Behavior Management Tips from MTA Members

From Susan Graham, Quincy High School

  • With classroom management, it is important to remain consistent. What you do for one class, keep it the same for all. Circumstances arise and adjustments need to be made, but the kids will get to know what you expect and there won't be any surprises.
  • It is important to set up your classroom environment from the very beginning of the year. If, however, things are not working, it is not too late to readjust your plan. Start today, state your expectations again, and stick to them. Just because things may not have gone so smoothly at the beginning does not mean you can't begin again.
  • List your expectations for all students to see. It eliminates the need for you to say what they are, for you can just point to them if a student is not meeting them.
  • Talk to your colleagues around you. Both new and veteran teachers might have great connections with students you are struggling to get through to and they might be able to help. By sitting down with the student and another teacher, it might let a kid know that you want to help and are doing everything you can to help them succeed.
  • The biggest thing I do to help the culture in my classroom is to get involved outside of it. Go to a game and cheer on your students. Show up at a music concert to let them know you are interested in what they are doing. This does not have to happen all the time, but students do appreciate your interest in their successes outside of your classroom as well as inside. I have found it helps in my classroom when the students see my interest in their interests.
  • Get advice from other teachers. So many times, we feel like we close the door and are alone in what we do. Get together with other teachers and see what is working for them. It is amazing what you can learn from other people in your building, and you might even get to know a few more teachers. At Quincy High School, a bunch of us get together to "talk shop" every now and then. It has allowed the collegiality among the faculty to grow, making going to school a positive experience.

From Ellen Peterson, Union Street Primary School, Weymouth

"Students need choices," said Ellen Peterson, a first grade teacher. "I remember having parents and my principal in to hear students read original poetry. It came to be one student's turn (the student I usually had trouble with), and he refused to go up. I calmly urged him to, but in front of everyone he still refused. So, I gave him the choice of going up at that time or at the end of the presentations -- there was no other option given. He chose the end, and everything went smoothly from that point."

  • Have a routine for just about everything. From scheduling to homework to behavior, students should know what to expect from day one.
  • Try a Class Constitution -- students actually make up the rules for the class ("rights and responsibilities"), and if desired, the consequences. The number one right is "the right to learn" and the number one responsibility is "the responsibility to learn." If you only want to post these two things, they cover everything!
  • I have chimes hanging in my classroom. Whenever I need the students' attention, I ring the chimes and they know to freeze. The chimes are actually nice to listen to (much less irritating than flickering the lights!), and seem to have a calming effect.
  • I have every student's name written on a clothespin hanging on a chart on the board. If they are breaking a rule, their name gets moved to a section of the chart labeled "reminder." If they continue, they are moved the section labeled "recess."
  • There should be some incentive system, especially for elementary grades. I have a simple thermometer drawn on the blackboard. Each time the students are complimented, or are working diligently, they get a few steps colored in. When we reach the top, they get to have a popcorn party, movie, extra recess, etc.
  • For homework, my first-graders have a weekly homework sheet. (For my fourth-graders, they had a notebook in which they wrote their homework every night.) A parent or adult's signature is required every evening showing that the student completed the homework, and that the parent checked it. They can drop a card in a basket for each day of the week this is done, and a prize drawing is held on Fridays for students who completed their homework. Not only is it an incentive for the students, but it keeps parents involved as well.

From Larry David, Lexington High School

  • Be true to yourself. Find a management style that is close to your personality, yet also suitable for the students you have. It's hard to be someone different all day and keep your sanity.
  • I'm a fairly friendly, loose person. The class, therefore, is fairly loose, and while things may seem a bit informal and chaotic, the students respect my wishes when I point out that we need to get back on topic. I'm not miserable, I don't feel like I'm being someone else half the time, and it's a more relaxed learning environment. It works for me. You may have some way that works more for you.
  • The more rules you have, the crazier it is trying to enforce them all. For me, be on time, respect others, have/do your work, don't cut, and don't eat in the class works just fine. When rule enforcement of silly things interrupts the learning process, that's a problem.
  • The students are not your friends. You have enough friends your own age. You may be friendly with them, and you might even remain in communication after they leave your class or school, but remember, you ultimately have authority over them and you are accountable for their learning progress.
  • Be sure to remain in control and calm. Never lose your temper. Take a deep breath and count to three, or five, or ten, or whatever you need. Anything you do in anger can and will be held against you.

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