Behavior management is one of the biggest challenges that all teachers face. Some teachers are naturally strong in this area while others have to work hard to be an effective teacher with behavior management. It is crucial to understand that all situations and classes are different. Teachers must quickly figure out what works with a particular group of students.
There is not a single strategy that a teacher can implement to establish better behavior management. Instead, it will take a combination of several strategies to create the desired atmosphere of maximized learning. Veteran teachers often use these simple strategies to maximize the time they have with their students by minimizing the distractions.
Establish Rules and Expectations Immediately
It is well documented that the first few days of school are essential in setting the tone for the remainder of the year. I would argue that the first few minutes of those first few days are the most critical. Students are generally well behaved, and attentive in those first few minutes giving you the opportunity to captivate their attention immediately, lay the foundation for acceptable behavior, and dictate the overall tone for the remainder of the year.
Rules and expectations are two different things. Rules are negative in nature and include a list of things a teacher does not want students to do. Expectations are positive in nature and include a list of things that a teacher wants students to do. Both can play a role in effective behavior management in the classroom.
Rules and expectations should be simple and straightforward covering the essential aspects of behavior management. It is essential that they are well written avoiding vagueness and wordiness that can be counterproductive by creating confusion. It is also beneficial to limit how many rules/expectations you establish. It is better to have a few well-written rules and expectations than a hundred that no one can remember.
Practice! Practice! Practice!
Expectations should be practiced several times throughout the course of the first few weeks. The key to effective expectations is for them to become a habit. This is done through prioritized repetition at the beginning of the year. Some will see this as a waste of time, but those that put in the time at the beginning of the year will reap the benefits throughout the course of the year. Every expectation should be discussed and practiced until it becomes routine.
Get Parents on Board
It is crucial that teachers establish meaningful, trusting relationships early on in the school year. If a teacher waits until there is an issue to reach out to a parent, then the results may not be positive. Parents must be as aware of your rules and expectations as the students are. There are many ways to establish an open communication line with parents. Teachers must become adept at utilizing these different forms of communication. Begin by making contact with the parents of those students who have a reputation of having behavior problems. Keep the conversation entirely positive in nature. It is likely that this will provide you with credibility as they are probably not used to hearing positive comments about their child.
Do not back down! You must hold a student accountable if they fail to follow a rule or expectation. This is especially true at the beginning of the year. A teacher must get their bluff in early. They can lighten up as the year progresses. This is another vital aspect of setting the tone. Teachers who take the opposite approach will likely have a difficult time with behavior management throughout the year. Most students will respond positively to a structured learning environment, and this begins and ends with consistent accountability.
Be Consistent and Fair
Never let your students know that you have favorites. Most teachers would argue that they do not have favorites, but the reality is that there are some students that are more endearing than others. It is essential that you are fair and consistent no matter who the student is. If you give one student three days or detention for talking, give the next student the same punishment. Of course, history can also factor into your classroom discipline decision. If you have disciplined a student several times for the same offense, you can defend giving them a tougher consequence.
Stay Calm and Listen
Do not jump to conclusions! If a student reports an incident to you, it is necessary to investigate the situation thoroughly before making a decision. This can be time-consuming, but ultimately it makes your decision defendable. Making a snap decision can create an appearance of negligence on your part.
It is equally essential that you remain calm. It is easy to overreact to a situation, especially out of frustration. Do not allow yourself to handle a situation when you are emotional. It will not only diminish your credibility but could make you a target from students looking to capitalize on a weakness.
Handle Issues Internally
The majority of discipline issues need to be addressed by the classroom teacher. Consistently sending students to the principal on a discipline referral undermines a teacher's authority with students and sends a message to the principle that you are ineffective in handling classroom management issues. Sending a student to the principal should be reserved for serious discipline infractions or repeated discipline infractions for which nothing else has worked. If you are sending more than five students to the office a year, you likely need to reevaluate your approach to behavior management.
Teachers who are well-liked and respected are less likely to have discipline issues than teachers who are not. These are not qualities that just happen. They are earned over time by giving respect to all students. Once a teacher develops this reputation, their job in this area becomes easier. This type of rapport is built by investing time into building relationships with students that extend outside what happens in your classroom. Taking an interest in what is going on in their lives can be endearing in developing positive teacher-student relationships.
Develop Interactive, Engaging Lessons
A classroom full of engaged students is less likely to become a behavior issue, than a classroom full of bored students. Teachers must create dynamic lessons that are both interactive and engaging. Most behavior issues originate out of frustration or boredom. Great teachers are able to eliminate both of these issues through creative teaching. The teacher must be fun, passionate, and enthusiastic while differentiating lessons to meet individual needs in the classroom.