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!
When Covid-19 hit and schools shut down, many of us were certain that it would not impact the 2020-21 school year. But with the pandemic surging and some schools opening up - only to shut down again, it’s clear that Covid is still with us. The length of the pandemic has only heightened concern about Covid related learning loss - especially among underserved populations.
Young infants develop a unique relationship—known as attachment—with their caregivers. To develop secure bonds, infants need to know that at least one person really cares about them. Caregivers provide that comfort by helping infants regulate needs and emotions, such as hunger and sadness. With healthy attachments, infants develop a sense of safety and trust.
Infants need to be held, to have face-to-face interactions, to feel another human heartbeat. By meeting these needs, caregivers foster attachment. Plan how you will meet these essential needs—while keeping yourself and infants safe.
Children need to feel safe before they can explore their surroundings. While curiosity and exploration help awaken children’s talents, teachers help reinforce their learning through guidance and repetition. All children benefit from intentional interactions that inspire them through new experiences—and some children need additional or individualized support.
Given the natural need to be around others, children might have a hard time with social distancing. Organize materials in spaces where two friends can explore together. Make yourself available to facilitate their exploration while ensuring safety.
Toddlers reinforce their trust in caregivers while venturing into the world on their own. Along with stable relationships and independence, they need frequent reminders of behavioral expectations to keep themselves and their peers safe. With support and regulation, educators can help buffer the effects of stress or trauma and promote healthy child development.
Children learn best in a warm, safe environment. While positive interactions strengthen a classroom community, clear safety expectations promote healthiness. Remind children that these measures are in place because you care about them.