Classroom behavior problems could be your fault
You’ve taught your rules and procedures. You’ve set up a classroom management plan. Yet, you are still having classroom behavior problems and you can’t figure out why. Well, I hate to break it to you, but you could very well be the problem.
The problem with too many warnings
When I first started teaching, I didn’t realize I was the reason I was having so many classroom behavior issues. Unfortunately, I handed out warnings like Oprah handed out cars! You get a warning! You get a warning! Everybody gets a warning!
Now you may be thinking, Rachel, teachers should give out warnings. Yes, we should! But how many warnings are enough? I have come to learn that warnings actually mean different things to different students. Some students respond to a warning and that’s all they need to change their behavior. Some students need multiple warnings. And some students, it doesn’t matter how many warnings you give them.
The problem for me and probably for you isn’t the number of warnings. It’s how you give the warning. The issue is when you give the warning with a tag line. You say things like “that’s your last warning” or “if you do that again, XYZ happens” And then when the student does it again…we say something like, “I told you not to do that” or we just continue to warn. And we never follow through with what we said.
Consistency is key
Students learn quickly if a teacher means what she/he says. They learn if we are going to follow through with a consequence or not or if that really is the last warning. Even if we’re inconsistent, students will err on the side of getting away with it and they’ll continue to push the boundaries.
We have to mean what we say and we have to be consistent. Sometimes it’s hard, but if we want to minimize classroom behavior problems, we have to stick to it. Of course, there are always special circumstances, but for the most part, you can minimize behaviors by being consistent.
Choose your consequences wisely
Another way to make sure you’re saying what you mean and being consistent with classroom behavior problems is to think carefully through your actual consequences. Telling a student they can’t do something for the rest of the year in September is not a consequence that you might be able to follow through with.
I made this mistake in my 2nd year of teaching when I had a couple of students throwing crayons. I took them away and told them they couldn’t have them for the rest of the year. But guess what happened a few weeks later when we needed crayons…I gave them back. My students learned that I don’t follow through with my consequences. What should I have done? I could have shortened the time frame on losing the crayons. Or I could have told them they would have to earn them back. I could have told them they would only be allowed to have them in their possession during the actual coloring portion of the lesson. But just saying no crayons for the rest of the year was not a good option.
The best thing to remember is to make sure you mean what you say and you are consistent with what you’re saying.
Wanting more advice on classroom management? Download my free guidebook for new teachers here.