Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Are You Causing Your Classroom Problems?

Classroom problems, just like most of the problems in the world, rarely have just one cause. Life would certainly be much simpler if they did. Many classroom problems, however, do have one particular cause in common: somewhere a teacher misread a situation and made things worse. As disheartening as that thought may be, there is a bright spot. If we are the cause of many of our problems, then we can also be the remedy.

            For example, if a student is tardy to class, there will certainly be a disruption. The size of that disruption is often closely tied to the teacher’s reaction to it. Often our reflex action is to stop what we are doing and irritably demand, “Why are you late?” Instead, if we just let the student settle in while we continue with the rest of the class and then quietly sort it out later, the problem stays as small as possible. Here are some of the other ways that we cause our own classroom problems.

  1. We are not as prepared as we should be for a particular lesson. Handouts are incomplete. Materials not sorted. Equipment not working. These all result in wasted time where our students either have to wait for us to get ourselves organized or take advantage of the opportunity to do something not okay.
    Solution: Mentally rehearse a lesson well before you stand in front of students. In the car on the way to school work if you have a long enough commute.
  2. We don’t pace instruction correctly. Either students have to rush through the material without really internalizing the instruction, or they have nothing constructive to do after finishing their work for the day. Either way, we have caused students to not be as productive and successful as they could be.
    Solution: When you plan lessons, always have a backup plan and always have the next assignment ready so that students can transition seamlessly from one to the next. Sometimes giving students a checklist of things that they must do works well, too.
  3. We don’t monitor students carefully enough. Small problems can snowball with alarming speed. We’ve all been there—that awful moment when you realize that the whole group has misinterpreted the directions to an assignment and is growing more confused by the minute.                              
    Solution: Once you give directions for an assignment, spend at least ten minutes checking on your students before you sit down. That usually gives them enough time to encounter any problems. Stay on your feet and monitor.
  4. We forget how awful it is to have to ask ourselves, “Now what should I do? When we neglect to spend time on the prevention of problems, trouble will always happen. Even simple actions such as having a policy for managing bathroom breaks in place makes life easier for us all. It’s always better to think in terms of prevention instead of coping.                                                                                      
    Solution: Don’t hesitate to ask yourself what could go wrong when you are thinking about your classroom and your instruction. You’ll save yourself lots of problems if you can get into the habit.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Ten Most Common Discipline Mistakes to Avoid

Although there are plenty of places where classroom discipline can go wrong, it is not too difficult to figure out that there are some mistakes that are absolutely going to cause problems for you and your students whenever they appear. Here is a quick list of the ten most common discipline mistakes. If you find yourself (like many of us) involved in one of these, try your best to avoid that mistake.
  1. Don’t take student misbehavior personally. Distance yourself emotionally from student misdeeds and remain objective.
  2. Don’t lose your temper; you will only appear foolish. Calm down and think before you act.
  3. Don’t create problems by tempting your students. Don’t leave valuables lying around, don’t leave the room unsupervised, and don’t allow opportunities for misbehavior because you are not monitoring.
  4. Don’t ever touch an angry student. Your innocent touch can be misconstrued.
  5. Don’t confront a student in front of the class. Not only will this create a disruption that will upset everyone who watches, but the misbehaving student may act even worse to avoid more embarrassment.
  6. Don’t neglect to intervene when a problem is small enough to be handled easily.
  7. Don’t label students negatively. Their behavior may be bad, but they are not bad people.
  8. Don’t be confrontational or order an angry student to comply with your demands. Adopt a problem-solving approach instead.
  9. Don’t assign academic work as punishment. The consequence should match the misbehavior.
  10. Don’t be too quick to send a student to an administrator. Handle your own problems as often as you can.