5-A-2: Blogical Discussion

In the world of education today, so much emphasis is placed on getting results. High standards, such as the Common Core State Standards, outline what students should know as a result of their time in the classroom and standardized tests are given to measure the results. Educational standards and testing are consistently the focus of public attention. The public wants to see results. Published results come in the form of numbers – the percentage of students who were proficient in math, the graduation rate, etc. However, there are so many factors in education that cannot be measured but which also play a huge role in getting results.

 

Classroom behavior management is one significant factor which contributes to a productive learning environment. Although it’s not measured on a standardized test, the environments that we create in our classrooms affect learning. How we handle both positive and negative behaviors is important. Whether it’s giving praise or discipline, our actions affect our students’ attitudes and willingness to learn.

 

Like most areas of teaching, managing behavior is an area where there is always room for improvement. What worked in the past might not always work in the future due to new groups of students entering your classroom each year. Sometimes trial and error is the best way to learn. Our discussion this week will focus on sharing our thoughts and strategies regarding behavior management in the classroom.

 

Below are links to various blog posts from Pernille Ripp, a 5th grade teacher/blogger/author. Pernille offers her opinions on how to approach behavior management:

 

“Call Me Crazy But It’s Still About the Kids”

“Instead of Punishment”

“So I Gave Up Punishment and My Students Still Behaved”

“So What’s My Problem With Public Behavior Charts?”

 

As you share your thoughts on this topic, consider one of these prompts:

 

–          Should teachers focus more on rules or relationships?

–          What behavior management strategies have you found to be effective? What strategies have you found to be ineffective?

–          What is your opinion on public behavior systems in the classroom?

–          As you read Pernille’s blog posts, what ideas did you agree with? What ideas did you disagree with?

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14 thoughts on “5-A-2: Blogical Discussion

  1. This is such an important topic to discuss. Without effective classroom management, you cannot begin to successfully move forward with academics. I would like to focus my response on whether or not we should focus our attention on rules or relationships. As a primary teacher, I think it is critical to focus the majority of the time on relationships. The young children need to learn how to interact with each other, share, play, respond, ect. If we do not teach them what is the right and wrong way to treat each other, they cannot begin to follow our rules. This needs to be taught, modeled, and revisited often. Mini lesson work well as situations arise in the classroom. If we effectively teach how to interact with each other, I think I rules will fall into place.
    Jessica Schaffer

    • Great points! With young students, building relationships is key and like you said, modeling desired behaviors is the best way to go about it. I’m sure there are many “teachable moments” in your first grade classroom as you help your little ones find the words to say and actions to take to function appropriately with peers and adults in the school environment.

  2. I spent the first 14 years of my teaching career working with children who were then labeled seriously emotionally disturbed. I had between 15 to 20 students, 1/2 of them adjudicated youth living in a residential facility but educated in the public schools. While for some reason I am naturally gifted in working with kids with behaviors, I also learned a lot about behavior and emotions over the years. I don’t think it’s a question of relationships over punishment, or giving up punishments. While I couldn’t find what level the blogger taught, I don’t think, in the posts linked to above, that she gave up punishments. What i think she did do is change her approach and her outlook.

    What one person considers a negative behavior is an acceptable behavior to someone else. As she alluded to in her post in an aside comment, “oh I tried to reach those boys behaving badly(because let’s be honest most of them were boys)” many female teachers label typical boy behaviors as inappropriate. One link out of many. http://www.behavioradvisor.com/Gender.html A personal anecdote: One time I had a 6th grade learning support teacher push hard to get one of her male students labeled emotionally disturbed. All staff involved in the process, except for me, where female. I argued that he didn’t show any behaviors that were even close to the diagnosis, but his label was changed anyway. First day I have him in class he started playing with his hands as if they were any airplane. I spoke to him as I would the others in my class and he started crying. He wasn’t an ED student, he was immature for his age. By being placed in that classroom, though, he was put in a position to learn socially inappropriate behavior.

