Classroom Management Makeover

At the end of each school year, I reflect back and choose one thing I really want to change and improve upon and I make that my own mini-professional development for the summer. This past summer, I chose classroom management. I've always been known for good classroom management and I've always had the ability to build good relationships with challenging students. However, in the past few years, this was getting more challenging. It could be that my patience was wearing thin (I was going through some personal challenges myself), the number of challenging students was increasing each year, the challenges were changing.  All of the above? None of the above? I couldn't put my finger on it but the reason didn't matter, if I wanted to be better at it, would have to change.
I spent this past summer delving into all things classroom and behavior management focusing on handling the most challenging behaviors.  Students are usually misbehaving for a reason - often they might not even be aware of the cause/effect relationship between something that is going on in their lives and their behavior in the classroom.

Here are the two BEST resources I found for the changes I wanted to make in my classroom management style:

1. Brian Mendler's podcasts. Inspiring.  He offers solid advice about building relationships and avoiding power struggles. Building a relationship with a child and working with them individually on strategies to reduce and change the negative behaviors.  I listen to his podcasts at least once a week on my way to school, you can check them out by clicking on the image below: 

2. The book "Hacking School Discipline: 9 Ways to Create a Culture of Empathy and Responsibility Using Restorative Justice". This book is written to how a school can change its culture but I found it applicable to my one classroom.  The authors Nathan Maynard and Brad Weinstein give 9 "hacks" in an easy-to-read format with steps on how to implement the hack and what it sounds like and looks like in action.  I've heard a lot of talk about restorative justice but had never seen it actually implemented.  I'll be honest, I was skeptical at first but I'll also be honest: the consequences I was using for negative behaviors did not improve the behavior. The same kid was having the same consequences every day. That is obviously not working and I need to try something different.  Teaching students what the expected behavior is supposed to be, teaching them how their negative behavior affects others, giving them strategies to avoid the negative outcomes, and giving students a chance to repair the harm done.  You can find the book by clicking on the image below:

(Note: These are not affiliate links, I just LOVE these resources and want to share them with you!)

  • I've ditched my behavior clip chart and now use Class Dojo to record points. I do not project my Dojo screen and will only conference with students privately about their personal Dojo points as needed.  
  • I've done a Morning Meeting for the past year but this year, I've added a Class Meeting. A class meeting is called by me at any time when I see behaviors getting off-track in my classroom, to discuss issues at specials/cafeteria/recess or any other thing I feel we need to discuss.  I try to have a POSITIVE class meeting at least once a month to celebrate the good things I see happening in my classroom.
  • I still use a Calm Down station (I have a blog post about it HEREwhere students can go for a brief time out to cool down that is stocked with some coloring pages, crayons, play dough, pattern blocks, a mirror (the mirror is the MOST popular item there!).  
  • I've started using a Think Sheet that is based on restorative justice practices. I use this form as a conference tool.  I can quickly talk with a student at the Calm Down station after they've had time to calm down or I can conference with students at recess too. It's easy to take a short walk with them outside and have a lot more privacy. The Think Sheet was created to make it easy for students to complete and requires students to think about what they were feeling right before the action occurred. It also makes them think about how they can make amends for their behavior choice. I've found the form so helpful for conferencing with students about the behavior and it's eye-opening for students when I ask them to make amends for their actions. It helps them to see that their behavior has consequences for those around them. It can affect the learning of others, it can hurt feelings, it can impact trust, and it harms our classroom community.

One thing that's tough about teaching, is that it is ever-changing. One thing I love about teaching is that it is ever-changing. Every year, every month, every week, every day, every period, is a fresh start - for my students and for me.

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