Filed Under Behaviour Management
Julie Berlin -Flickr cc
Once upon a time, a long time ago when I was an eager young student teacher, and before I actually had my own class, I thought my job would be to teach my students everything they needed to know about the subject I was teaching. Was I ever naive.
When I finally got my own class, my struggling/reluctant “at-risk” students set me straight. They taught me that some days teaching content was the least of my challenges. Teaching appropriate behaviour was. Who knew. I had so much to learn. I must give my students credit though, they were persistent in teaching me the lessons that I needed to learn, and it wasn’t long before I knew that
1. Make sure your students know that you care about their progress in your class.
Some students need the teacher to really care that they attend class and do their work because no one at home does.
I can’t tell you how many times students that I give support to tell me they’re not attending class, not handing work in, not, not, not because the teacher doesn’t care. Some of them even tell me “I know, Miss, I should care. But the teacher doesn’t care”. They can’t seem to get past the teacher not caring even when they know that it’s in their own best interest that they themselves care. They know that intellectually, but emotionally they can’t handle it when the teacher doesn’t care.
These troubled, troublesome and troubling kids need someone to care. They’ve usually frustrated their parents to the point where the parents are at the end of their rope and have given up on them. Some parents actually tell their kids that they don’t care what they do anymore. But, kids need someone to care. We all need someone to care. That’s why belonging to a gang is so attractive to some kids. The gang members care for one another even if the adults in the kids lives don’t.
I found that it doesn’t take a lot of time to care about my troubled, troublesome and troubling students. At the beginning of the semester, I make sure that I spend a few minutes each day talking to the students, and getting to know them better. Before I know it, these students are waving to me in the halls when they see me or give me a high five as we pass in the hall even though in their crowd it’s not cool to like teachers. This actually happened last Friday. I’d spent a few minutes earlier in the day in my class talking to a student about a project in another class When I saw him later in the hall he waved. I knew he knew that I cared and that my caring would enable me to have some positive influence on him in my class as well as in his other classes.
Recently, I heard this strategy called The Two-by-Ten Strategy. I like the name. It’s catching and easy to remember. Basically what happens is you spend two minutes each day for ten days in a row talking to one of your troublesome students. Research has shown there’s an 85% improvement in behaviour. That’s spectacular but it seems about right to me.
2. Take the time to teach your students how to behave in class.
Some students need to be taught appropriate classroom behaviour because they honestly have no idea
what’s appropriate. Their life circumstances outside of school might be so difficult and harsh that what they need to do to survive there is different from what is expected in the classroom.
I teach appropriate classroom behaviour by having the class come up with a set of classroom agreements. at the beginning of the semester. I’ve explained in detail how I do this here. So I won’t do that now. I’ve even included the Power Point Presentation that I use to sum up the agreements. If you want a copy, just email me. I’ll send it to you as an attachment. I’ve had lots and lots of requests for it.
I have the kids create posters for each agreement and have them put the posters up so that they can remind us about what we’ve chosen as appropriate behaviours. Then I review them at the beginning of the class to remind everyone. It doesn’t take long to do this- a couple of minutes at most.
3. Redirect inappropriate behaviour using a quiet voice.
Students have told me that they don’t like it when teachers yell at them. No one really , come to think of it. So when I’m trying to redirect inappropriate behaviour, I get as close as possible to the student and speak in a quiet voice reminding him of our classroom agreements. OK, I’ll admit it. Once in a long while I’ll lose it, but later I’ll apologize and say that I’m sorry that I yelled. I shouldn’t have but I was frustrated and remind them that I’m human first and a teacher second. I’m not perfect. They’re actually cool with that. Often, they’ll even say “Oh, that’s OK Miss.”. I’m trying to model appropriate behaviour and what to do when the behaviour isn’t appropriate.
Notice not one of the three strategies have anything to do with content, graphic organizers or Web 2.0 technologies or tools.