    In my opinion you can’t get rid of consequences; they are tied, however, with building relationships. Whenever I get a new kid in class, and the same holds true for any type of classroom or situation, you have a honeymoon period. The length depends upon the student, but for a period of time everyone is on their best behavior. I always take advantage of that time to build rapport with students, find out their history, likes and dislikes, family status, etc. This allows students to see me as caring for them and not just as someone who has to handle their behavior. I also always give students a chance to tell me their side of the story first, no matter how ridiculous it is. This allows them to feel heard and that I considered their opinion. I also try never to be “mad” when dealing with them, although sometimes it’s hard not to show it. While it feels like it, student behavior is not personal, and you shouldn’t take it that way. This is your job and you need to try to keep a bright line. Not to say you won’t care or get emotionally invested but it’s their job to look for loopholes and they have all day, every day, to do that. You have to be fair, firm, and consistent with what you do, which is not as easy as it sounds, and keep in mind that all students have strengths and weaknesses. Sitting still in a classroom for extended periods of time is not natural for many students, boys especially.

    I think the blogger linked to is on the right track. She is trying to build relationships, trying to not punish all behaviors and take away every privilege, and trying to see her students as individuals. I approve of what she is doing and don’t especially like public behavior and reward systems, but they have their place. No matter what, students still have to learn socially acceptable behavior to live in society, but comparing most boys to model girl students is a recipe for disaster.

    • I definitely agree that building relationships and having consequences are both necessary for effective classroom management. Like you mentioned, if students realize that you care of them then they are more likely to respect your consequences. This will causes them to look internally to find fault, rather than blaming the teacher for being unrealistic.

  3. My school uses many of the Responsive Classroom techniques which is a program that builds social emotional skills and competencies in students. It definitely promotes forming relationships with students and all school community building.

    Consequences are supposed to be natural ones that should help students learn from what happened. For example once when I had students put a whole in the wall they learned dry walling as they helped to repair it. The idea of the program is to build a positive school climate, make expectations clear and consistent throughout the school day, and empower students by letting them conclude why certain rules are needed.

    Because the school is an independent one, there are not really major discipline issues. Admission screening and careful perusal of recommendations probably contribute to this. I am not sure how well Responsive Classroom techniques work in public schools although many elementary programs use it.

    After checking out the links you posted, I can only imagine the relief the teacher felt when she started to get results. I remember the traffic light chart and sticks and cards as a child. The problem is, once you have lost all the sticks and get in the red area too many times ,there are not always ways to start again in the “green.” A child could be in the “contact parent zone” after an hour or two of school.

    I am not sure about asking students, “Why?” I don’t think they always know the answer. The question probably does get them to slow down if they are trying to think why they did something or said something. I ask kids to consider if thoughts and actions are kind, needed, truthful, helpful, and inspiring like the THINK posters and this seems to slow them down also. A class of 12 or 13 kids makes a big difference, too.

    • Responsive Classroom techniques sounds like an effective program at your school. I like the idea of natural consequences because it looks at each misbehavior on an individual level so that the punishment fits the crime, so to speak. As teachers, we know that what works for some students doesn’t work for all students, and the same is true with punishment – what one student deems undesirable might actually appeal to another. By giving logical consequences, you are definitely treating each misbehavior individually and effectively.

  4. Should teachers focus more on rules or relationships?
    What a great topic! In my opinion, the answer is both and not one or the other. When going into teaching, one of the best pieces of advice that I received from my dad (a retired Special Education Teacher) was to start out strict with enforcing the rules because you can always become easier but it’s hard to become (successfully) strict, as time goes on. It is important that the students view you as an authoritative teacher and not someone that they can take advantage of throughout the year. This could cause major behavior issues from the beginning. With that said, I also found that successful student-teacher relationships can have a positive effect on student behavior. When teachers take the time to get to know their students and incorporate the students’ interests and likes into lessons, it not only promotes engagement but also minimizes behavioral issues. This illustrates a mutual respect. For example, I had a student repeating my course and he HATED math. The student would never participate and was always off topic. I discovered that he was very interested in skateboarding. For one of the course projects, I encouraged him to build a ramp while discussing dimensions. He loved the assignment and from that point forward started to complete assignments and participate in class. He passed with a B! In conclusion, I feel that reinforcing rules and building positive and supportive relationships both help to effectively minimize student behavioral issues.

