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Classroom management is a huge part of being an effective teacher. In many schools, administrators judge effectiveness with classroom management by the number of times you write-up a student. Aside from this fact, there are several good reasons not to write students up and send them to the office. First of all, if you write-up a student and have them removed from the room, they lose valuable instructional time, which prevents them from learning the curriculum. Secondly, sending in a write-up on a student does not always translate to positive results behaviorally.
Students who are frequently written up usually do not improve their behavior--rather, they begin to feel like they are in a no-win situation and, many times, begin to act out more. Both of these reasons translate to a huge reason for keeping students in the classroom: when students fail to learn, they fail to grow, and a lack of growth reflects poorly on teacher effectiveness. Although sending in a write-up is not usually a good idea, that doesn't mean that teachers should accept poor behavior choices. There are several strategies you can try before a write-up while maintaining a productive learning environment.
1 - Incentives: Building an incentive program into the classroom often helps motivate students who lack intrinsic motivation. Oftentimes, you can get donations from nearby businesses to help build a prize box, but that not all incentives need to be tangible. Many students will work for things like a free homework pass, a game day, computer time, wearing a hat in the classroom, or, a favorite of my students, sitting in the teacher's chair. Using a ticket system or a point system and deciding on a "price" as a class for earning incentives may help increase buy-in for students. Consistency is key when using incentives, so make sure to be consistent with when you give out rewards. Many times, giving out tickets to students who are behaving appropriately will trigger other students to follow suit.
2 - Parent Contact: Staying in constant communication with parents will make a difference, but there's a caveat to this one. Make sure not to always contact parents with negative reports. Many times, it's just as important to communicate positive behavior, especially when you have students who need more positive reinforcement for good behavior. This not only helps parents see that you care about their child, but it helps the students see that you notice when they're doing well. Building that positive report can make all the difference, and communicating with parents is a better alternative to sending in a write-up.
3 - Get to Know Them: Children love to talk about themselves and their lives. In fact, one of the reasons students talk so much during class is that they want to communicate about themselves. Build in a few minutes a day to talk to students about what's going on with them. You will be surprised what they will tell you when you give them a chance to share with you. Students who normally shut down will tell you just about anything when you show you care. Take some time to get to know your students by providing an appropriate time for interaction, and this will often prevent disruptions. A great way to do this is to tell students that if they will fully engage in learning for a majority of the class period, they can have the last five minutes of class to talk. It's better to provide five minutes at the end of class than to lose several more minutes attempting to manage disruptive behavior.
4 - Greet Every Student: Make sure you greet every student at the door with a cheerful "good morning" or "good afternoon." Taking the time during this greeting to really look at your students, their body language, and their facial expressions may help you recognize a problem before class even begins. If you notice something isn't right, pull the student aside and find out what's going on. You never know what issues students come into the classroom with. From home problems to fights with friends, many things can have an impact on student behavior. Heading this issues off before class begins not only helps prevent behavior problems, but it shows students that you genuinely care about their well-being. We all have bad days sometimes. If you send in a write-up on a student who just had a huge argument with their mom at home, you not only missed an opportunity to show you care, but you made that child's day much worse. Taking a minute to greet a student is a great way to prevent a write-up.
5 - Work with Your Colleagues: Sometimes, all a student needs is an opportunity to get settled down. The first step is to provide the student with a clearly communicated warning about their unacceptable behavior. The second step is to send the student to a designated part of the room to get themselves settled down. Make sure students know that these steps are a way to help them turn things around. If all else fails, sometimes it helps to work out a system with a nearby coworker so that you can send students over that need to get away from you (or that you need to take a break from) until they can get it together. A lot of students do not want to be sent to another classroom, so this option usually works well. Make sure to reciprocate with your colleague when they need to send someone to you. Additional consequences, like silent lunch, can be used for students who disrupt the classroom they get sent to. If a student consistently misbehaves in your class, but does well with other teachers, it is worth your time to figure out what those teachers do differently. Collaboration with colleagues may make a world of difference.
While it is important to keep students in the classroom, and these options may help most students change their behavior, sometimes you may need to send in a write-up on a student. Make sure students recognize the boundaries in your classroom and that they know what may result in an immediate write-up versus when they have opportunities for self-correction prior to the write-up. Obviously, if students engage in behaviors that endanger the safety of others in the classroom, a write-up is inevitable, but the above strategies can moderate most behaviors. For students who test boundaries or consistently prevent others from learning despite these strategies, either set up a meeting with the parent, communicate with the guidance counselor, and/or discuss alternatives with administration. If nothing else works, you may need to pick up the pen and send the student to the office. For most students, though, this step will not be necessary.
What strategies do you use before sending in a write-up?
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