Promoting Courteous Classroom Behavior – Psychology Essay
From state to state, city to city, system to system, classroom to classroom, teachers are united in the struggle to promote courteous classroom behavior while
creating a classroom climate that is conducive to learning. This paper focuses on three distinct classroom discipline strategies which are, controlling undesirable behavior, encouraging good behavior, and strengthening your relationship with students. These principles of effective discipline strategies will force you to transform your thinking, your personality, and your teaching style.
As a teacher, it appears that students simply don’t care. Why? Is it due to lack of motivation, too many children in classes, lack of parental involvement, or insufficient funds for adequate supplies and/or materials? Whatever may be the case, many books and articles have been written on this problematic subject to teach teachers the process of using effective classroom methods to defray some of these discipline areas.
Many teachers daily address these challenging behaviors in the classroom. Many have been trained and feel well prepared to teach their academics to their students. However, true learning comes inside that classroom when it is just you and those students. The first day sets the tone for the remainder of the academic school year. Your approach and methods for behavior management used on that very first day, tells the students your standards and your expectations.
Controlling undesirable behavior can be done effectively and efficiently with a classroom atmosphere based on caring, kindness, dignity, and mutual respect. Our environment or the arrangement of space emits a powerful message to our students about our expectations for their behavior. The environment should be stimulating, inviting and nurturing to all students and their academic performance. It should evolve around their interests. This kind of environment would bring a sense of belonging to them especially if they are allowed to be a part of the creations and decorations.
Involve the students with the plans and layout of the classroom. Get those “creative juices” flowing. Many of our students are creative beings, very artistic, and highly talented. They have unlimited resources with worthwhile skills and ideas that often times get overlooked by teachers. Teachers don’t have to do it all. Delegate some authority, with limits, to the students. Seeing their ideas valued by the teacher is a reward in itself. When they see the fruit of their labor, they will be least likely to cause damage or allow someone else to damage their efforts. According to Seymour and Seymour, “We expect so little from kids. Is it really surprising when we get so little in return?”
Effective teaching is another fringe benefit for controlling undesirable behavior. Effective teachers are always exploring new ideas, reviewing, reteaching, taking risks, and always learning. They are willing to try new things with new approaches. They realize that the textbook is not the only working source available for the learning process. They use other instructional materials to amplify their lessons such as newspapers, internet sources, videos, workbooks, etc. According to Phelan and Schonour, “effective teaching is the best preventive discipline strategy.
With the previously stated comments, these teachers will most likely have the least amount of disciplinary problems. Why? The reason is that they focus more on a learning environment, rather than on the problem. They have come to realize that teaching empowering skills such as language, problem solving skills, critical thinking skills, higher order skills, and decision making skills, empower the students with a positive attitude for success in life. “When the underlying motivation of discipline is control and punishment rather than an opportunity for learning, little will be accomplished”, according to Positive Discipline in the Classroom by Nelsen, Lott, and Glenn. Students should be taught to be responsible for their own actions and to accept the consequences/punishment for their negative ones.
Be upfront with the rules/procedures of the classroom. These rules should be set on the first day of school. There shall be no more than three rules set for the class. Those rules, along with the school wide rules, should be visible along with their consequences.
Classroom rules are established not to punish the students, but rather to help with discipline problems and to improve behavior. Rules don’t have to be over burdensome for students and teachers, but executed consistently and fairly by the teacher. Students, especially the upper grades, can take part in establishing these classroom rules.
Every effective teacher needs several positive discipline classroom management tools. In the book, “Positive Discipline in the Classroom, the authors point out many useful tools that could be implemented by the teacher. As the teacher, you can present your students with limited choices. These choices should be age appropriate with at least two acceptable options. “It’s not appropriate, for instance, to give students a choice about whether or not they want to learn to read, go to school, hurt someone else, be in dangerous situation such as climbing on the roof, and so on”, Glenn, Lott, and Nelsen. Students’ choices should be limited and the teacher should be willing to accept either choice that the student chooses. In other words, don’t offer a choice that you’ll not happy with and/or acceptance to you. Another tool is classroom jobs. Various jobs could be assigned to various students to give them opportunities to contribute in a meaningful way. Assigning jobs is one way to help students to feel better about themselves and a way of keeping them from misbehaving inappropriately. More on assigning jobs will be discussed under the second classroom strategy, “encouraging good behavior”.
Encouraging good behavior means getting the students to perform in a positive way such as “start doing their schoolwork, lining up, paying attention, cleaning their desks and transitioning smoothly” according to Phelan and Schonour. Many strategies are useful for encouraging your students to perform in a desired manner. This method may require more time especially if you are trying to get control of your classroom by managing their obnoxious conduct. One step toward good behavior is positive reinforcement. Phelan and Schonour points out that most teachers will not stop to praise the class when they are quiet and engaged in the assignment. Why? Because when adults are happy and content themselves, they are not particularly motivated to do anything more than what they’re already doing according to Phelan and Schonour. In other words, that small window of opportunity to sit down and/or grade papers may never present itself before the end of the day.
We don’t want our kids to feel that they are a pain in the neck to us; so therefore, we offer praise as often as possible. “Praise should be given early and often every day. Your praise and other positive interactions with your students should outnumber your negative comments by a ratio of about two or three to one. If you look, you shouldn’t have trouble finding something to reinforce:
“Thanks for passing out the papers.”
“You started your work all by yourself! Wonderful!”
“Your reading buddy really likes you.”
“You guys did a good job of getting along during recess today.”
“I think you got ready for science in record time this morning!”
“Good job on that math test, John.”
