Thursday, May 29, 2014

Solving Classroom Problems Now and in the Future

By nature, we teachers are incurable optimists. One of the very best aspects of this very busy time of year for busy educators is that we tend to look back on our year to see what we did right and what we could have improved while at the same time we are able to look ahead to a new, fresh year that is just a few months in the future. Even if you are one of those teachers whose school year has already drawn to a close, the chances are good that you have slips of paper or electronic notes filled with ideas that you want to try out next year.

 In addition to the more creative and positive things that you want to change about how you run your classroom and how you will connect with your students next year, you may want to take a fresh look at how you solve classroom problems. Although we may have the best of intentions and plans at the start of a school day, it’s highly likely that within an hour of arriving at school we will have to solve both big and small problems. Often we will have to solve these problems in front of about thirty or more curious students, too.  Often the entire balance of the success or failure of a school day can depend on how well you manage to solve the classroom problems that confront you.

 It’s important to think about the approaches that you want to take when dealing with a classroom problem. To make this easier, think about it in terms of these questions. They can serve as a guide when you are facing a conundrum.

• Who is involved in the problem?

• Who is being harmed by the problem? How?

• What appears to be the underlying cause of the problem?

• What rules, procedures, or policies affect this problem?

• What will happen if I ignore the problem?

• What is the simplest solution to the problem? How workable is this solution?

• How can I treat the students involved in the problem with dignity and respect?

• Where can I find help with this problem?

• How can I enlist my students’ support in such a way that they move toward self-discipline?

• What am I doing that may be having a negative impact on the problem?

 In addition, here are some other basic principles of problem solving that could make the entire process a bit easier for you in the future.

• Begin with small interventions. Save the office referrals for serious problems.

• Solve the problem instead of punishing the child.

• Follow school rules and policies.

• Make sure that the punishment fits the crime.

• Maintain a positive relationship with each student.

• If your first attempt is not successful, try another one. Then another one … as many as it takes.

• Ignore as much as you can.

• Minimize disruptions by maximizing students’ time on task.

• When things are not going well, try to see the problem through your students’ eyes.

• Think before you act.