Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Classroom behavior management

I love being a middle school teacher. Not something I thought I would ever say! I am by no means an expert in classroom management, but I know kids can't learn and I can't teach, if we don't have structure. Especially with middle school, they can be tough...
This year has been especially challenging. You see, I have this class, (we all have had this class or been in it) it's a very interesting dynamic. There are 17 boys and 6 girls. The gentlemen in the class are what they call "frequent flyers". Meaning they are frequently flying into the principals and deans office. They have reading right after lunch. It's also a class that has new students added daily, because of scheduling issues. Individually, I really enjoy all of them as learners and as young people. But, together they are a hot mess. And, they don't. Stop. Talking. Ever. 

After lots of prayer and digging deep into my repertoire of experience and resources, I have some tricks up my sleeve. Given, they don't always work, but I had great day with them this week and I don't want to get ahead of myself, but I hope some of these strategies are working. 

Here goes:

1. Establish high expectations!
The first week of school I create a presentation that outlines everything. procedures, homework, behavior and consequences. I revisit these frequently. They are posted in my room. I ask students to help their classmates when someone forgets or doesn't know. If kids know what you want them do and how you want them to act, they can do these things.

2. Create consequences and stick with them!
 When kids can't figure it out or choose not to meet the expectations they know what will happen to them. I have mine posted for the kids to see.

3. Build relationships!
I debated with putting this one first. It's so important! If kids know that you care about them and you show it,  they are much more willing to learn and produce work for you. No kid starts their day saying "I am going to make my teachers life a living hell today!" At least I hope they don't!
Who knows? Your class might be the only place where they feel safe and like someone wants them there. A handshake, a pat on the shoulder, praise for good work, caring for who they are outside of school, these are powerful! I had so many conversations this week about being a leader, setting a good example, having confidence, challenging yourself ... I was feeling drained, but I know that they need it.

4. Be real and be honest! 
Sometimes you have to have real conversations with kids about where they are at. Be gentle, but honest. If they are not making the cut academically or behavior wise, let them know!

5. Focus on the positive
We start off every class with "Good things" I set the the timer for 2 minutes and the kids get a chance to share good things that are happening in their lives inside and outside of school. It's a great way to for me to get to know them as real people, not just as students. Students love it and definitely remind me if I forget to do good things

6. Keep them busy!
Kids who have work to attend to, ideas and questions to think about, discussions to be had, don't have a lot of time to misbehave. I always post an agenda of the class period on the board. I also post a
"success criteria". It's basically a "what am I going to learn and how I am going to show that I learned it" statement about what they need to accomplish during the class.

7. Use your strategies
If all else fails. I have a few things that have worked in the past. If a student is repeatedly off task, talking or disruptive, and I have asked them to stop, I write their name on the board. This is a warning. If they continue, I put a check, and keep adding as necessary. If a student reaches 3 checks, it is a phone call home and a lunch or after school detention. This has worked pretty well in the past and kids usually don't get past the first check before getting their behavior back on track.

Also, during independent work time, if a students is struggling to stay on task, I will pass out a treat to the students who are working and on task (a skittle or m&m etc) This is a good motivator for kids who are doing the right thing to continue, and the kids who aren't, get a motivator to do so.

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