For a classroom to function efficiently, classroom procedures must be taught explicitly. Often the need for classroom discipline stems from a misunderstanding of rules and procedures. To nip most infractions in the bud, there needs to be a procedure for literally every movement inside the classroom and out. There is a correct way to push in a chair, to put a paper in a folder, and even to sit on the carpet. Nothing is left to interpretation. As children get older, it is essential that they have a part in developing the classroom procedures so that they gain ownership. At the heart of every effective system is an understanding that students and teacher must have mutual respect for each other and their shared classroom environment.
My classroom management philosophy is that children need to make good choices that allow everyone the opportunity to be successful. The teacher’s role is to create a system where every child can succeed. Children who make good choices throughout the day receive verbal and written praise, increased responsibility and more classroom privileges.
How to Deal with Misbehavior
If a child is making a choice that interferes with someone’s learning, the first step is to identify and name the incorrect behavior by asking the child what he or she is doing. I try to assume the student has momentarily forgotten the appropriate procedure and needs a reminder.
1. Ask the student what they are doing. (Example answer: I am running in the hall.)
2. Ask the student what they are supposed to be doing? (Example answer: I guess I should be walking.)
3. Ask the child when they are going to start doing the right thing. (Example answer: I am going to start right now.)
If the child responds with “I don’t know.” to any of the questions, I suggest the correct answer in the form of a question.
1. Ask the student what they are doing. (Example answer: I dunno.)
2. Name the behavior. (Example: It looked to me like you might have been running in the hall. Was that what you were doing?)
3. Ask the student what they are supposed to be doing? (Example answer: I guess I should be walking.)
4. Ask the child when they are going to start doing the right thing. (Example answer: I am going to start right now.)
If a child is repeatedly unable to remember a procedure for being safe and kind in our classroom or in school, I am happy to spend time with them at recess or free time practicing procedures like listening or moving safely. I usually announce this offer calmly, not as a punishment. For instance:“Tyler, you are having so much trouble keeping your hands to yourself in line. During recess, I will help you practice walking quietly.”
This statement sometimes brings protest from a student who has realized that it is nearly the same thing as having recess taken away. I usually respond in the following manner:
“Don’t worry, I am happy to give up my free time to help you improve your behavior.” Followed by an ultra-cheerful, “You’re welcome!”
Then, I turn and walk away so the child knows that I am not going to negotiate.
The technique is effective because although there is an undertone of a negativity (recess will be missed), the consequence is delivered in a positive manner. Conflict and embarrassment on the part of the child are both avoided and a natural consequence is achieved.
I also let parents know through a note, email or phone call that their child was having ongoing trouble with procedures and how I attempted to solve the problem. I try to partner with parents and find out what works at home so I can reinforce positive behaviors at school. To me, it is most effective to simply state the facts and how they were handled. Writing a note just to report bad behavior to parents has a connotation of blaming the child, and thus the parent, for whatever happened.
More extreme cases or special needs are handled individually with increased support from school and home.