Step I – Notice it
Before you can effectively respond to student misbehavior, you must be aware of it. Classrooms are complex settings in which many different events and activities happen in all parts of the room. Two skills that are critical for classroom management rely on an acute level of awareness:
• Overlapping—The ability to handle two or more events simultaneously; multitasking.
• With-it-ness—The degree to which a teacher corrects misbehavior before it intensifies or spreads, and the degree to which a teacher correctly identifies the student who is misbehaving.
Coaches often increase teacher awareness. There are many different ways to be aware, including noticing what you see and what you hear. Some teachers are especially aware of the mood or feel of the classroom. Engaging all of your senses increases your awareness.
I find that when teachers observe in other teachers classrooms, they see student behaviors that they later recognize in their own classrooms. Awareness has increased.
Step 2 – Identify it
One element of identification is separating the observable behavior from a teacher conclusion.
A student making animal noises is an observable behavior. Deciding he is a smart-aleck is a conclusion.
Marzano suggests that teachers always have the option of reframing their interpretations of student behavior. Having students talking in the back of the room during a presentation, the teacher can assume they are being disrespectful and trying to disrupt class. Or she can assume they are excited and talking about what she has said or at worst being distracted temporarily. How would these assumptions change the way the teacher might respond?*
Staying focused on the behavior helps to appropriately label the situation as:
Minor Misbehavior—Brief, infrequent behavior that breaks a classroom rule or procedure but doesn’t harm or seriously disrupt others.
Moderate Misbehavior—Chronic, disruptive behavior that breaks a class rule or procedure but doesn’t bring immediate harm to others, or an isolated incidence of a more serious infraction.
Major Misbehavior—Chronic infractions that haven’t been resolved through previous interventions, or isolated or recurring incidences of the most serious and harmful infractions.
Teacher conclusions (often negative) have a tendency to raise the level of teacher response (at times costing more energy or instructional time loss then necessary).
Step 3- Respond to it
Now you are ready to select an appropriate teacher response.
For minor misbehaviors you might decide to ignore it and wait a awhile or perhaps respond with a non verbal clue (the look) or proximity. For a stronger response a verbal option might be giving a directive, “Put that away” or a contingent action proposal, ”If you can work quietly, you can stay with the group”.
Moderate misbehaviors might warrant the withholding of a privilege or a time out. For repeated behaviors the teacher might decide to use a conferencing problem solving strategy involving the student in deciding an appropriate consequence and/or long term solution.
Major misbehavior responses often include additional help in responding. These might be assigning detention, sending the student to a principal or counselor or requesting a parent conference for support.
Coaches can use this process to assist teachers in reflecting on their responses to student behavior and developing strategies for more conscious decision making.
* The Inner World of Teaching, Robert Marzano. “Why Rethinking Negative Assumptions About Student Behavior an Be Useful” Educational Leadership (ASCD) April 2011.(page 90)