I have been teaching for 12 years now, and I’ve taught the whole gamete of kids… rural, urban, well-off, impoverished… you name it, I’ve been in it! I’ve learned, however, that a kid is a kid is a kid… maybe with different needs, but still with the biggest need ever. LOVE. And with that need for love comes the very important concept of a behavior management system.
As I finished out Year 3 of teaching, it was as if I had an epiphany! Behavior management just clicked for me. Over the past twelve years, I’ve learned and I’ve grown in the area of behavior and classroom management. Here’s what I’ve learned and what I try and instill in new teachers I get to work with.
Advice I give in regards to behavior management to teachers who ask:
*The idea that “you should give four positives for every one negative” rule isn’t just a random, made-up number or rule. I used to yell and get frustrated with my kiddos, and the behavior problems I had never seemed to get better. Once I started applying that rule of being positive, the changes were EPIC. Think about it — how do you respond to criticism when it’s positive vs. when it’s negative?
*When you do have to give negative feedback to a kid, make sure to follow it immediately with a goal. “Johnny, we need to keep our voices on a Level 0 while we are working so that our friends can focus and do their best work. Show me what that looks like, and [insert praise or reward].”
*Form relationships with your kids. Spend time with them at lunch, recess, car pickup, during transitions… find the time! Your contract may say you get 30 minutes of free time at lunch, but your heart may be telling you that a kid needs some positive love. What’s more important?
*If you set up a behavior plan, involve the child in the creation of it! It’s like planning to feed vegetables to a dog without asking the dog if he’ll eat the broccoli. The child is more likely to respond positively to a behavior plan if they get to help plan it.
*Laugh with your kids and allow them to have fun when appropriate. Kids can love you and respect you at the same time.
*Follow through. If you agree on a reward, give that reward. If you say a child has earned a punishment, deliver that punishment. One of the worst mistakes in behavior management is not following through on a plan. Your kids will see right through that, and you’ve instantly lost respect.
*As often as you can, encourage a behavior plan to continue at home. The more adults that are following the plan with the child, the more likely they are to succeed!
*No matter how frustrated, upset, angry, irritated, or discouraged you may be, remember that there is a child with a heart who is probably just as frustrated, upset, angry, irritated, or discouraged as you are.
I’ll also never forget what my first-year mentor teacher told me: “Remember that the child who is driving you crazy is a child with a heart, a soul, and a family that loves him unconditionally. Speak to him with that unconditional love, and everything else will fall into place eventually.”