    • What an awesome story about the power of positive relationships! It’s amazing how engaged students become when they know that a teacher has taken the time to get to know them.

  5. I like what you mentioned within your post about behavior management being an area where there is always room for improvement. There are lots of reasons why good teachers always work on behavior management. As you mentioned in your post, sometimes the rules that worked before no longer have the same effect on a new group of students. Sometimes the way we (as teachers) handle a behavioral situation can drastically change the outcome of a specific situation (ignorance, panic, yelling, pulling a student aside and explaining the issue, etc.). Below is a quick list of some effective and ineffective strategies I have found within my own classroom.

    Effective Behavior Management Strategies
    Strategy # 1: Show students you care
    The best way to avoid behavioral problems with students is by creating a genuine positive relationship with them. The best way to develop relationships with students (for me) is learn about their lives outside of class, and support them in these extra-curricular activities. When students know that you genuinely care about them, and want them to succeed, they value you (the teacher) and are less likely to misbehave.
    I am constantly showing up to athletic events, plays, concerts, debates, FFA banquets, and other school-related functions (chaperoning dances, supervising the blood drive, raising money for a cause, etc.) to see my students participate and usually excel at something outside of class. Even for kids who aren’t the best students, these out of school activities (which are typically things they do have an interest in) serve as excellent conversation pieces to start a relationship with them. Attending these functions and supporting my students helps me to build positive relationships with them, which will in turn help lead to a better classroom environment in terms of behavior because students who have formed a good relationship with me are less likely to misbehave.

    Strategy # 2: Having the right judgment and a bag of tricks
    Not every student or situation is the same, and therefore when a problem arises, there are different tools and skills that may need to be used to solve a particular problem.
    Some students need to be immediately directly confronted about their behavior by the teacher in a rather harsh way, in front of the class. Other students might respond better to a strategy that is less obvious, but still acknowledged (maybe speaking quietly in class or after class). Sometimes, these students are relatively innocent in their misbehaviors. In these cases, it might be important to explain to the student why his/her behavior was wrong, and how to change this behavior in a future situation. There are also times as teachers where it can be better to “ignore” (or not give wanted attention to) a particular misbehavior, if it appears to be minor and unlikely to happen again.
    Finally, there are times when more judgment is needed to solve behavioral problems that come from deeper issues. Sometimes kids have a terrible home life, work two jobs after school, have a parent who has cancer, etc.; all of which may play a part in a student’s behavior (both good and bad behavior). In these cases, one of the best strategies to help this situation is build a relationship with the student using multiple items from their lives as conversation pieces.
    This past year I had a smart kid who didn’t turn in his homework for a 10 days and his grade went from an A to a D. My first response was to chew him out (which was not going to change his behavior). Later that day, I learned his family got evicted and he has been working two jobs after school everyday for the past two weeks. I felt terrible. I apologized to him, gave him another opportunity to finish his assignments, and asked him to inform me in the future when he did not think he would finish his homework because he had to work late. I never had another problem with him the rest of year.

    Ineffective Strategies
    The most ineffective strategy is the one that a teacher continues to use, when its implementation does not result in a change in behavior. For example, when I was in elementary school, there was a boy in my class who never completed his homework. His punishment was to stay in from recess until he completed his work. He never did his homework (not even during recess), and remained inside the rest of the year.
    The point of this story was that the method the teacher chose to manage the situation (“punishing” him by making him sit inside during recess) had no effect on the student’s behavior. The teacher never got the student to complete his homework (which was the goal), because she kept using the same “punishment” or strategy, which didn’t seem to bother the kid at all.
    So the moral of the story is: if its not working, try something else! Ask your colleagues. They can be very helpful!

  6. “If it’s not working, try something else!” – Excellent advice, Tiffany! Behavior management is often frustrating because there is not a set method or one correct formula for it. It’s a lot of trial and error. Like you said in Strategy #2, it’s important to have a big bag of tricks to pull from! Also, you mentioned calling on colleagues to help which can be very effective – especially talking to the student’s previous teachers. Often times, they know more about the circumstances in the child’s life which may be contributing to the misbehaviors.

