The end goal of classroom management and discipline is to create citizens who can hold themselves accountable for their choices. A successful program will constantly emphasize self-reflection on behavior in order to build this capacity to self-monitor and self-correct. It's not an easy task, so it must be taken one step at a time.
To put this in perspective, think of the steps that must be taken to complete one of the major circles of life: The path from being an infant to becoming the parent of an infant.
A helpless infant is the epitome of selfishness, at least in the sense that absolutely everything is provided for him and nothing is expected in return. At the other end of the spectrum is the parent who is willing to undergo great sacrifices in money, personal time and emotional commitment to take care of an infant 24 hours a day.
There are thousands of little steps between complete selfishness and unconditional giving. Your kids are somewhere along that continuum, no longer completely self-centered but nowhere near the eventual altruistic ideal. It is one of your jobs to move them forward as much as you can...and in the process achieve the kind of classroom behavior management that makes teaching and learning much more effective and rewarding.
Teaching never has been just about the three R's has it? And it never will be.
As with so many other classroom behavior management tasks, we begin at the individual level.
Most teachers do pretty well with explaining their expectations. The follow-up step, holding children accountable, is where they let their classroom management and discipline plan start to unravel.
The key is to establish a consistent response pattern to poor classroom behavior choices (another one of those classroom routines ). This means a response pattern that you implement automatically - but kindly - without having to think through an appropriate reaction for every new situation. Your words are tailored for each issue, but they are done within the context of an established protocol.
The advantage for kids is that they become accustomed to this response pattern, and they understand where it can lead once it starts. If it is administered fairly, once they understand that the pattern gives them multiple chances to correct their own behavior, they become more compliant in working through the classroom management and discipline process.
TIP: Many students will start to rely on this process to reset their own behavioral responses when they know they are getting out of control.
Your response begins with a key phrase that the kids recognize immediately as a disciplinary trigger. I use:
"Tansy, please step aside"
...but any phrase that indicates the student is to remove herself from what she is currently doing will work for your classroom management and discipline plan. Since the phrase tells them to move to a certain part of the room, you may end up saying something like:
"Shane, please go to the wall"
"Taylor, please go to the chair."
TIP: Remember your ideal classroom climate; always use "please" and "thank you" even during classroom behavior management or discipline situations.
Model this process starting on day one of school:
Step 1: Misbehaving child is asked to step aside to the proper spot in your room.
Step 2: You leave the child for anywhere from 5 seconds to 2 minutes. You don't have to rush to deal with the issue; the punishment for the student is being removed from the activity and sometimes the student needs to feel this separation for a longer time period. Also, you may be in the middle of instructing.
Step 3: You have a conversation with the student. Ask:
"Why did I ask you to step aside (or go to the chair, or whatever)?"
"What are the expectations for this activity?"
"Are you ready to meet expectations?"
If they are having trouble taking responsibility for their actions or coming up with ways to fix it, give them more time.
Step 4: Finally, end with a cheerful:
"All right, let's get back to it."
The final step may also include an instruction to apologize to someone. There are even times when the student owes you an apology for their behavior.
You should ask the student to provide one (either to yourself or another child), but you must do it in the right way to avoid setting up a head-to-head defiance situation. Saying:
"I want an apology"
"Please apologize to Jeffrey."
"Apology? I'm not quite ready..."
...is likely to be met with refusal to give one. Think of how you react when you are angry from being called out on doing something wrong - the last thing you want to do is apologize to someone because you still have anger hormones surging around your bloodstream.
Give the student a little time to cool off and remember that they do like you (if you've been building your classroom community ) and would rather not be on your bad side. For a better approach to this aspect of classroom management and discipline, try this:
"Natashia, please go sit at the back table. I'll accept an apology when you are ready to give one."
Then let her think it through while she is sitting out the classroom activity. It may take 5 minutes (which can be an eternity to a young person), but she'll give you an apology - even if it is a grudging one just to get back into the group. I always accept the apology, reset expectations and get the student back to learning as quickly as possible.
If I have asked a student to step aside for intentionally dropping their chair or messing with my document camera, I will ask them to pat the inanimate object and apologize to it. This injects a note of humor into the situation but also helps them practice for making real apologies to people.
Look for these opportunities...that's classroom management and discipline with some of the sharp edges sanded off.
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