Re-Brand to Improve Persistent Student Behavior Problems


teacher classroom management blog


to Improve the Most Persistent
Student Behavior Problems


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You would think someone who works really well with misbehaved students K-12 Keynote Speaker Ruth Herman Wellswould be great with misbehaved dogs. Well, I discovered there is little carry-over from unmanageable students to unmanageable pets. Even though I teach a class called Control the Uncontrollable Student, I had to sign up to attend a class called Control the Uncontrollable Dog.

So, my mastiff-St. Bernard is really well-behaved when there is nothing going on. But Bergie, my normally sweet-natured, well-behaved companion turns into a loud, tantrumming, non-compliant, out-of-control opponent as soon as he sees another dog. His new trainer said that seeing another dog had become improve behaviora time for Bergie to misbehave and do whatever he wanted. She said that I needed to re-brand. Now.

Re-branding worked. Almost immediately. After three years of failure. With Bergie, we used treats to re-brand. Seeing another dog no longer meant tantrum time. It meant treat time. He quickly learned to look at me to get a treat, which was much more fun than melting down and tantrumming.

The same concept of re-branding works with students too. If the start of class has become party time, if class discussions mean texting time, if punctuality means showing up 5 minutes late, it's time to re-brand. It's time to teach your students that a chronic problem time is changing to something completely new. Here are some re-branding methods for you to use to finally put a stop to some of your most frustrating, long-term student behavior problems.


Re-Branding to Improve Student Behavior


improve student behaviorRe-Brand Strategy

Start Over

For years I've taught that it is often easier to completely stop a bad situation than fight an uphill battle to make it better. So, if it's April and your classroom management situation is grim, stop fighting to make it better. Instead, end the class, and start over fresh– even if ending the class is largely symbolic and superficial.

So, you change the class name, you re-decorate and you re-arrange the furniture– but first, and more importantly, you actually teach your students how to perform the behaviors that you want in your classroom. (Here are dozens of free resources for teaching students those behaviors.) You need to teach the behaviors as systematically and thoroughly as you teach academics– to the point where your students are experts and veterans at behaviors like chair-sitting, hand-raising, talking one at a time, etc. Provide lots of reminders using posters, signs, door hangers, etc.

You also need to acknowledge the problems that existed and strongly emphasize that the problems will stop now. Once you issue this edict, you will have to follow through. Every time. Yes. Every. You will be tested so be ready to be rock solid at following through on your new expectations. If you don't, you will have great difficulty recovering. If you do maintain the standards of the new environment, you will have successfully re-branded.

The lesson for the future is this: It is always easier to create a firm, in-control environment and ease up later if you feel the need vs. tighten up an out-of-control environment. No one will fight you if you try to ease up on a very tightly run classroom, but count on a battle if you try to tighten up an out-of-control classroom. It's better to get your brand right from the start than to have to  re-brand later on. But if your brand has become a problem, and repeated rescue attempts have failed over months, then it's time to start over.


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classroom rules postersRe-Brand Strategy

Change the Conversation

In my live classes, I constantly hear about students' foul language that seems to be unstoppable. As with any behavior problem, you want to teach students the skills to behave differently, but on this issue, you have to be sure to also change their attitudes, and to give them clear motivation to choose different words. Cussing is comfortable, familiar and easy. Why give it up? You have to supply that answer and the answer has to be convincing.

Here is just one of our hundreds of methods to help with that. Ask students to name all the jobs, businesses and activities they hope to do. Have them list their answers in a column. Next, have students cross off items that are incompatible with cursing. So, for example, pilots can't swear at the air traffic controller, and employees can't cuss at bosses, co-workers or customers. The remaining items on the lists should be very few, if any. You've now begun to motivate students to behave differently. Once more motivated, you can teach the skills needed to reduce cursing. Once more skilled, provide constant reminders like our Poster #523 shown above. Your re-branded classroom can become known as a No Cursing Zone, which is exactly the change you hoped to accomplish.


student conduct posterRe-Brand Strategy

Practice Makes Perfect

When you want your students to learn an academic skill like multiplication, you teach the skills and ensure there is lots of repetition. Students may have to work with the times tables a long time before learning all the basic combinations. The same logic applies to teaching behavior. If you want students to learn to behave better, then you are going to have to teach it, and ensure that they get plenty of repetition until the skills are "cemented in."

When you use lots of repetition, it's important to vary the teaching methods used so that your students stay engaged and continue learning. Here is an example: Our Poster #543 depicts a Bingo game that you can make and use to teach or remind students of expected classroom behavior skills– especially what to do and what not to do. Enlarge the image of the poster to see more details. Activities like Classroom Excuses Bingo can make re-branding both successful and do-able even after long term problems.


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About Ruth Herman Wells

Author/Trainer Ruth Herman Wells, M.S. is the director of Youth Change Professional Development Workshops. In 2011, Ruth was rated as a Top 10 U.S. K-12 educational and motivational speaker by Speakerwiki and Speakermix. She is the author of several book series, a columnist, adjunct professor for two universities, and a popular keynote speaker and workshop presenter. Ruth's dozens of books includes Temper and Tantrum Tamers and Turn On the Turned-Off Student.