The success of an instructor’s classroom management system depends on individual teacher attitude. Research has shown since the 1970s that individual teachers have an enormous effect on student learning – even in schools that are comparatively ineffective (Jere Brophy and Thomas Goode, 1976). After analyzing achievement scores of more than 100,000 students in hundreds of schools, researcher William Sanders and his associates noted “the most important factor affecting student learning is the teacher…..More can be done to improve education by improving the effectiveness of teachers than by any other single factor” (Wright et al., 1997, p.63).
Teacher effectiveness includes more than academic skills training and technique. Much of it depends on individual attitude and perspective. The effective classroom teacher walks a fine line. On the one hand, the students must sense they belong to the classroom community. They must feel comfortable enough to attempt academic strategies, practice social skills, and express pent up emotions without the fear of ridicule. However, effective educators also want a solid discipline system which makes absolutely clear the sort of behavior which is appropriate for the classroom. Listed below are some positive strategies which have worked for me over the years.
Separate yourself from the words and actions of the student with Q-TIP. Often, teachers get caught up in word games with their pupils. “But you should have seen the way he rolled his eyes when he told me “NO,--------!” I’m sure it was disrespectful and inappropriate. How many of us as adults have lost our cool in an angry moment and said worse (admit it) to someone we love or care about? Calmly maintain control of your voice (become a robot, if needed) and state the classroom expectation. Be brief. A logical consequence should follow as a result of the student’s action. The other students should look away, not providing any reinforcement by way of laughter or attention (even shock). Later, after everyone has calmed down, discuss the inappropriate action with the student and reassure the student that you care. If the action was due to academic frustration, for example, discuss appropriate ways of expressing the need for assistance. Caring does not mean allowing inappropriate or unsafe behaviors.
One Minute Rule: Allow “one minute” for the child to comply with your request. Sounds like a short time. It’s long enough, though, to allow him or her to run those options through the brain and decide whether the consequence is worth it. Just as soon as the child complies, say, “Good choice!” and drop it! No sermons, nothing. By the way, the teacher is the only person allowed to tell the student how many seconds he has left on the clock because the others are minding their own business! Trust me- only one minute, the child considers logical consequences and takes responsibility for the choice, usually joins the group (ultimately your goal), and you avoid a major uproar.
Address the situation, not the student’s character. The circumstances a student finds himself or herself in may be bad, but the child is not. Many kids have heard all their lives that they are bad. Try good or bad “choices” instead.
Okay. So there’s this one child who isn’t complying. Before you try Time Out or taking points or whatever system you use, try talking to him quietly. But even before that look for one teeny tiny something he does well…there has to be something. Within 3 SECONDS of seeing this appropriate behavior, reinforce it with verbal praise. Don’t fall into the negative thinking trap of, “Why reinforce what he should be doing in the first place?!” You’ll see it again and more frequently, but notice it.
Surround yourself with the right people. Don’t allow other adults to drag you down and drain you with negative thoughts or sarcasm. You have to stay positive and start each day fresh! In the words of Steve Sobel, speaker, author, and former special educator:
Shoot for the moon! If you miss, you’ll still be hanging out with the stars!
Brophy, J., & Good, T. (1986). Teacher behavior and student achievement. In M. Wittrock Ed.), Handbook of research on teaching (pp. 328-375). New York: MacMillan.
Wright, S.P., Horn, S. P. &, Sanders, W. L. (1997). Teacher and classroom context effects on student achievement: Implications for teacher evaluation. Journal of Personnel Evaluation in education, 11, 57-67.