10 Tips to Maintain Positive Student Behavior
A MiddleWeb Blog
The honeymoon is over. Or, at least, if you’re like many teachers, it feels that way. Depending on where you live, you’re 6-8 weeks into the school year. You’re probably tired and the students in your care are probably beginning to make more poor choices than they did in those first blissful few weeks you were together.
Don’t worry, it’s normal. In fact, it’s so normal that one of my favorite teacher bloggers, Love,Teach, has coined the acronym, DEVOLSON (The Dark, Evil Vortex of Late September, October and November) to describe how hard this season of the year can be.
One way to fight the pain of DEVOLSON is to refresh your systems for maintaining positive behavior in your classroom so that the hum of learning continues to sound sweet.
Ten Tips, Hints, and Reminders
1. When students misbehave, they are communicating with us. This is especially true for our “frequent fliers” – those kiddos who seem to test us all a great deal of the time. Try to listen. Get to the bottom of the need they are trying to meet. Is the student seeking attention? A sense of control? A release from fear of failure? Once you identify the need, you can work to proactively ward off poor behavior.
For more on identifying the need behind the behavior, order a copy of Cooperative Discipline by LInda Albert or read the series of short articles from Michigan State University. For strategies to be proactive in helping your students behave well, check out the PBIS World interactive page to find targeted strategies to promote good behavior (just click on your current issue!).
2. Misbehavior is an opportunity to teach. That’s a good thing! That’s what we do! The kids in our classes are going to run the world when we’re old. We need to help them learn strong character traits such as respect, cooperation, assertion, empathy, and self-control. It may be hard but it will pay off for all of us in the long run. Nina Parish says it well in her Edutopia blog post,
“I found that thinking about behavior objectively, as a skill to be taught rather than simply as good or bad, was immensely helpful… Some children enter school without the self-regulation skills necessary for school success. We must meet these children where they are and teach them the skills they need to be successful in the classroom.”
3. There is no point in thinking, “She should know better!” or saying, “I already taught that!” Kids do not yet have a fully developed prefrontal cortex; even if they wanted to always make good choices, it likely wouldn’t be possible. We must model, reteach, and hold students accountable to the rules and values of the classroom.
This means developing consistent routines and procedures, modeling them, reteaching them often, and problem-solving with your class as a whole or individual students when needed. Angela Watson offers sage advice here, and seventh grade social studies teacher Stacey Belisle shares her method for collaborating to create and maintain rules and expectations here.
4. There is no shame in needing help. If you feel like you can’t get through to your entire class or to a particular kid or two, reach out and ask for help. There is someone in your school who is good at and loves to work on ameliorating negative behaviors in students.
Watch an expert classroom manager in action, reach out to your principal, or get in touch with your school’s behavior management/school improvement team, or your PLC. There is not going to be a panacea for every misbehavior, but you are more likely to find answers through collaboration than completely on your own.
5. Always remember that you deserve to be respected. Not only because you are a teacher but because you are a person. Enough said. If students are not showing you respect, demand it. The Power of Positivity blog can help you change the way you think and act so that you command respect.
Set 1: What are you doing? What SHOULD you be doing? Will you please do that right now?
Set 2: Why do you think that is okay? Where did you learn to behave like that? Who in your life believes acting like that is okay? Can you stop behaving like that now, please?
7. The bottom line in classroom management and effective discipline is relationships! When we know our students as people and they know us, they are less likely to misbehave. Greet students in the halls and outside of your classroom. Get out in the community. Call, text, or email your students’ families with good news or to share something interesting or funny they said. Reaching out to families for positive communication shows you truly care. Read about the power of a positive phone call.
8. Stay firm. Do not give “chances.” Students must know we care about them enough to believe in them. As I always tell kids, “If I didn’t love you, I’d let you get away with anything. But, darn your luck, I love you. It’s my job to teach you to act right.” Last week, a teacher at my school brought me some of the cherry tomatoes she grew in her garden. I bit into one of them and it was delicious!
I remarked, “Wow, Penny! These are the best tomatoes ever! They are firm and sweet!” Without missing a beat, Penny replied, “Yes! Firm and sweet, just like your discipline style and mine!” The point? Be a tomato! If there is a dichotomy between the descriptors firm and sweet, it’s a false one.
9. Avoid giving your power away. While many principals (especially me!) are happy to collaborate, beware of using your administrator as a scare tactic (i.e.: If you do that again, I am going to send you to Mrs. Platt’s office).
When the principal is viewed as a threat, there may be two unintended negative consequences. 1.) The office becomes a bad place. 2.) Students learn that the teacher is not the ultimate boss of them. Make sure kids know that YOU are in charge of your classroom. Read more on that concept in Jennifer Gonzalez’ enlightening Cult of Pedagogy post.
10. HAVE FUN! LOTS OF FUN! Play, laugh, and dance with your kiddos! Whenever possible, incorporate games, jokes, and music into your lessons. Students who are happy are more open to learning, and that’s the big picture goal, right?
Keep the mood of your classroom positive. When you feel like you might be getting frustrated or even angry with your class, step back and get your emotions under control. Read about strategies for keeping your classroom fun and even for using fun to teach discipline. Just as important, find strategies to keep yourself from losing your cool.
The Bottom Line
Educators, the truth is that without an orderly classroom where students understand and respect the rules, procedures, and expectations, teaching and learning are much harder endeavors. Yes, the meme to the right is, in part, true, but so is everything I shared above. Lead your classroom with heart and with smart tried-and-true strategies.
If you are interested in further reading, check out my recent post for Heart of the School. If you want a laugh, check out Principal Gerry Brooks’ videos on the essentials of classroom management. Funny stuff and some good advice too!
As always, I am interested in your thoughts. What are your best reminders, hints, and tips for classroom management? Please share in the comments. We’re ALL better when we share ideas and collaborate!
Rita Platt (@ritaplatt) is an award-winning National Board Certified Teacher and self-proclaimed #edudork with master’s degrees in reading, library, and leadership. Her first book, Working Hard, Working Happy: Cultivating a Culture of Effort and Joy in the Classroom, is published by Routledge Eye on Education and MiddleWeb. Order from the Routledge website and receive a 20% discount with the code MWEB1.