Strategies to Transform Your
Classroom Management Nightmare
Classroom Management Dream
It's amazing that most universities devote just 20% of their teacher training to the real-world issues that dominate most teachers' days. 80% of the typical teacher's training focused on content. Few teachers find 80% of their day devoted to content. Many teachers find much of their time diverted from teaching content to the classroom management nightmare in front of them.
I'm keynote speaker and classroom management trainer Ruth Herman Wells, M.S. I've spent much of my career devising awesome, improved, more effective methods to improve teacher classroom management.
Part of the reason that classrooms seem tougher to manage than years ago, may be that today's students are very different than students from years ago. As we host our Breakthrough Strategies to Teach and Counsel Troubled Youth Workshops around the country, we continue to have more teachers ask for help with students who are outright non-compliant, and verbally abusive to both peers and adults. If you are a teacher, or even a special educator, counselor, social worker or psychologist, your training may not have given you the prevention and intervention tools that you need to stop the extreme misbehavior that you may be coping with on a daily basis.
In our workshops and classroom management books, we devote hours to covering how to control even uncontrollable classrooms and groups. We can't magically squeeze all those hours of must-know classroom management information into this small space, but we can give you at least a few of the most important elements to get you on the path to ending your classroom management nightmare. Here are the top steps to at least start you down the road to managing unmanageable classrooms:
Classroom Management Strategies That Work
S T O P
Using One-Size-Fits-All Methods
S T A R T
Using the Right Method with the Right Student
You would never expect all students to fit into the same size of desk, or learn math exactly the same way, so why do you expect them to all respond equally well to the same behavior change methods? Human beings are complex. The same intervention may play out very differently from one student to the next.
If you still use just a handful of methods with all your students, you may be feeling more and more frustrated when it comes to group and classroom management. It is absolutely critical that you have a wide variety of methods to draw upon to manage each situation.
Remember: It's not about which methods you want to use or like to use. Your doctor may like prescribing aspirin but if aspirin won't help you, then the intervention is useless. It's about using the interventions that can work with a specific student.
Not every student understands how to quiet down in class. Not every student is motivated to quiet down when asked. Merely stating the rules or expectations worked years ago.
Mere verbiage may still work with some youngsters, but others need much more than words. For these students, try this approach. This intervention can provide the youngster with guidance and help performing the behavior– so much so that the behavior might even become a habit. Teach your students that "When the hand goes up, the mouth goes shut." (Our Poster #249 illustrates the concept.)
Consider putting one the students who struggles to quiet down, in charge of this intervention. That variation makes this intervention a very cagey way to get compliance from the student who is least likely to comply. This tailored intervention will often work well with non-compliant, distracted, ADHD, and defiant students because it is so much fun– especially if you are the student who gets to lead the intervention.
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S T O P
Teaching Unskilled, Unmotivated Students
S T A R T
Teaching School Skills and Motivation
Giving rules to students who lack the skills and motivation to comply is ineffective. That one sentence explains so much of what you need to know about on-going classroom management problems.
Contemporary children must be taught the nuts-and-bolts of the target behaviors. They also need to be convinced that education matters. Otherwise, rules and consequences will continue to fail to elicit the desired behaviors from youngsters who may have no idea how to comply, or any inclination to do so.
Here's an intervention that teaches an important school skill: how to interact with teachers. Poster #26 offers you a great example of how teaching school behavior skills must be done. The training must be specific, attention-grabbing, memorable and step-by-step. Poster #26 also illustrates the point that every single area of school behavior must be covered, even areas not routinely addressed– like teacher interaction skills and how to ask for help.
S T O P
Using Outdated Techniques
S T A R T
Using Methods That Fit Contemporary Students
Are you using the same methods that were in use when carbon paper, record players and chalkboards were still around? If you are, you're using yesterday's methods with today's students, and that works about as well as scratchy, old, vinyl records.
Here's one example of how your students have changed even though your methods perhaps haven't. Years ago, you had a small number of unmanageable students. Now, it is common to expect as much as 14% of mainstream students to be classroom management nightmares. Plus, today's out-of-control student is using far worse behaviors. Using old-style methods to manage today's severely unmanageable students is like trying to use outmoded chalk on your modern, dry eraser board. You can try, but it just won't work.
To become proficient managing a contemporary classroom, you must learn about conduct disorders, your most misbehaved, contemporary student. Conventional approaches fail most of the time with these hard-to-manage youngsters, and there is no work-around but to begin to use updated interventions that fit.
For your most misbehaved, conduct disordered students, you need to switch to approaches that maximize consequences, while avoiding relationship-based and character ed types of methods. You also need to avoid giving single consequences, and to be less predictable in your responses. If you predictably give just a consequence or two, manipulative conduct disordered youngsters may anticipate your response, and go ahead and do the problem behavior. If they don't know exactly what stack of consequences they might face, their behavior may stay closer to what you want.
To successfully manage conduct disorders, you must learn everything you can about them. These youngsters are often so cagey and smart, that they can easily discern and exploit uncertainty. They are often just uncanny about knowing who "has their number" and who doesn't– and behave accordingly. Unless you "switch gears" when working with them, you'll find that your classroom management concerns worsen.
If you're a longtime subscriber to the Behavior and Classroom Management Blog, the introductory basics of working with conduct disordered students were included in your second and third issues of this blog. If you want to read that introductory blog issue again, it's here. The articles are entitled What Every Youth Professional Needs to Know About Violent Students, Parts 1 and 2.
If you want to learn more about this quickly growing population, consider getting a thorough guide, our All the Best Answers for the Worst Kid Problems: Conduct Disorders book, audio book or ebook. Once you enhance your skills with the students who are your worst classroom management nightmares, you'll often discover a great bonus: the level of behavior of all students rises once the prime agitators are more in control.