  7. I was very interested in the “So I Gave Up Punishment and My Students Still Behaved” post. Since I am not a “teacher”, I actually looked at it more from a point of view of a parent. I have an ADHD child that struggles to sit still. She had one teacher in second grade that constantly yelled at her to stop fidgeting and it caused her to fidget more. After being called to the Principals office multiple times, the Principal actually switched teachers for her as he thought the other second grade teacher might gel better with her. The new teacher was fantastic and actually never yelled at her. Her new teacher actually gave her a basket of toys to grab from the bookcase next to her desk when she started feeling antsy and she was to play with the small toys in the box while she sat still. The toys helped her keep focused on the lesson and was less distracting to the rest of the class. Now when I am teaching my adults, I actually hand out small pipe cleaners, Gumby type bendable toys and other small toys to keep their hands busy.

    Great discussion question.

  8. Great topic! I think part of the reason I chose to stay at the community college level rather than at the high school level was that I didn’t have discipline problems.

    In my classroom, I focus on both rules and relationships. I feel that it is important that my students understand my expectations for the class. These are spelled out in my syllabus. My students know that I set the bar high and don’t back down. I do feel, however, that the better I know my students the better they perform for me. They don’t want to let me down. It is important for me (with college students) to keep my relationships professional and not become friends outside of the classroom.

    My behavior strategies mostly involve having a very clear outline of the goals, dates, points, expectations, etc. spelled out on the syllabus. I tell them this is a contract between us. It will tell you what grade you have earned at the end of the semester.

    I loved Pernille’s ideas on giving up the punishment as well as the public charts. I know how those things would make me feel—our kids have the same feelings. It does seem like it would take some getting used to in the classroom. The teacher would have to be very diplomatic.

  9. Student behavior and classroom management is a challenge for a lot of teachers and even leads to some leaving the profession. Our students are now coming to us with a whole host of problems that we haven’t seen over the years. I have worked for many years with students who have challenging behaviors. I always take the time to ask why the students are acting out. Is it due to the disability, are they hungry, did they have a good nights sleep, did they have a rough bus ride to school, or do they have to deal with family issues on a daily basis? Each day is a new day and I encourage teachers to wipe the slate clean. I work closely with teachers to create a classroom where students feel safe. The more structure we have in place for these students, the more comfortable they feel coming into school. They know that each day they come into the classroom they are going to be greeted by caring staff.

    The Bureau of Special Education and PA Department of Education have focused for many years on PAPBS (PA Positive Behavior Supports) to provide effective behavior supports to school districts, individual schools, classrooms, and students. This initiative is a comprehensive system of support that looks at all factors that impact student behavior. Professional development and technical assistance is provided to school districts in implementation of PAPBS. This is one way our state is facing the challenges of student behavior and looking at proactive approaches.

    I have to personally agree with Pernille’s blog post about punishment. Once you start using punishment as a means of control, you have to continuously “up the anty” to maintain that control. Dealing with behavior this way only shows students that you are not in control. Every teacher has their own way of handling student behavior. If you have an effective management system and students are responsive to that system, then that is what you use. I have been a trainer in school districts that want to put PAPBS in place and once teachers focus on their classroom system (even though they had the exact same training), they all have unique qualities to them. If something works, use it. The most important point is to be a caring and compassionate teacher because our students may face multiple challenges every day of their lives.

  10. Discussion Summary:

    Thanks to everyone for sharing your thoughts this week surrounding the topic of behavior management! In summary, we agree that both rules AND relationships are important. Many comments indicated that a healthy dose of both is essential to manage a classroom; however, lots of you focused your comments on how you build relationships with your students as a proactive way to manage behavior. It appears as though establishing positive relationships results less instances of broken rules.

    Another conclusion that can be drawn from our discussion is that effective behavior management treats each student as an individual. One size definitely does not fit all! Teachers must be in tune with the individual needs of each student and be willing to think outside the box when it comes to rewarding students for positive behavior and creating consequences negative behavior. It’s clear that differentiation does not just apply to lesson plans, but also behavior management.

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