Friday, October 27, 2017

9 Mistakes That Sabotage Your Classroom Management

If you've followed my blog, you might know I really like to refer to classroom management as classroom leadership. But that's not how we typically think of it.

Regardless of what we call it, it's challenging. It's one of the toughest things for early career teachers to get a handle on. And even seasoned teachers will have their fair share of challenges and not know how to respond in every situation.

It really has to be an ongoing process of learning and growth. No one ever has it all figured out.

So if you're struggling with student behaviors, give yourself a break. Keep working at it. Learn from others. Study different methods. And reflect on your own failures and successes.

In this post, I'm looking at some of the BIG mistakes that can happen when a teacher is frustrated or has a lapse in judgement. It's important to think about these in advance to plan for these NEVER to happen. When they do, it undermines the development of a positive classroom and healthy culture of learning.

These behaviors are harmful to kids and can harm your ability to develop a respectful, orderly classroom environment.

9 Mistakes That Will Sabotage Your Classroom Management

1. Painting a child into a corner.

Your most challenging students will often try to engage the teacher in power struggles. A skilled teacher can avoid these high stakes moments. The goal is to stop a disruptive behavior while also keeping the student in class. It's important to avoid a showdown between student and teacher. These situations end up with everyone losing. The teacher doesn't have to win in the moment. The situation needs to be addressed in the moment, but fully resolving a problem can happen at a later time. After some time passes, the results are often much better than escalating the situation when emotions are hot. 

2. Handling private matters publicly.

Students don't want to lose face in front of their peers. You can always delay and say, "Let's talk about this later." Just be sure to follow up as you promised. If a student feels disrespected or belittled in front of others, it will not end well. Try to keep tough conversations private. The tone will often be much different when there is not an audience.

3. Failing to give a kid a fresh start.

We all want to have an opportunity for a fresh start. We don't want to be judged by our worst moments. Our students need forgiveness too. So after an issue is resolved, let the student know they have a clean slate. Today is a new day. Let them know you believe in them and expect them to do great.

4. Using cutting sarcasm.

Sarcasm can be very dangerous. I've seen it used in a way that is not threatening and is just playful, but sarcasm can be degrading and manipulating. The best advice is to not use sarcasm at all. 

5. Speaking poorly of someone's friends or family.

Never criticize a student's friends or family members. You can certainly stand up for what's right, but don't pass judgments on people. It's also very important to never talk badly about a student when they are not present. If you wouldn't make a comment in front of that student's mother or grandmother, you probably shouldn't say it to a group of students or another teacher. If your harsh comment gets back to the student, it will be difficult to ever repair the relationship.

6. Speaking poorly of another staff member.

Never criticize another staff member in front of students as this creates a toxic environment. And, always defend a colleague if students are being critical. Even fair criticism isn't fair when it's shared at the wrong time and location. Tell your students if they have a concern with another teacher they should go talk to that person directly. If you have a concern with another teacher, you too should speak to them directly about it and not complain about them behind their back.

7. Losing control of your own behavior.

Always remember you're the adult and a professional. You have to stay in control of yourself and your actions. If you act badly, it will make it much more difficult to address the student's misbehavior. The student and the parents will be focused on what you did instead of focusing the responsibility on the student's own actions. I can't tell you how many times I've worked to help a student reflect on their own bad behavior, but they are focused on what the teacher did instead. Sometimes that happens when the teacher was completely upright. But sometimes it's because the teacher showed up poorly in the situation.

8. Comparing a student to a sibling or another student. 

Avoid comparing students to one another or to a brother or sister. These types of judgments chip away at dignity. You wouldn't want to be subjected to public comparisons with another teacher. Students don't like this either. Even comments like "Your sister was so smart or funny" that seem positive may chip away at a student's dignity. People want to be noticed for who they are and not compared to someone else.

9. Rushing to judgment without listening.

This one encompasses so much. It's easy to jump to conclusions or make assumptions in the course of a day working with students. Teachers make so many decisions. I shared recently about a situation where I really embarrassed myself by making a quick judgment in a situation. The key is slow down and approach problems with a sense of curiosity. Work to understand what is going on with the child, what needs they are trying to meet, or why they are not successful even when expectations are clear and consistent. In a recent post, I shared 21 phrases that can help with these conversations.

Of course, there are many other factors involved in building a positive classroom culture. What are some of your thoughts? Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

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