imageHow am I Supposed to Teach this Kid – Answered!

The Basics to a Peaceful Classroom

Teaching your students the oodles of academic material that you are charged with each year is a tall order. Add in daily misbehaviors such talking out, bullying, disrespect, and silliness and you are left with more time taken out of your day correcting, conferencing, calling parents, meeting with support staff, and so on. How in the world will teach these kids all they need to know?

The absolute best answer is through preventative behavior. We aren’t talking about your students’ behavior any longer, we are now talking about YOURS!
From the first second of your first day with your new class, you MUST start talking about, modeling, and practicing all aspects of appropriate behavior expectations for your classroom and school. A significant part of your first week needs to be spent doing this. Do it over and over again until the entire class of students do it and do it well.

Once behavior expectations and routines are firmly in place, the academics can begin. Don’t fool yourself though, your job isn’t done yet when it comes to their behavior. Be prepared to have class discussions and practice often. They are kids and what is something that kids do best? That’s right…they test the boundaries set for them. Provide them with consistency and support every step of the way. Uphold your classroom management plan and always follow-through on the established positive and negative consequences attached to behavior.

Some of you may be thinking that doing all of this is a lot work. Yes, you are right; however, it is far LESS work than what some of your colleagues will be faced with if they do not take this approach. Those who think starting right in with academics is the way to go, quickly find out that they are dealing with daily behavior issues, are becoming frustrated, and their class starts to lag behind the others who are able to spend the majority of their day learning and not addressing behavior problems.

More on rules (expectations) and consequences….

  • Don’t assume that students know the rules and how to follow the rules of school. Some reasons for this include various home backgrounds and expectations that each student has been exposed to, expectations vary from teacher to teacher each year, and/or perhaps a student may not have the school rules at the forefront of their mind due to external stressors.
  • When establishing your classroom expectations and consequences include the students. When they are able to give their input, the more likely they are to follow the rules. The same goes with the consequences, they will be more likely to look forward to the positive consequences and more accepting of the negative ones if they are allowed to have a say in creating them.
  • Ensure that negative consequence are not strictly punitive in nature unless absolutely necessary (if children’s behavior is dangerous). The more you can link inappropriate behavior with natural consequences or with pre-established consequences, the more likely the students will learn from their actions.

All the technical stuff…..

  • Your entire list of classroom expectations should contain no more than 4-5 items and should encompass the bulk of positive behaviors that you are looking for. State them positively and in terms that the children can understand (show respect to others). Give plenty of examples and role play how to successfully perform each rule.
  • In the Response to Intervention model, the tiered approach must be followed. All students fit into tier one of behavior modification which is your classroom plan. Approximately 80% of your students will buy into that plan on a consistent basis. For other others. Be prepared to increase the amount of behavior intervention provided to your whole class or implement individual behavior plans.

Troubleshooting….

You have done everything right, but still some students are regularly not following the classroom expectations and are making your life and the lives of your students difficult. This is expected now and again.  However, you find yourself saying, “Now what do I do?”….give these a try:

  • The best time to address behavior is when the inappropriate behaviors are NOT occurring. Yes, I said NOT occurring, let me explain. When acting out students are redirected, receive a consequence, or whatever else in attempt to try to get their undesirable behavior to stop; that student will likely become frustrated, embarrassed, or may even like the negative attention. At any rate, the behaviors don’t improve. If you take the time to praise and reward specific positive behaviors (no matter how small), all of those negative responses melt away and the student desires to increase the rate of positive behavior that they just received positive recognition for. The key is consistency.  You have to maintain this intervention by making a solid effort to recognize and praise them multiple times a day. Inconsistencies from you will lead to an increase in problem behaviors.
  • When intervening on a whole class level or on an individual basis with a student, it is important to remember that if the student(s) needs or wants to continue the undesirable behavior, it will be hard to prompt a change. Some examples may include the student receiving positive peer attention for being the class clown, feeling the need to maintain their reputation in front of others thus not obeying authority, or perhaps a mental health issue or a home issue is at play that is maintaining the behavior. In these cases, you will need to work with everyone involved with the student to put together the pieces of the puzzle in order to identify the driving force behind the behavior. This is commonly known as the function of the behavior or in other words, “What purpose is the behavior serving”? Once found, the best way to overcome the problem is to replace the behavior with a tool or strategy that still allows the student’s need(s) to be met.
  • Revise, revise, revise. Behavior techniques and plans need constant review and updates. If a child is still displaying undesirable behavior, that is your cue that something needs to be changed, put into place, and/or different interventions need to be tried. This can get complicated due to many children’s behavioral and emotional needs stemming from home. Having a positive working relationship with parents is critical.
  • Fair does not mean that everyone gets the same, it means that everyone gets what they need. Post this in your classroom. It is a good lesson for student and adults to live by.
  • Use the support of your class to promote positive behaviors. There is power in numbers and if you teach your class to ignore inappropriate behaviors, they are likely to stick together in doing so. This sends a message that not only will you not tolerate the behavior, but the peers in the classroom are not impressed either. On the flip side, and depending on the make-up of your classroom, you can use positive peer pressure to persuade your expectation offender(s) to get with the program. Don’t start an activity until everyone is ready, or place your student’s desks into groups of 4 and whatever group is ready first gets recognized. I guarantee that the encouraging voices of peers prompting others along will be heard. Students are more apt to listen to the influence of their peers than they are to you. Go figure, but whatever works right?!

Wrapping up….

Ultimately, we are striving to produce independent, educated, responsible, and respectful members of society. Encourage these traits by empowering your students to be in charge of themselves and of their destiny. Teach them about natural consequences and the benefits of social cues and of positive peer pressure. Along their journey always allow them to come to you for help and guidance. This is part of growing up and learning how to become the best they can be. As a matter of fact, even as adults we need help too. Be that person who changes lives for the better…the teacher who showed them how to reach their dreams.