Do you remember what your first day of school was like? Your first day of high school? Even scarier - your first day of college? These educational settings are youth’s first encounters with the world. Of course, our young people attend school in order to acquire necessary academic skills, however, this is where they engage in collaboration and discovery, deal with confrontation, face adversity, and feel connected to people outside of their families. In short, school is the first place where youth encounter the real world.
To better prepare students for these realities, we need to go beyond classroom rule setting.
Identify and Foster Personal Behavior Management.
Now that young people have entered the 'real world' via formal education, they have teachers to care for them and help them understand the rules of this new world. Some young people come to school with ideas about the new world order, but many do not. This is where teachers play a key role in teaching kids the new rules - also known as 'Behavior Management’.
Behavior management can politely be described as a “..a process that guides people to change their actions within a specific context.” (Thank you Reference.com) But we know it to be one of the most daunting things teachers and parents face.
Fear not! We’ve endeavored to condense behavior management into a few bite-sized chunks.
- Identify and reinforce positive behaviors
- Identify negative behaviors and discourage them
- Raise awareness about and offer alternative behaviors
- Change the environment to reduce negative behaviors
Now teaching personal behavior management is about developing and cultivating techniques in order to create a learning environment that is proactive, where students are encouraged to self-manage and cooperate with each other. Once you, as the parent/teacher/coach/guardian of the student has adopted these steps, it's up to your student to manage themselves. This requires the student to identify which behaviors she wants to adopt/implement and which she would rather leave out of her life.
Implementing Classroom Management
In “Making a Difference to Student Well-being,” Andreas Schleicher, Director for Education and Skills at the OECD, offers suggestions that teachers can adopt to support student self-management for any classroom. We’ve summed up the essentials:
- Behavior: walk in the classroom with a positive attitude
- Remember to smile, make encouraging comments, and acknowledge students individually.
- Environment: provide a classroom conducive to learning
- Keep a well lit, clean, and organized. Display stimulating learning materials.
- An engaging curriculum is key here, but don't expect excitement from your students all the time (that's just not realistic). Instead, strive for steady interest and participation.
- Expectations: establish guidelines so that students can practice personal accountability
- Your school will already have established behavioral rules, however, classroom rules have a greater focus on the quality of students work, the ways students are expected to act in class, towards each other, and you.
- With your students, create a list of norms for your classroom. Write the list on a poster to be hung up throughout the year.
- Ask your students to create group contracts when beginning a group project (these describe guidelines such as no phones present during work time, check-ins with absent group members, hold each other accountable to the tasks assigned etc.)
- Let students decide the consequences for breaking these contracts and encourage them to sign off on the agreements. In doing so, students feel empowered (plus they are less likely to disappoint each other than their teacher).
- Materials: ensure that the texts, equipment, and learning resources are interesting and engaging without being distracting
- Vary the medium: use audio, visual, and textual materials so that your students (and you) don't get stuck in a learning rut
- Activities: demonstrate healthy conversations, debate, collaboration, and reward
- Researcher Wendy Surr found that learning with others through high-quality collaboration is strongly associated with “positive classroom experiences and mindset/dispositional outcomes such as motivation, engagement, and self-efficacy”.
- Bring another teacher or guest speaker into the classroom to discuss a current event or campus event for a few minutes. Students will watch the interaction and will learn how to have a cordial discussion.
- Pose pro/con questions to your student and regulate the debate.
- Celebrate productive/focused efforts and provide small incentives:
- 20 min rest period at the end of the week
- 30 min of in-class preparation for an upcoming test or project
- Bonus points for bringing in their textbooks
- 15 min showing of class’s favorite show
- Snacks and treats
- Set a goal of a class test average, if its achieved have a donut/pizza party at the end of the semester
Good management starts with building relationships
Not surprisingly, classroom management is a staple to success in the classroom. Schleicher found that “On average across countries, students who reported that their teacher is willing to provide help and is interested in their learning are also about 1.3 times more likely to feel that they belong at school.” When students are able to trust their teacher and know that they are cared for, they will, in turn, reciprocate the investment you’ve made in them. You may not be able to reach every student - and that's O.K. - but you can earn their respect.
These relationships and good behaviors need to go home, too.
The parent-teacher relationship, based on trust, is invaluable to students as it creates an all-encompassing cognitive and socio-emotional educational support environment for them. Teachers can leverage parental support and schools can with simple modifications, try to address the needs of disadvantaged children (one such adjustment is providing a quiet place for them to study). Schools must strive to create an environment of cooperation with parents. Partnership is needed between both student and teacher and school and home.
Positive results for positive reinforcement
It’s clear that classroom management’s ripples go beyond the classroom. Effective classroom management goes far beyond establishing and controlling behavior, it involves practices and techniques that create active engagement, student self-management, encouragement, cooperation, and collaboration, and promotes positive behavior.
In its very essence, school is the students’ initial encounter with society in all its wonder. Their experiences in school, with you and among their peers teach them cause and effect and influences their behavior and attitudes about life. So keep in mind, students will take the lessons learned from you and apply them to their own lives - you’re not just teaching math, you’re teaching life.
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