Behavior in the Classroom: What's Going On?
Heather Galladora | Teaching.monster.com
At the close of each school year, we all find ourselves doing what all good teachers should: reflecting on what we did well the past year and on what we can do differently in the future to heed more positive results. This year, I find myself taking extra time thinking about how I can improve the behavior in my classroom. I’ve always felt that classroom management is one of my biggest strengths, and so it wasn’t easy having a year full of discipline problems, individual behavior plans, and parent conferences. What I find even more mind-boggling is that I’m not the only one who struggled with behavior last year. At the end of the year, I noticed many other teachers complaining about the difficult behavior in their classrooms and the stress that it was causing them. Instead of focusing on the progress achieved throughout the year, or how much our students have grown and matured, the overriding question seemed to be, what is going on? And more importantly, how can we prevent this stress next year?
First, take time for yourself outside of school. Whether it be vacation or a weekend, put work aside and focus on you. Do what you enjoy doing, whether it be working in your garden, catching up on some good books, or redecorating your home. Spend extra time with your family and relax some on your own. Good teachers have a well-balanced life and focus on more than just work. When it comes time school, remember the proactive strategies that will help to prevent distracting behavior.
Setting up the classroom
Make sure that your classroom is appealing to students, but that it isn’t so busy that it overstimulates or distracts students who are less able to stay focused. The classroom needs to be neat and organized, and there should be a designated area that is quiet for the child that needs to regroup and refocus on his own.
Rules, rules, rules
Make sure that you involve the children when creating classroom rules. Keep in mind that there should not be a laundry list of rules, but three or four basic rules that would summarize all of the small notions. Having your class involved in the rule-creating process makes them identify several rules, why it is important to have a safe and loving environment, and that one rule does encompass many different behaviors.
What is strict?
At the end of last school year, I had a very funny conversation with one of my students. One morning he asked me what the word “strict” meant. He didn’t quite understand the meaning of the word, but decided after our conversation that his mother was quite strict. When I said that many people also consider me strict, he replied, “No way! You’re too nice to be strict.” I had to laugh to myself, and reconsider my own definition of the word. I don’t believe that a teacher needs to be a drill sergeant, but I do believe that a good teacher sets high expectations, and is firm and nurturing at the same time. I find that students crave a challenge, and when they have high, yet attainable expectations, they rise to the challenge.
In addition to teaching my children how to predict in reading and in writing, I also make sure that they know what to expect when they come to school each day. If a child knows what to expect, they can behave in a manner that yields the desired result.
Create a schedule that is as consistent as possible from day to day. Review and revisit the class rules and the importance of these rules often. Have a plan for when the rules aren’t followed and stick to that plan (of course a change during the year is acceptable if you realize your plan isn’t working and the children are prepared for the new plan). A punishment should not be a surprise, but a child that misbehaves in class should be prepared for whatever form of discipline results.
It’s normal to have a child or two that often challenge your ability to remain patient and calm. When that does happen, there are many strategies to follow. Always remember to reflect on the atmosphere in your classroom, and decide what is going well and what could change. Talk to your team and other teachers in your school to get ideas that may be helpful. Teachers like to share lesson plans and teaching strategies, but I find that sharing behavior strategies can be the most helpful of all.
I don’t know that there’s ever been a perfect class or a perfect year, but when behavior isn’t an issue, your teaching can really take off and learning can begin. Now, and throughout the year, don’t forget to take time for yourself and relax outside of school. Having a positive attitude and being well-rested is an equation that often results in a great day at school.
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