Throughout history teachers have carried a heavy burden, and they continue to soldier on under great expectations to this day. We are required to inspire, to train, to motivate, to assess, to discipline, to prompt, to control, to admonish, to organize, to tutor, to encourage, etc…
“The term ‘facilitator’ is used by many authors to describe a particular kind of teacher, one who is democratic (where the teacher shares some of the leadership with the students) rather than autocratic (where the teacher is in control of everything that goes on in the classroom), and one who fosters learner autonomy (where students not only learn on their own, but also take responsibility for that learning) through the use of group and pair work and by acting as more of a resource than a transmitter of knowledge” (Ferlazzo).
The list of teacher responsibilities and roles is practically endless.
Perhaps one of the greatest challenges that teachers face is the necessity to control and manage the classroom. Obviously, this aspect of teaching is not as enjoyable as the impartation of knowledge, or the cultivation of creativity. However, without classroom management strategies students will dissolve into anarchy and the teacher will be faced with a situation almost as dire as the Cuban missile crisis. Perhaps I exaggerate, but to a teacher a serious behavior issue in the classroom can feel like a world war.
Teachers are often given training and resources to address academic issues and failures but are left to their own devices when it comes to student behavior. “Students who make academic mistakes are given time to review, relearn, and reassess until they master the content. But with students who fail to meet behavior expectations, more often than not we respond by assuming willful disobedience, removing students from the classroom, and assigning disciplinary consequences. When our typical responses for behavior are applied to academic issues, it’s easy to see the disparity” (Hogan).
Addressing classroom behavior is a necessity for teachers for proper classroom function and teacher efficacy, that is imperative. The “how” is a bit more subjective. Every teacher has different preferences and in addition each classroom has it’s own unique personality with a combination of students from a multitude of diverse backgrounds. With all this in mind, it can be concluded that a “combination of positive and negative consequences appears to be the optimum approach” (Marzano).
The following information is a tentative plan on how I will address and handle behavior issues in my classroom. I mention “tentative” not out of a lack of sincerity or consistency, but as a reminder that plans can change and teachers must be flexible as a result of unique classroom and students needs.
Flowchart For Rule and Procedure Reinforcement
I would like to elucidate the above chart for the sake of clarification and unravel some key points of management in my future classroom. The following techniques are planned for an elementary level classroom.
Precise Verbal Praise : When a student is exhibiting positive behavior it is beneficial to recognize and praise it. For example, a positive response to a directive could receive a response from the teacher such as, “Anna, I like the way you are________.”
Precise Non-verbal Praise: In certain situations the it might be beneficial to utilize non-verbal praise such as high-fives or a thumbs up. It is up to the teacher to decide if these non-verbal praises should be explained or covered more in depth at the beginning of the year. * It is also extremely important as the teacher to know what kinds of physical contact, even in a positive way, are allowed in a particular school or country.
Tangible Recognition: I am not yet convinced that a token system is my personal preference for classroom management. However, sometimes schools have such systems set up, in which case, I am happy to comply with them.
For positive behavior reinforcement I would prefer to use something along the lines of a growth mindset coupon that children can show their friends or take home and display to their parents.
Home Contingency: “Recognition of good behavior can extend beyond the classroom. Students view the teacher or school contacting the home about their good behavior as a valued acknowledgment (Marzano). If a student receives a growth mindset coupon, then it would be an extra positive reinforcement step for the teacher to reach out to the parents to make them aware of the particular behind the coupon.
Precise Verbal Warning: Sometimes students will require a verbal reprimand. But even when this is necessary the phrasing can be done in a helpful, and non-demeaning way. I would consider using the following phrases:
- I see you are having a difficult time listening, how can we fix this?
- Chris, instead of talking to your neighbor, could you use your listening ears, please?
- Ella, do you need to visit the calm down corner?
- James, I understand you are feeling __________, but right now can you _______?
- Grace, is that how we behave in class?
Non-verbal Consequence: If a student is being disruptive by actions or speech there are two non-verbal responses I am prepared to utilize. The first would be teacher proximity. If the lesson allows the teacher to move closer to the student this might be enough to dissolve the situation without further action. If this does not assist the student in adjusting their behavior to adhere to classroom standards then I might consider moving them to a different seat or area.
Physical Removal: Certain situations might require the physical removal of a student from the lesson. If the reason is not serious enough to warrant a visit to the principal, then I would assert that a “calm down corner” is a good alternative to the traditional “time out”.
The purpose of the calm down corner is to reflect and re-asses the situation. This is also a great way for students to assume responsibility for their own actions.
Home Contingency: It is sometimes necessary to contact the parents when student negative behavior becomes a consistent issue. However, it is good to keep a few things in mind.
- Use the sandwich approach by also saying something positive. Such as, “Kyle excels in __area, but recently I’ve noticed a worrying trend with his ____ skills.”
- Be specific and use record examples when possible.
- Write down a script with specific topics to discuss.
- Inform them of classroom rules and how those have been broken. “In my classroom, students are not allowed to _________, Kyle has has been consistently struggling to follow this rule.”
- Listen to the parents.
- Come up with a collaborative plan of action. This could involve a face to face meeting, or perhaps simply the parents having a conversation with their child at home about the situation.
“Withitness is one of the most well-recognized classroom management techniques” (Marzano). Hopefully, I will be able to demonstrate withitness and preventative measures that will diminish the need for the negative consequences in my classroom. However, it is beneficial and imperative to have contingency plans in place for any issues that may arise.
Marzano, R. J. (2007). The art and science of teaching: A comprehensive framework for effective instruction. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.