|Dimension 3.2: Managing Student Behavior- The teacher establishes, communicates, and maintains clear expectations for student behavior.|
Classroom management is arguably the most difficult aspect of being a first year teacher. It also is, in my opinion, the most divisive. There are thousands of different ideas, techniques, and classroom management systems that teachers have tried over the years. There is no single concise system that will work for every teacher. My take on classroom management focuses on three things: clear expectations, positive reinforcement, and problem solving unproductive behavior.
The key to classroom management is clearly stating your expectations as soon as your students are in your classroom. I once spoke with a seasoned teacher who told me that she doesn’t even begin teaching content until Halloween. This is because the first month of the school year needs to be focused on learning classroom routines and schedules and community building. I asked if she felt like her students were disadvantaged due to losing a month of content instruction. She explained that if she didn’t spend this time practicing routines, transitions, and classroom procedures with students at the beginning of the year, they would lose that time throughout the year dealing with behavior issues, restating rules and expectations, and wasting time during transitions. This conversation really reinforced the importance of clearly setting high expectations for your students as early as possible.
Positive reinforcement in the classroom is not a new idea. It is something that has been in almost every classroom, taking the shape of behavior clip charts and ice cream sundae parties. However, unlike behavior clip charts, which are used for positive and negative reinforcement, I believe that positive reinforcement is what we should be focusing on in modern classrooms. Educators should not only reward good behavior, but should reinforce its importance and influence on the classroom community, creating intrinsic motivation in students as well as extrinsic.
I know what you’re thinking. If teachers don’t use any negative enforcement, what will stop bad behavior? If teachers use both of the above methods in their classroom and still have students with outstanding behavior issues, there is likely a deeper rooted problem. Taking time to observe, talk with, and get to know students who exhibit disruptive behavior can help us understand what those students need in order to be successful. A peer of mine once told me that behavior is a form of communication. There is a need or issue that the student is facing that is causing their unproductive behaviors. In many cases, this can solve behavior problems without having to involve parents or administrators.
Below I have inserted an app that my mentor teacher and I used to reinforce positive behavior, such as helping others and staying on task. Each week students have the opportunity to trade their points for things such as prizes, no homework passes, bringing a toy or stuffed animal to school for the day, and more. At the beginning of the year, students help come up with the point categories on the app. This creates a more meaningful experience for the students and leads to more intrinsic motivation.