Fix Classroom Management Problems:
Repair Your Broken School Year
There was definitely a theme to many of our Fall '07 workshops.
I'm the trainer for the live Breakthrough Strategies to Teach and Counsel Troubled Youth Workshops, Ruth Herman Wells, M.S.
In our live behavior and classroom management workshops, many of you continued to emphasize that your classroom and school have become seriously out-of-control.
To start off the new year, it only makes sense to give our top tips to repair serious problems at your school or agency.
By the way, for those of you who did attend one of our Fall seminars, we have a new page full of the resources you heard and saw in the workshop. This Past Workshop Participants Only page is just for those of you who have attended the workshop. Reach it by clicking here.
Here are our initial suggestions for what to do to improve problematic classroom management enough to salvage a school year that has been unusually difficult or dangerous.
Strategies to Fix
Classroom Management Problems
Many professionals do not realize that it is always easier to stop the problematic class than to salvage it.
No, you don't have to board up your classroom and hang a "Closed" sign on the door, but understand that it is much harder to fix a broken class than to just start over.
To start over, you can declare the old class as done, and begin fresh in every possible regard. Scrap the rules and make new ones. Rearrange your furniture, develop a new seating plan, and even consider renaming your class. It will also be important to discuss the problems with the class, and to work with your students to make this new venture work better.
However, these initial changes will not be enough. You have to be different and teach differently. It's way past time to understand that "same-old-same-old" methods will not magically start working.
It may be time to realize that you must upgrade your skills and methods for working with out-of-control youth. Some specific suggestions to begin those upgrades are below.
It's Not Just About Relationships Anymore
You may really struggle to manage your most misbehaved students if you use relationship-based approaches with all of them.
While we love relationship-based methods with most students, youngsters are not one-method-fits-all creatures. Relationship-based methods (including character ed, values clarification, trust-building, and praise) will fail with the most unmanageable students, conduct disorders (CDs).
This blog's second and third issues gave you an introduction to conduct disorders. (Click the menu at the top of the page to view those Introductory blog issues.)
Those issues alerted you to avoid most relationship-based and conventional approaches with CDs. If you use just one style of behavior control methods with all your students, you probably have already discovered that "nothing works" to control your class.
Here are some resources that show you methods that will work far better.
If ou want more than just introductory help, click here to get all the information you need on conduct disorders in one place, our Conduct Disorders: All the Best Answers for the Worst Kid Problems book. The bottom line: Until you learn about conduct disorders, regaining control may remain impossible.
Become a Fearless Manager
You know the teachers– the ones who can manage almost any class or group.
No one can simply hand you techniques and make you one of those teachers. Even the most updated methods can't hide any fear or worry you may have. Our strategies will help, but they won't alleviate the need to become one of those fearless managers who know that they can manage any class, no matter how difficult.
The truth is that students have amazing radar. They read us adults like open comic books. If part of you is really worried about successfully controlling a group, that fear becomes like neon, and everything else you do is reduced to a whisper.
You need to develop that internal fortitude and certainty that you can manage even the most unmanageable group. To gain that, we suggest watching the true pros of class and group management.
We especially recommend that you find someone with a similar personality and style. Juvenile court and corrections staff, vice-principals, alternative ed teachers, and special ed teachers often provide some of the best models because they have honed their skills with the toughest students.
Students Wanted, No Skills Required
Since most schools have no formal curriculum to train kids how to be students, you are expecting students to have skills they may never have been taught.
That's like expecting students to know how to swim even though they've never been taught.
You have to actually teach the school behavior skills that you want students to use in your classroom. Otherwise, you set rules that many students are untrained and unprepared to follow.
You absolutely must teach all the school skills that students need. A few of the most important on a long list include: respect for teachers, how to be part of a class discussion, what words to use, how often to talk out during class, how to get help from teachers, and how to interact with other students.
Be sure you work on students' motivation too. Skill training alone isn't enough. You must convince students that school is incredibly important.
Need dynamic ways to do that? Use the motivational interventions pictured on our posters. You don't have to buy the posters; just read the ideas and use them.
Set Behavior Standards and Ensure Compliance
You can not permit the kind of behavior problems that have been occurring at some sites this school year. Some of the participants in our workshops have described students who are inappropriately touching teachers, openly defying teachers, and entering and leaving classrooms at will.
You can not allow the standards for behavior to slide. There is no way back if you do. Right from the very start, you must have high expectations and compel your students to live up to those standards.
We have heard from teachers who just keep teaching while students refuse to quiet down or pay attention. Imagine the chaos if other compliance-based settings operated in such a manner. For example, would there be any order in a grocery store if the clerk just handed you your groceries after you announce that you'll be taking your groceries but not paying?
You are the "brakes" for out-of-control students. When you don't provide acting-out students with help to stop misbehavior, there is nothing to slow them down.
You must stop instruction and address misconduct. Ideally, you will get to the point where you can prevent disruption before it starts. For now, if you are someone who does need to repair a "broken" school year, be sure to promptly acknowledge and effectively address misbehavior. The longer you wait, the worse it will get.