You have got to master behavior management in the classroom. If you don’t, your life as a teacher will be miserable. Who among you remembers all of the helpful tips and tricks for classroom management shared by your college professors? Looking back, I don’t know whether to laugh or just shake my head. Most of these well intentioned men and women had been out of public education for at least a decade. It seems to me that they were basing their advice on the college textbooks and “studies” done in anything but real world classroom situations. After I completed student teaching and graduated, it took approximately 40 minutes as a middle school substitute to convince me that I still had a lot to learn about managing the behavior of 30 kids.
The Basics of Behavior Management in the Classroom
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In a perfect world, you would never have to deal with behavior issues during class. Like it or not though, you’ve got to know how to handle tough situations without losing your cool. We can all use some tips for maintaining the flow of class and avoiding conflicts.
Building a List of Behavior Management Tips
I thought it might be helpful to build a list of tips and techniques for managing the classroom. Of course, there are many ways to achieve this, and what works in one class won’t necessarily work in another. I’ll get the ball rolling, but I hope that YOU will add some of your favorite methods in the comments section below. I’m sure that there are a lot of great ideas out there that never made it into a textbook on teaching.
- Be Consistent and Fair. Your classroom isn’t the place for students to learn that lesson that life isn’t fair. To the best of your ability, you should always make sure that students know what to expect. Set up the rules, guidelines, and consequences at the very beginning of the school year, then stick to them.
- Don’t Play Favorites. This sort of goes along with the tip above, and it should be obvious, but don’t give any student’s preferential treatment. This can be tough when you’ve got a teacher’s pet sitting next to a student who looks for ways to challenge you every day, but you’ve got to hold yourself to this one. If students think they are not one of your “favorites” you’ll have a much harder time reaching them, and they’ll be a lot more likely to cause you problems.
- Be Prepared. Obviously you should be well prepared for every lesson, but it is also a good idea to know how you would react to challenging situations as well. What would you do if a student told you he didn’t do the assignment because it was stupid? What would you do if one student began bullying another? You’ve got to be ready to deal with some unusual behaviors when you’ve got a classroom full of young people in front of you. Remember, you probably don’t want to start sending students to the office every time a challenge pops up. You don’t have to obsess over things that might go wrong in your room, but considering some contingencies is a good idea.
- Develop Your Teaching Skills. This might seem strange in a post about managing classroom behaviors, but bear with me. If your teaching methods are interesting and engaging, you will be a lot less likely to have any problems. Encourage students to think and be creative. Don’t just use low level questioning based on rote memorization. That is SO boring. Yes, sometimes it is necessary, but be sure to push those higher level thinking skills too!
- Catch People Doing the Right Thing. Behavior management in the classroom does not have to be a negative thing. A common trap for new or frustrated teachers is to focus in on unwanted behaviors. Don’t let that happen. It makes the day long and painful and your students will pick up on the negative feeling in the room in a big hurry. Try looking for some positives and then reward those behaviors. Believe it or not, I’ve found that something as simple as stickers can become quite a motivator. Yes, even for middle and high school students. Get some cool stickers and give them out when someone does something right. Maybe even make it a challenge to get the most stickers during a grading period and then give away some kind of small prize. I actually thought of this idea after watching something on television about the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates. That was the “We Are Family” year for the team, and they won the World Series. During the season, their captain, Willie Stargell, gave out Stargell Stars for exceptional performances on the field. The players wore the stars on their baseball caps with pride as they collected them through the season. If it’s good enough to motivate millionaire baseball players, there is at least a chance that it will work with your students!
So, what has worked for you? I don’t want this site to read like a college textbook that’s filled with tons of theories based on “research” and conjecture. We all know that every class can have its own special qualities and that what works for one class might go over like a lead balloon in another. You’ve still got to keep on trying though. Please, use the comments section below to share some real world experiences that can help us all to better manage our classrooms and keep our students motivated!