“I saw you out on the soccer field. You played hard—good hustle!”
“That’s terrific! I knew you could do it!” (Phelan and Schonour)
Don’t just praise kids for successfully carrying out simple requests, but praise them also for cooperation, for motivating others, and for good performance. Please be sure that you tailor your praise for each child. Bobby may like been praised in front, while others may find it sickening. Therefore, know your students and know who would benefit from your motivational techniques versus those who this approach would be ineffective.
Two additional self-esteem boosters are: (1) praise in front of other people and (2) unexpected praise (Phelan and Schonour). For example, Jessica comes up to you while you are talking with the assistant principal and you stop to brag on her accomplishments. Well, Jessica is glowing with excitement and pride. Unexpected praise can be rewarding to the student because generally the only time they may get called on by the teacher is for answering a question and/or the student may feel as if he/she is in trouble. For example, you may notice that Stephanie is helping Rachel with her belongings because Rachel has injured her ankle and has to use crutches. Therefore, Stephanie carries the backpack for her to the next class. You praise Stephanie for her thoughtfulness and her kind deed. You respond positively to Stephanie’s act of kindness. Stephanie may be one that always stays in trouble at school. The only words she gets are those that only deepen her anguish. Unexpectedly she receives positive praise from you which now encourages her to do more while giving her a sense of satisfaction. By the teacher openly praising Stephanie, this tactic would motivate others to join her. All people love to hear praise, rather than someone nagging or fussing at them.
Kitchen timers can be a remarkable device for promoting good behavior in students. Timers are a useful tool for assisting you with your class. They can be useful for starting and ending group work, lining up, cleaning-up or transitioning. Use them to time the “time out” students, but be sure that the students cannot adjust the time. If an unexpected visitor is coming, using the timer to get the kids to quickly straighten the classroom. The award is getting it done before time is up.
The docking system is another useful strategy for encouraging good behavior. This principle is founded on this basic idea, do the work and get paid. If you don’t do the work, you’ll pay me. This system is for children in kindergarten or above. However, some sort of token economy system must be in place so that your students will have a source of funds. A token economy can work in various ways. Groups or individual students can earn tokens. Tokens are things like stickers, plastic chips, laminated pieces of construction paper, etc. According to Phelan and Schonour, “you can make tokens an academic activity as well by using plastic or paper money or a checkbook. Students are motivated to add up their “money,” and they may not even realize that they are also practicing math skills at the same time.”
The teacher decides how the tokens are distributed. Some may distribute throughout the day while others issue them at the end of the day. Kids collecting tokens is a motivator to yield positive behavior, but for some the tokens need to be connected to an artificial reinforcer the student can “buy.” In that case, the teacher will have “store time.” How often the store is open varies with the teacher. Some teachers open the store once a week, whereas, some have an auction at the end of the year. Naturally, the more tokens earned, the more the student can spend. The tokens can be used for various things like broken property, forgetting to feed the class pet, jobs not done, and not taking a time out. John forgets to feed the class hamster and the teacher has to do it. The next day, John tells you that he forgot to feed the hamster before leaving school yesterday. Now you must remind him that he owes you from his account. (Students should know in advance what the rewards/consequences are for each action)
Fines should not be used for academics such as a student not doing his class work or homework. Students cannot use tokens to pay for someone else to do his assignments. However, at the high school level, they may use them to go and get their assignment out of their locker.
Another approach is natural consequences wherein the world teaches the student what works and what doesn’t. For example, Timothy has to miss recess because he was in time out or the librarian doesn’t allow Nikki to check out a book because she didn’t return the last one.
Charting is a visible way for the students to track the progress of their behavior. It is useful in that it motivates the students to behave. With this approach, a calendar is used for keeping track of how well a student is doing with his/her behavior. A chart would indicate if the student stayed in his seat, completed all assignments, not talking to other students, etc. For example, (for little kids) if a student stayed in his seat, you would indicate this by placing a sticker on the chart. For older kids, numbers, points or grades could be placed on the chart. A chart might look like this:
Monday Tuesday Wed. Thursday Friday
Stayed in seat
This student is working quietly, staying in his seat and has completed all assignments. The chart could be placed on the child’s desk, on the wall, or in a folder.
Charting in itself can be a “natural reinforcer” to the student in terms of praise and satisfaction which builds up his confident and self-esteem. “If natural reinforcers are enough to elicit cooperation, stop there. The goal is to help the child develop intrinsic motivation rather than only being motivated by an extrinsic reward—what she “gets out of it.” (Phelan and Schonour)
Natural reinforcers sometimes may not be enough to motivate a student to finish a task; so therefore, artificial reinforcers may be used, which mean that the child is going to earn something. In the case of Harry who doesn’t want to keep his desk clean, could earn tokens or a special time with you after he has kept his desk cleaned for a month. For older kids, the rewards should be larger and take a more time to earn. Rewards do not always have to be material, but could be earning the privilege to do a special activity. Some possible artificial reinforcers are:
? Brightly colored tokens
? Extra preferred activity time
? Stickers, happy faces
? Playing a special game
? A grab-bag surprise
? A book to take home over the weekend
? Choice of one of three reinforcers
? Playing a game with the principal
? Reading a story with a special adult
? A homework pass
? A snack
Keep the chart simple. Rate only two to four behaviors at one time. Too many gets confusing. Use it only for a limited time because the positive effects will fade away. When the child receives good scores for about two weeks, do away with the chart. If the child begins to exhibit bad behavior, reinforce the chart again. Please allow time for the children to spend their tokens. Spending tokens gives them power not to mention makes them apply basic mathematical skills.