No secret recipe there…it came down to the teacher!
- Had clear behavioral expectations,
- Were consistent in their follow up of rules
- Showed enthusiasm for their subject
- Were organized and
- Made the lesson interesting.
All these teachers recognized the importance of the rules. Interestingly, some didn't realize how explicit their directions were in this regard. One teacher said, "Oh, now that you mention it I guess I do explain to my class about how they should behave with me and with their friends. I suppose if all teachers (in our school) followed the same system of rules, we reinforce those skills again and again." "Maybe the parents can also reinforce these rules, especially those which impact social skills," another teacher added.
A lot of these rules are important not only in the classroom. They shape the students for the work place, social groups, etc. Don't we get irritated at the person who talks all the time without letting us say a word? Don't we avoid the person who tattles on others?
Take a minute to assess the following behaviors. Do your students:
- Follow directions the first time?
- Wait for their turn?
- Keep their hands and feet to themselves? (no hitting, pushing, etc)
- Modify their volume based on the environment? (using softer volume inside the classroom versus being loud during recess and playground)
- Respect other students’ belongings?
- Listen quietly when others speak?
- Use polite speech and body language? (includes no teasing)
- Place their belongings in the right place?
- Take care of own behavior instead of carrying tales about others?
- Stay on task?
- Stay in seat?
For those who teach older students, here are additional requirements:
- Are they on time?
- Bring all the necessary classroom materials?
- Start work within a minute of teacher direction?
- Use a quiet voice during discussions and small group activities? (doesn’t disturb other groups)
- Do their best in class?
No matter which level you teach, these are absolute No-Nos:
- No cheating
- No profanity
- No bullying
- No hitting
Your answers will tell you which rules/social skills your students need to learn. For example, it is very typical of students to point out others’ mistakes or behavior. I bet you’ve heard several, “Miss, Miiiisssssss, he is not doing his work, Miiiissss,” in your years of teaching.
Besides being annoying (yes, tattling is an annoying habit), it takes away from your instruction time. When child B is tattling, he isn’t doing his work either.
I use a simple reminder, “You take care of yourself and I (the teacher) will take care of the others.” You let the child know that it is your job to monitor others’ behavior without being abrupt and rude yourself.
The need to be first in everything is a similar issue. It is typical of children to want to be first. They want to be the first to answer your question, share stories after the vacation breaks, and to do special ‘helper’ jobs in the classroom. I’ve been in several classrooms where all students rush to participate at the same time. Let me tell you something—it is quite loud and difficult to get a good picture of the student’s skills and abilities. It is natural for five year olds to want to talk at the same time. But a seven year old or a ten year old—they need to learn to wait for their turn and listen quietly when a peer is answering. Besides facilitating learning (the other student’s contribution may be more informative), it is also a very important social skill!
So go back to your classroom and see how you can put these rules in place. You’ll definitely be able to cover your portions on time because you spend more time on instruction and less on managing behaviors.