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Being a teacher is hard enough as it is, but when you have to deal with discipline issues and behavior problems regularly, it becomes even more challenging. TCI’s staff is made up of many former teachers, and we know the struggle of dealing with behavior issues in the classroom and how distracting and frustrating they can be. We also know how beneficial it can be to get ahead of any potential discipline problems by encouraging good behavior from the start. This may not work with every student every time, but it’s likely to minimize the number of problems you have, which will allow you to teach more and discipline less. Here are our favorite ways to encourage good behavior in the classroom.
Be a Role Model
Whether you believe it or not, your students look up to you. They follow your lead and they pay attention to the things you do and say. They see you when you’re on the phone between classes, they see how you respond to difficult things in the classroom, and they see what you do to try to turn around a bad day. Your actions speak louder than your words, so you need to ensure that you’re acting appropriately and handling hard things well.
Students are often written off or ignored by adults because of their age, and that can really take a toll on them. Teenagers especially often feel undervalued, unimportant, and unworthy of many things because of the way they’ve been treated by adults. You may be the only positive influence in a student’s life, and each one of your students needs you to listen actively when they’re talking. Maybe they’re asking a question about a concept you’re teaching or maybe they’re telling you about what they did over the weekend. Either way, show them that they are valued and important and that what they have to say matters by paying attention to them when they speak and attentively listening to what they’re saying. Students often act out in class because they want to feel like they’re in control of some part of their lives. They may feel like they’re not being heard at home or with their friends, so they behave poorly for the attention. Giving them some one-on-one time and listening to their concerns can do a lot of good.
Create a Positive Environment
Just like we mentioned above, you may be the only positive influence in a child’s life. Their home life may be a mess and school may be the only safe place they know. Do your best to create a positive environment in the classroom right from the very beginning. Teach students how to respect their teachers, peers, and themselves. Make your classroom a place where only kind and encouraging words are spoken and where no question is off limits. Remember that your students often mimic the behavior and energy that you put out, so if you come into class super negative, wound up, and frustrated every day, your students will feel that and act accordingly. Creating a positive environment starts with you and your behavior and your attitude, so be sure to do your best to stay optimistic, energetic, and joyful each day.
Give Students Responsibilities
Many kids nowadays have very little personal responsibility, and this negatively affects the way they handle other people’s property and even their own belongings. It also makes students feel less-than and inadequate when it comes to taking on new responsibilities. Give them some jobs to do in the classroom or create a class project where they serve others in the community. Students want to feel needed and important, so anything you can do to hand them some reasonable responsibilities will help them learn and grow in a safe and educational way, and it will make them feel like their worth more than their poor behavior.
Utilize Age-Appropriate Positive Reinforcement
Everyone likes to be applauded for doing something well, whether that’s performing well on an exam, behaving well during class, or contributing positively to a class discussion. Students from kindergarten through twelfth grade can all benefit from positive reinforcement in certain situations. It, of course, needs to be age-appropriate, and it shouldn’t be too over the top—you don’t want students expecting a reward every single time they do something that’s a basic expectation of them. But adding in little treats or rewards here or there or doing a review game with prizes before a big exam are good ways to keep your students motivated and behaving well.
Discuss & Implement Respect
Respect is an often overlooked thing nowadays, but it needs to be taught both at home and in the classroom. Do a lesson on respect in the classroom and ask your students what it means to respect someone. Talk about how respect has to do with how you feel about a person and how you treat them. Give examples of historical figures who are respectable and not respectable and talk about why. Encourage your students to think about (and maybe journal) ways that they feel respected and ways that they feel disrespected. Have them discuss some of these and help them learn to implement respectful behavior in the classroom. Keep in mind that respect for others is key, but so is respect for yourself.
Employ Logical Consequences
Be clear at the beginning of the school year about the consequences you have in place for disruptive behavior. Make sure they are logical and make sense, and be sure the consequences are appropriate for the behavior. For example, a student who talks a little too much during class is not equivalent to a student who blatantly makes fun of another student. Even if your discipline system involves similar steps for each offense, such as a warning, a note home, a trip to the principal’s office, etc., be sure that the consequence is significant enough that the student will be conscious about not committing the same offense again.
Maintain Structure & Be Clear About Expectations
Structure is key to maintaining peace in the classroom. Set your expectations at the beginning of the year and stick to them. If you start getting more relaxed about students breaking or bending the rules, they will continue to push the envelope farther and father. Keep your systems in place all year long and make sure your students know that anything less than respectful behavior is unacceptable in your classroom.