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The Key To Improving Student Behavior

Updated: Jun 5, 2020

Some students are constantly disrupting class. It's annoying. I get it. So what do we do about it?

Most of us enter teaching because we want to make an impact. Change the world. Make a difference. However, no one told us that we'd spend much of our time redirecting students. Our job is extremely emotional, impactful, and sometimes draining. We just want to teach. That's what we're good at doing, teaching. We dream of a classroom filled with students interacting kindly (at all times), 100% student engagement and participation, and everyone doing what we've asked them to do with excitement and enthusiasm.

Our vision gets popped within seconds of students entering our rooms. Why? Because they're human. Being human poses a wide variety of needs. Students react to teachers diversely in response to their needs and how they are being treated.

We know building relationships is king. But what happens when you've cultivated caring relationships and the class is still being disrupted?

Disrupt the disruptor!

As I was thinking about the key to improve student behavior, an example came to mind.

While out on a run with my puppies, it occurred to me we hadn't been out on a run for two days. Usually, we run every day. I interrupted the flow. I was side-tracked with other pressing matters. Two days prior the puppies listened to my instructions. It was a seamless. Now they were constantly stopping to roll in the mud, wrestle with each other, and disrupt the run. I felt so frustrated I wanted to quit. I thought, I'm never taking them with me again. (I know that seems dramatic and extreme. Frustration fuels those thoughts.)

Like my puppies, some students require much redirection. It's frustrating when we've already redirected them and they continue to disrupt, right? But like my puppies, it isn't a one-and-done fix. Redirection over and over again demonstrates our love and patience for our students and gives them space to grow and rise up to expectations.

How do we do it?

Drum roll...


That's it. (I know you already knew that!) But we tend to add complexities to our challenges because if the problem is simple to solve, we have to change.

Rather than edit our actions, we sometimes find excuses. Let's face it. Consistency is simple but not easy. If it were easy you wouldn't be reading this and I wouldn't be writing it.

Mindful of staying consistent, I regrouped my puppy training. I had to change. They were just doing what puppies do: play and seek their own interests. When I wanted them to stop and not chase a car passing by, I simply stated, "Sit." and pushed their bottoms down into a sitting position. I had to be mindful to do it every single time. Sure, sometimes they still wanted to chase cars. But less frequently. They loved being rewarded with praise for sitting and doing what was expected. Tomorrow will consist of the same lesson, I'm sure. But one thing I know...

consistency has lowered the amount of times they chase cars ( and my blood pressure). I'm less frustrated and running with the puppies is more enjoyable. It all boils down to consistency with expectations, training, and praise.

I disrupted the disruptors (puppies) with consistency.

You might be thinking puppies and students aren't the same. You're right but the same consistency I used with puppies I use with students.

There are many methods and techniques to behavior management. Match methods, hacks, techniques to suit the needs of you and all your students but the secret sauce is consistency with whichever you choose.

How will you know you've mastered student behavior challenges?

You won't. (You'll see improved behavior though, I promise.)

What? Wait, that can't be right.

We want steps. We want a checklist with ten boxes we can check off so we know we're perfectly prepared for what's next.

The trouble is...

everyday is a brand new day. New behaviors. New challenges. So how do we do it?

Begin by being mindful.

Ask yourself what am I doing to feed and perpetuate the undesired behavior?

One time a teacher asked me to count how many times she redirected students. She was totally frustrated by students disrupting the flow of lessons. In a ten minute time period, I ticked a tally mark on paper every time a student disrupted or she redirected. When we met after the lesson, she was astounded to learn she had said, "Stop that, quit it, and be quiet." one hundred times. Together, we problem solved the root of the disruptive behavior. It was three-fold:

1. Clear expectations

2. Reframing words to match the expectations

Instead of saying "Stop it!", she became mindful of stating what she wanted her students to do such as "Keep your hands to yourself".

3. Consistency

When she intentionally set clear expectations stating what she wanted her students to do with regularity, she was able to teach a seamless lesson.

Remember to be mindful about your actions. Readjust when necessary. Not every single student will improve their behavior instantly. But just like bathing isn't permanent, redirection has to be applied again and again. When you do, you'll be able to teach with fewer interruptions and you'll be less frustrated.

Consistency is key.

You make a difference!


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