Survival in the Classroom (and Home) – Part II

March 17, 2007 at 3:55 pm (all, blogging, children, Education, Educational Leadership, Elementary, friends, High School, kids, life, Middle School, Parents, principals, school, school administration, teachers)

Last week, we looked at several ideas on how to meet your students’ need for survival. In order to meet this need, teachers need to provide students with a sense of safety, security, and order. One way to do this is to have an environment in which discipline problems do not become an issue.

Guidelines for Behavior

Each classroom should have clearly established guidelines for student behavior. Most importantly, teachers should be consistent in addressing behaviors. Traditionally, teachers rely on positive and negative reinforcement in the classroom. There are 2 problems with this:

Negative reinforcement
Remember – students watch every move that teachers make, and they assume that the way the teacher treats one student is the way that same teacher will treat them. If a teacher criticizes, punishes, or uses sarcasm with one student in the class, the assumption is that no student is safe from such treatment.
Positive reinforcement
The use of “rewards” or other tangible incentives can also have drawbacks. The use of these external motivators can destroy students’ ability to develop self-control and also devalue relationships.
Alternatives to punishing and rewarding

Proximity – Sometimes just walking within arm’s length of a student will help the student readjust his or her behavior.

General reminders – Ask students to evaluate themselves by asking a general question such as “How well are we doing right now in following the class rules that we established?” This often will help one student be aware of his behavior without disrupting the class.

What are you doing? – Sometimes students are not aware of disruptive behavior (think of the student tapping on the desk) and will stop when made aware of it.

Gentle reminders – Sometimes, calmly asking a student “Do you remember what we agreed upon when we set up our class rules?” or “Would you please stop _____ or start ____ now?” can be effective.

The teacher look and personal directive – The effective teacher look involves the following steps: stare at the student (not angrily); move into the student’s personal space, bend down, and quietly call the student’s name; tell the student what you want her to do or stop doing (quietly so others can’t hear); thank the student – repeating his or her name; and move out of the student’s personal space.

Impose consequences – once you have tried some or all of the above strategies, you might discuss and impose consequences for unacceptable behavior. As you impose consequences, keep in mind the differences between consequences and punishments.

Consequences Punishments

Are known ahead of time Are imposed after the fact
Are fair and reasonable Are excessive
Are best when they are natural / relate to the offense Are usually unrelated to the offense
May be developed with the help of students Are imposed by the teacher
Are imposed without emotion Are imposed with anger

Example: A student comes in tardy

Consequence: The student misses the learning and must get notes from another student or the teacher on his own time.
Punishment: The student is sent to the office.

Example: A student does not bring a pen or pencil to class.

Consequence: The student borrows a pen from the teacher and leaves appropriate collateral.
Punishment: The student is given a detention for insubordination.

Individual counseling – If a student repeatedly behaves in ways that disrupt the learning environment or that put his own academic success at risk, individual counseling may be necessary. In these circumstances, the teacher may involve others such as a counselor or dean. However, such counseling is much more effective if it is done by the teacher with whom the student is experiencing difficulty. One-on-one counseling can improve the teacher / student relationship. The following questions can be used during counseling to help students make better choices:

What do you want in regard to ______ (the class, relationship with peers,…)?
What are you currently doing regarding ____?
Is what you are doing getting you want you want?
Are you willing to try something different?
What is something that might work better for you?


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