to comment, and sharing!

Sharilee Swaity from Canada on September 16, 2012:

This is excellent information! I had read about the "with-it" concept and you explained it very well. I have just recently stepped back into the classroom after some time off, and this is great training material for me.

I like what you say about not paying too much attention to any one group or student, at the detriment of the other students. Yes, it gives them the message that they can fool around. The other day, I had a parent come in a few minutes before the end of class, and wanted to show me pictures. I got drawn in, and then the rest of the class was waiting to be dismissed.

It really is a balancing act to keep "with it" but it is worth it. Voted up, more and shared! Very nice hub!

Natasha (author) from Hawaii on September 15, 2012:

Bored, ignored students are not very likely to be on task or well behaved!

Thanks for stopping by and voting.

Dianna Mendez on September 14, 2012:

Very well done and so informative. I am a big believer of keeping students engaged by constantly monitoring the whole class activity. Voted up.

Natasha (author) from Hawaii on September 14, 2012:

Isn't it fun? I love using a little group attention to make a kid suddenly wish they hadn't played the fool.

Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

Michelle Liew from Singapore on September 14, 2012:

Love this, as a fellow teacher. Make the kid a talking point.....it catches his attention and he'll be too stunned to do it again! Difficult to have eyes on the back of the head, but we do try. Thanks for sharing on with it ness!

Natasha (author) from Hawaii on September 13, 2012:

You can learn a lot about what's going on behind you by what you hear (or suddenly don't hear!).

I'm glad you liked it. I think using kids as an example in a lesson can be a fantastic way to get everyone's attention and, sometimes, make that kid not want to get called out again!

Thanks for taking the time to comment and sharing. I appreciate it.

Marissa from United States on September 13, 2012:

This is excellent advice, especially for young teachers who think being 'with-it' is becoming the students' friends. Being with-it is so much more, as you so accurately described it.

I really like that you mention that it's important to deal with the smaller issues as they happen so they don't turn into bigger issues. While those small issues shouldn't disrupt the whole of instruction, they shouldn't be ignored either.

This makes me miss teaching so much! My kids were always amazed that I knew exactly what was going on without even looking directly at them. I would use what was going on as an example in the lesson to get their attention back. ;)

Voted up and sharing!

Natasha (author) from Hawaii on September 13, 2012:

Ahahaha. At least by feeling like you weren't prepared to teach you were probably doing better than some other folks who didn't even realize they weren't cut out for the job!

jellygator from USA on September 12, 2012:

I don't think I was a "withit" teacher when I instructed college students. UGH! I admire teachers and the garbage they put up with, and promise that I will never, ever try to take a job away from them.

Natasha (author) from Hawaii on September 12, 2012:

Billybuc - thank you!

Gmarquardt - I am currently an educator (just not in a traditional classroom setting) and getting my masters in teaching. I couldn't agree more with your assessment! Unfortunately, teaching is sometimes not respected as a profession. People have this idea that any one can do it or that it's easy. Being a good teacher isn't just talking to people - it is demanding, as I'm sure you know. Even a few hours of difficult to manage kids can be exhausting. But I digress. I think a lot of compensation issues stem from a general lack of respect because too many people don't realize how difficult managing a classroom is and don't see the hours and hours of work after school and at home.

Dianetrotter - I'm glad you found it helpful! Thanks for stopping by.

G. Diane Nelson Trotter from Fontana on September 12, 2012:

Thank you for this hub. I was able to question myself as I read it.

gmarquardt from Hill Country, Texas on September 12, 2012:

Actor, sage, front-man, backup, supporter, counselor, parent, cop, stand up comedian, philosopher, guide... that's us. (Too bad we can't add decently-compensated to that list.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on September 12, 2012:

I agree with the actor analogy; in fact, I have believed that an effective teacher has to be part actor to be effective. Great hub again!

Natasha (author) from Hawaii on September 12, 2012:

Wow! That may be the fastest anyone has commented on one of my hubs!

I agree, it seems to come naturally for some, but others almost seem to try to prevent themselves from becoming effective! I think being a good teacher is basically the same as an actor having a stage presence. You might have it innately, you might be able to learn it, or you might never even try to develop it.

Thanks for stopping by.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on September 12, 2012:

All good suggestions! I found over the years that some teachers have it instinctively, while others never seem to learn these suggestions.

Related Articles