One of the most difficult skills to master as a teacher is classroom management. Unfortunately, if you can not master this skill you are not going to survive as a teacher, especially as a middle school teacher.
However, when the school year starts, many first-year middle school teachers are pleasantly surprised. All through their teacher training they were told how difficult classroom management at the middle school level can be and how important it is to have effective classroom management skills in order to be a successful teacher.
Yet, during the first days of school there doesn’t seem to be much of a problem…students seem fairly attentive, no one is really talking or passing notes, there certainly hasn’t been anyone talking back or any fights during the first few days…but then things start to change.
You see, those first few days are the honeymoon period…students are nervous and many are a little scared so they sit back and wait. However, by the end of the first week of school, or certainly by the second week of school, middle school students start to feel more comfortable, they start to test the teacher’s limits and classroom management becomes more and more difficult.
It is at this point that many teachers start to panic and immediately resort to various reward/punishment systems, or as Alfie Kohn refers to them…”carrot and stick” systems.
Unfortunately, these elaborate systems are a mistake. They provide only temporary solutions to an ongoing problem. Students who respond to the rewards begin to do their work and behave ONLY if a reward is involved, while at the same time many students who thrive on negative attention actually begin to seek out the punishment.
The better plan is the “proactive approach” to classroom management. The proactive approach is based on the premise that the best classroom management plan is a strong instructional plan…that the key to middle school classroom management is to keep all of your students actively involved in all of your lessons.
Unfortunately, there are times when teachers are still forced to REact. There are times when the teacher has used every proactive trick in the book and still a student does something that requires the teacher to react.
HOWEVER, just because a teacher must react to a situation does mean the teacher must punish the student. The teacher must still save punishment as a last resort only!
So, what’s a teacher to do?
Well here’s an idea…create a “behavior action plan”. Better yet, have the student create the “behavior action plan”.
The key to changing inappropriate student behavior is to have the *student* take responsibility for his actions. First, the student must identify the inappropriate behavior, and then determine why it is inappropriate, and finally, how he plans to stop the inappropriate behavior.
All the teacher needs to do is have the student complete a “behavior action plan”. The plan calls for the student to complete the following three statements:
1. I am writing this plan because I…
2. This behavior was not appropriate because…
3. To prevent this from happening again, I plan to…
Then, at the bottom of the handout make sure to have the student sign his or her name. By signing their name the student is making a promise to follow through with their plan.
In the end, this classroom management approach is significantly better than simply punishing the student for the misbehavior. This classroom management approach has long-term results.