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Friday, May 29, 2009

You Can Handle Them All

Classroom management is key to effective instruction. You can't even begin to worry about making your teaching sticky if you don't first have an environment which is respectful, safe, and orderly. For novices and veterans alike, one of the best classroom management websites available can be found at This website, maintained by The Master Teacher, lists 117 problem behaviors, structured by

  • behavior (attitudes and actions of the child),

  • effects (ways in which this behavior affects home and school),

  • actions (to be taken by the adult in dealing with this child), and

  • mistakes (common errors which may actually perpetuate the problem).

A behavior labeled The Smart Aleck, for example, is defined by these characteristics:

  1. Makes "funny" comments that actually go far beyond humor. And the cutting effect is intentional.

  2. Often rude, and usually disrespectful. Different from the smartmouth; the smart aleck's misbehavior includes both word and deed.

  3. Has been overindulged by adults.

  4. Tries to act superior to others.

  5. Attempts to cover an inferiority complex with this type of behavior.

  6. Denies, and hides from facing, the feeling of inferiority. Is fooling him/herself-and possibly others.
    (and so on, for a total of eleven descriptors).

So, does that define your problem behavior? If not, the site offers related behaviors: The Class Clown, The Defier, The Distracter, The Loudmouth, The Show-Off, or The Smartmouth. Yes, these are separately defined behaviors! Step one, then, is making sure that you zero in on the appropriate behavior.

So let's suppose that The Smart Aleck is the proper label. You'd then be able to view the Effects of this behavior. The Effects list helps you realize that that the feelings you're experiencing are a natural outcome of this behavior and not simply you "overreacting." The Effects list can also help you dialogue with the student and parents about the behavior's effect upon others.

Now comes time to take Action. In the words of the site: "Identify causes of misbehavior. Pinpoint student needs being revealed. Employ specific methods, procedures, and techniques at school and at home for getting the child to modify or change his/her behavior."

Perhaps most useful of all is Mistakes, a list of those misjudgments which may "perpetuate or intensify the problem." It's so tempting to respond in turn, yet rarely productive (or mature).

Looking for preemptive strategies and structures to use in the classroom? I highly recommend Setting Limits in the Classroom: How to Move Beyond the Dance of Discipline by Robert J. Mackenzie. If it had been the first book on the topic that I purchased as a new teacher, I would not have purchased any others. He later came out with another title, Setting Limits with Your Strong-Willed Child : Eliminating Conflict by Establishing Clear, Firm, and Respectful Boundaries which offers solution for more difficult students.

When you visit You Can Handle Them All, be sure to first read the sidebar to the right. It begins: "We are labeling behaviors, not children!" A good sentiment to keep in mind when approaching your discipline problems.


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