As discussed in last month’s ChoralEd post, there are two primary sections to any classroom management plan. In part 1, we looked at preventative classroom management techniques, which addressed ways to minimize and prevent behavioral issues before they occur. While it’s every teacher’s dream to prevent all behavioral problems before they occur, we must also be able to respond to misbehavior, providing correction and discipline.
Consistency and Avoiding Preferential Treatment
Consistency in behavioral intervention is significant as it maintains consistent classroom expectations. If the teacher allows misbehavior to occur without intervention, then over time this behavior can be viewed by students as acceptable. When the teacher finally responds to this misbehavior after allowing it to fester, students often view this as unfair preferential treatment, saying things like, “Micah didn’t get in trouble when he did that.” Student concerns of preferential treatment can also manifest when severity of punishment for misbehavior is inconsistent.
Track Instances of Misbehavior
Some employers may provide you with specific instructions for tracking misbehavior. If not, it’s important to develop your own system. When working with hundreds of students each year, it is easy to forget what disciplinary stage you are on. Keeping detailed records allows you to respond consistently to misbehavior and avoid appearances of preferential treatment.
Stages of Intervention
In responding to misbehavior, there are several generally accepted interventions a teacher can implement. In order of severity, they are: proximity, visual disapproval, verbal correction, conference, detention, parent phone call, and office referral.
At the first sign of misbehavior, a teacher can quietly move closer to a student. By doing this, the teacher nonverbally signals to the student that they are aware of the misbehavior. The proximity approach in many ways is a preventative technique that discourages the student from continued misbehavior without any verbal correction, which can create a disruption in instruction.
A useful tool for teachers is a visual display of disapproval, often referred to as “The Look.” Through this visual display of disapproval, the teacher clearly communicates to the student that their behavior is not appropriate. Similar to proximity, this intervention often discourages continued misbehavior without any verbal correction, and is helpful when the teacher is further away from the student (i.e., behind the piano) and unable to employ the proximity technique.
One of the more popular (and often misused) behavioral interventions is verbal correction. As discussed in part 1, your verbal correction should not be in the form of a question. Instead, it should be an authoritative command. It is also important to be specific as to the individual and the behavioral issue they are exhibiting. Avoid saying, “Altos stop talking,” or “Micah stop doing that.” Was it really all the altos that were talking? What was Micah doing? Often, students respond to this second statement with, “I wasn’t doing anything.” Instead, clearly state the student’s name and either disapproval for the misbehavior or corrective instructions. For example, “Micah and Ryan, I need you to stop talking.” “Becky, I need you to return to the risers.”
Effectively meeting with a student in a student-teacher conference is a developed skill that takes time to master. During this conference it’s important to have the student clearly understand why their behavior was inappropriate for the classroom and reinforce your classroom expectations. Your demeanor should be a careful balance between sternness and compassion. When you are overly authoritative the student may view the teacher as a tyrant who is out to get them. In contrast to this, being overly compassionate weakens the severity of the misbehavior.
Detention is frequently skipped by teachers as a behavioral intervention as it is often challenging to get students to stay after school for a thirty-minute detention. Not to mention, having to monitor the student for this extended period of time. An alternative to this traditional detention is a short five-minute detention that focuses on self-control. In this detention, students practice self-control by placing their feet on the floor and hands flat on the desk for the entirety of the five-minute detention. Each time they talk, scratch their nose, stand up, etc., the detention is extended by an additional thirty seconds. If the student exceeds two additional minutes the teacher moves immediately to the next intervention stage. In general, I find this approach significantly more impactful than the arbitrary sit in the room for thirty minutes. Teachers might also find it beneficial to have students practice correct behavior during detention. For example, instruct the student to enter and exit the classroom ten times demonstrating correct classroom procedures.
Parent Phone Call
Depending on preference, a parent phone call can be placed prior to detention, but it remains one of the last behavioral interventions before an office referral. New teachers may find calling a parent a little awkward or intimidating, but rest assured, in most cases the parent will be supportive. During this phone call be confident and able to clearly articulate the behavioral issue. A highly effective technique is to call the parent with the student present. In this phone call have the student describe their misbehavior to the parent. It is also beneficial to describe to the parent all the previous behavioral interventions that have taken place and express a desire to work collaboratively with the parent to improve the behavior.
When it comes to behavioral issues in your classroom, I hope you seldom have need to incorporate these intervention techniques and are able to proactively prevent misbehavior before it occurs. For those new teachers just starting out, I can tell you from experience that managing behavioral issues can be a challenging task. Don’t be discouraged! As you continue to progress in your career you will quickly develop and refine your skills in classroom management.
To watch ChoralEd, Episode 3, Part 2 on YouTube click HERE