These were the only two words in an email from a former student who had just finished her first day of teaching. While not every teacher may say those exact words, it’s not an uncommon sentiment. Many teachers, both new and veteran, struggle with behavior management. While there are all sorts of pre-packaged programs you can purchase or apps you can install on your phone, I’m going to suggest that there are some pretty simple, sure fire ways to help kids learn the rules—no assembly required.
Let’s start with rules. Rules should be short, simple, and easy to monitor. The younger the kids, the fewer the rules. Remember that old adage that children should invite only as many kids to their birthday party as they are years old? Same basic idea. Too many rules are confusing for children and hard for staff to monitor. Show me a classroom with a lot of rules and I’ll show you a teaching staff that spends way too much time enforcing those rules—often at the expense of missing out on teachable moments.
Once you have your rules, be sure to communicate them frequently, especially in the beginning of the year, as new children join the class, or after a long break from school. When children arrive in the morning, remind them of the arrival routine (younger children may benefit from a picture schedule). Review the rules during morning group and share your expectations before kids start an activity. Be consistent and make sure that everyone else on your team is consistent as well. If children are expected to raise their hands in order to talk, but sometimes they’re allowed to call out, the children won’t be clear about the rules. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds,” but I’m pretty sure he wasn’t teaching children!
Frame rules by stating what you want to children to do, not what you don’t want them to do. How many times do we tell children to “act right” or say “that’s not the correct way to behave?” I don’t know about you, but I don’t know what it means to act right, but I do know what it means to share my toys and use my inside voice.
A little bit of reinforcement can go a long way. Catch them being good and be specific in your praise. A heartfelt, “I see you’re cleaning up your center” will go a lot further and have more meaning than the generic “good job.” I believe in praising children, especially when they are learning new routines and skills. But if we keep saying good job over and over again, our words become part of the background noise in the classroom. I sometimes call it auditory wallpaper.
Finally, when someone acts up, don’t overreact. Yes, I know I just told you what not to do, but you’re adults; I think you can handle it. We should expect children to act up. They’re kids and they like to test the waters. When this happens, stay calm and redirect. Putting your fingers to your lips to signal quiet is a great strategy. Gently restating the expectations works well, as does getting in close physical proximity. Do you know what’s not a good strategy? Freaking out, stomping your feet, and yelling. So, do what we teach children to do: step back, take a deep breath, and count to 5. When you remain calm and redirect you’re modeling for the children, you're showing them how to react to stressful situations and you’re helping to keep your classroom running smoothly.
If you have questions or want to hear more about this topic, just let me know. Always happy to help. And have a great start to your school year!
So, it’s June and you have just wrapped up the year with your students. They have made tremendous progress over the course of the year. The routine of the day flows naturally, the expectations about what is and isn’t appropriate behavior is fairly clear to all of them (and to you), and you leave the school year feeling confident that they are ready for the new challenges that lie ahead. You go into the summer months looking forward to a much needed break, but also looking forward to your new group of students in the fall.
As a Certified CLASS Affiliate Trainer, I enjoy reading the discussion posts and responses in the CLASS Learning Community. It gives me further insight into the areas that teachers have questions about, and the responses and techniques that members of the community are sharing with others. Usually I just sit back, read along, and take it all in.
Then recently someone posted, “I'd love some great examples of what Quality of Feedback looks like when you're working with less verbal children. For instance... creating an effective feedback loop off of what a child does more so than what he or she says.”
Many teachers will agree that their first year of teaching can be one of the most grueling, challenging, and stressful experiences for them as they take on the task of educating our youth. In my first year of teaching, I was not familiar with the CLASS tool and its impact in the classroom. I was not aware of the dimensions, indicators, and the tremendous power of interactions. Looking back, I recognize the many ways the CLASS tool was reflected in my classroom, but I also see the value in how familiarity with the CLASS tool could have benefitted my classroom. Although many external forces impacted my role as a high school Spanish teacher, the CLASS tool’s invaluable purpose could have made a profound impact on my first year teaching.