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Nipping Negative Classroom Behaviors in the Bud

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First 6 Weeks of School

The school year is underway. The getting-to-know-you period has ended and things are beginning to settle down. But now is also the time when some negative behaviors can begin to show themselves. The kids, more comfortable with one another, begin socializing at inappropriate times. Others are already starting to zone out. Even work avoidance rears its ugly head, with kids asking to go to the bathroom or for a drink of water.

How do you ensure that these behaviors don’t escalate? How do you nip them in the bud before they become a bigger problem?

These are the questions I asked Kristen Vincent, Jessica Minahan, and Melanie Link Taylor in a discussion, sponsored by Responsive Classroom, for Studentcentricity. Following the discussion, Kristen had this to say:

As classroom teachers, we need to be ready to redirect students in the moment for any behavior that is off-track. When we step in and respond immediately to misbehavior, we convey that any act of unkindness, disrespect or other rule-breaking behavior is unacceptable in our classroom community. Ignoring even small misbehavior can erode our efforts to create a safe, caring learning environment.

The overall goal in responding to misbehavior in the moment is to help students quickly get back on track with their learning. To do this effectively, we can use a wide variety of strategies to stop small misbehaviors right away in firm, calm and respectful ways. Visual or verbal cues, a short break, a brief loss of a privilege, teacher proximity or verbal reminders and redirections are all strategies that can help us nip misbehaviors in the bud. You can read more about effective, positive strategies for responding to misbehavior in The First Six Weeks of School, from Responsive Classroom.

Jessica, co-author of The Behavior Code, made a point of emphasizing that private redirection is much preferable to public criticism or praise.

According to Melanie:

When creating a classroom environment for positive behavior, a teacher must consider appropriate expectations based on developmental levels and demographics. A 'one-size-fits-all' approach to classroom instruction and management will not serve the needs of the students who are growing and changing every day; and understanding the unique input from family and community is the most effective way to maintain a positive learning environment.

To ensure that classroom management isn’t “one-size-fits-all,” Jessica reminds us that there’s a reason for every misbehavior and it’s the teacher’s responsibility to ask, “What is the child communicating to me?”

Classroom management is at or near the top of every teacher’s list of concerns. Unfortunately, most teacher-ed programs don’t adequately prepare teachers to handle it well. Fortunately, there are plenty of resources out there to help!

You can listen to the rest of the panelists' advice here.

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Rae Pica has been an education consultant specializing in the development and education of the whole child, children's physical activity, and active learning since 1980. A former adjunct instructor with the University of New Hampshire, she is the author of 19 books, including the text Experiences in Movement and Music and, most recently, What If Everybody Understood Child Development?: Straight Talk About Bettering Education and Children's Lives. Rae has shared her expertise with such groups as the Sesame Street Research Department, the Head Start Bureau, Centers for Disease Control, the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, Nickelodeon's Blue's Clues, Gymboree, Nike, and state health departments throughout the country. She is a member of the executive committee of the Academy of Education Arts and Sciences and is co-founder of BAM Radio Network, where she hosts Studentcentricity, interviewing experts in education, child development, play research, the neurosciences, and more on teaching with students at the center.

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Guest Tuesday, 16 July 2019