Is the honeymoon over yet for students who came to school the first day with new school clothes, books, pencils, and haircuts? Students start school with a range of financial, social, emotional, and learning backgrounds, and as teachers we have to see their differences as the strength of our classroom environment. Typically, as the summer turns to fall, many students start to fall out of line and try the teacher’s patience. I would like to provide you with some practical tips to keep in mind to help you think about managing and acknowledging student behavior.
1. Behavior is language. Students, especially younger students, may have trouble expressing their feelings in words, but rarely do they have trouble expressing their feelings through behavior. Try to analyze the language of the behavior and what the student is really trying to tell you. It could be that the work you gave him was too hard, that someone is picking on him, that he is hungry or sad, or numerous other issues that impact everyone’s daily lives. Always look at behavior not as a personal attack against you, but a way for students to tell you things are not going right.
2. Remember the only behavior you can change quickly is your own. Yes, behaviors can change through intensive behavioral therapy, but the fastest way to address behavior issues is to change your behavior. If a student is frustrated and raising their voice, try lowering yours. If a student does not want to do work, see if you can provide an easier alternative to get them started and to experience success.
3. Keep it positive. Behavior rules suggest that you give four positives to every one negative. Remember to praise kids for what they are doing that is fantastic in your classroom.
4. Praise in public, punish in private. If you want to share something good about a student, make sure that everyone hears the positive. If you must redirect or share something with a student, do it in private and try not to do it during class time. Otherwise, students miss out on the reason they are in your class to learn.
5. Ensure you are giving all students attention. Don’t just give attention to those who are misbehaving; try to have positive interactions with every student.
6. Communicate. If they are misbehaving, ask your students “Why?” Also call the family to see if there is something going on that could have triggered the response.
Overall, the bottom line is that if you listen to the behaviors of your students, you can learn their needs and change how you approach their unique stress.
Look forward to writing more in the coming weeks.