Many educators indicate that mastering classroom management is one of the most difficult parts of the profession. Teachers who struggle with poor classroom management skills will never get their students to learn at their highest potential. Their students are seen off task, talking to their friends, defiant, and disrespectful. These students are often assigned consequences for their actions that do little to change their behavior. These consequences include benching students at recess, after-school detention, parent/teacher conferences, sending students to the office, and Saturday school. The goal in these situations is to change the behavior, not to continuously battle for power with a child in the classroom. Sending them out of the classroom only gives in to what some of them ultimately want.
Here are five ways to decrease disciplinary issues in the classroom.
- Know The Home Environment of Your Students
It is important to know your students on a deeper level than just their existence in your classroom. You might see a particular student for an hour or two a day if you are a secondary teacher, and up to eight hours per day if you teach a primary grade level. A lot happens to a child throughout the rest of the day. It is important that you know about the environment they go home to at the end of the day. A child who goes home to an challenging home environment might not get a lot of attention from their parents, get little sleep because they share a room with their siblings, and likely comes to school without a good breakfast or breakfast at all. This child will have trouble staying on task and following directions due to environmental control outside of the teacher’s control. Punishing that student won’t change anything. We need to get to know them on a personal level. We need to show empathy, caring, and understand. That connection can change everything.
- Get Students to Respect You, Not Fear You
Never confuse fear and respect. Students, who are compliant in the classroom out of fear, do not have respect for their instructor. We often tell students that respect is earned, but don’t hold this notion true for ourselves. We must earn the respect of our students, not expect it from day one because we are their teacher. Respect is earned from getting to know your students on an individual basis and showing that you respect them. Show them you care about them and not look down upon them. Never use power to command respect. Chances are, they have enough people in their world that do that already.
- Set Clear and Concise Classroom Expectations
Long behavior contracts or classroom rules with complicated language will due little to quell disruptive behaviors in the classroom. Make your expectations simple and clear. I believe that the follow three rules encapsulate most expectations for a classroom:
- Treat others as you would like to be treated
- Respect other people and their property
- Be responsible for your own learning
There is no need to over-complicate this process. When a child breaks a rule, let them know which rule they broke, why it is important, and how they can make a better choice in the future.
- Address Student Behavior Individually and With Discretion
During the course of the day, teachers will have to redirect students and address behaviors that are in conflict with the expectations of the class. Instead of addressing the misbehaving student in front of the entire class, pull the child to the side of the room when appropriate or go up to them and address their behavior in a discrete manner. Addressing them in front of the entire classroom will only humiliate them and make them angry with you. Remember, you want them to respect you, not fear you. Above all, never make a child call their parent from the classroom phone during class in front of everyone. Humiliation at this level will only make their behavior worse in the long run.
- Create an Engaging, Innovative Classroom Environment
The best way to decrease off-task behavior is a good offense. Instead of always focusing on consequences, create a classroom environment that they want to be a part of. Students who are excited about learning are likely to be on-task, respectful, and will rise to your high expectations. Instead of having students sit quietly and listen to a lecture or work on individual tasks, create a learning environment of collaboration, project-based learning, and instructional technology. Many disruptive behaviors will disappear when you allow them to move around the classroom and engage with other students. This is even more important at the end of the school day when children have been sitting in desks for hours and hours already.
Dr. David Franklin, CEO of The Principal’s Desk, is an experienced school administrator, education professor, curriculum designer, and presenter. Dr. Franklin has presented at national and international education conferences as is available for school and district professional development sessions. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at www.principalsdesk.org.