Ok, so this might be a bit of an overstatement, but it is pretty close. Every teacher has her own particular style of classroom management. Sure, there are a few major types, but each teacher makes it his or her own. Let’s break down some of the most popular methods for maintaining a pleasant learning environment.
Teachers use color coding to help students monitor their own behavior. These are sometimes called Stop Light Charts. Basically, students are taught a multi-colored system, typically green/yellow/red. All students start each day on the “best” category, likely green. Many teachers allow one or two warnings before moving to the warning (yellow) zone. Another incident will warrant a move to red, and probably a call home. Most teachers create a way to move back into the green zone from yellow, making this a fluid system that helps students visualize their behavior. It also allows the whole class to track how everyone is doing. This is not the best system to use with students who are sensitive or for student who are having a problem with regulating behavior.
These are little charts kept on each child’s desk. The teacher creates categories that earn stickers. These could be work based, behavior based, or a combination. Many teachers use this to only acknowledge positive behavior. As students fill their charts, most teachers have some sort of tangible reward for their success. It could be a tangible token, a chance to share knowledge with the class, a special classroom privilege, or game time. Lots of teachers create classroom incentives with sticker charts that lead to classroom fun days that include movies, a special (allergy friendly) treat, or extra recess. This keeps a student’s progress relatively private, as stickers can be given relatively inconspicuously.
This is a token economy system where students earn “money” or tickets for outstanding behavior, completing work, or fulfilling classroom responsibilities. Students can lose money for failing to follow the rules, complete assignments, or not completing classroom jobs. After a specified period of time, the teacher allows students to “buy” items from a classroom store or treasure box with their money or tickets. This allows students to literally watch their good behavior pay off. It also allows students to be accountable only to themselves or the teacher, without sharing that information with the rest of the class.
Many teachers are turning more and more to technology to help them monitor and reward student behavior. One of the most popular providers is Class Dojo. This system is fairly flexible and can be modified to meet the needs of different teachers and students. One way to use it would be like the color coded system: public awarding and removing of points, complete with sound effects. Another way is to secretly award or remove points. This way keeps sensitive students out of the spotlight, and still makes them accountable for their behaviors. Teachers can also attach rewards as students reach certain point levels. This way the benefits increase in number and importance overtime, creating more incentive to earn points.
This system also is accessible at home through the online platform. Parents and teachers can communicate through the website. Teachers can alert parents almost immediately to a behavior issue. And the points balance is able to be tracked over time, allowing parents to see if a student has hit a rough patch and try to link that up with changes at home or in school.
NOTE: I am biased since this is the system I used in my classrooms.
Individual Behavior Plans
Often, the whole class does not need a specific behavior plan. Typically, teachers can correct any hiccups through strategically planned rewards (extra recess if everyone turns in homework on time for a week). However, there are also usually about five children in each class who need something visual to keep them on track.
For these kiddos, a specific behavior plan with rewards and consequences needs to be formulated. These can be as complicated as the teacher and student want, but simple is best. In general, students who are having trouble controlling behavior or completing school work need very rigid and short guidelines. Three to five hard and fast behavior rules with very clear consequences for failure to follow the rules should be created and placed where the student can access it at all times.
Rewards for appropriate behavior should be quick and verbally linked to the rules. Infractions should be dealt with privately, but equally swiftly and without harshness. Students should be reminded of the expected behavior and coached through understanding the better way to handle the situation in the future.
What classroom management shouldn’t be
Classroom management is difficult skill for teachers to master. Even very senior teachers struggle with how to coach students to comply with expected behaviors and school rules. These are not skills that can be, or even are, taught in teacher preparation programs. Many teachers are left to figure it out for themselves.
However, classroom management should not be excessively harsh or hard line. After all, these are children that we are dealing with, not hardened criminals. Teachers should not be unfair or subtract points/stickers for something that another student has gotten away with. Students should not be missing lunch, recess, or specialists (PE, Art, Music). Students should also not be doing physical hard labor (moving heavy furniture, washing floors, cleaning bathrooms). Treatment of infractions should match the offense as much as possible in both severity and type.
Your child should feel supported, loved, and cared for by his teacher. He should not feel singled out, abused, or disliked by her. Of course, not every day in school will be positive. Sometimes a teacher has an off-day due to circumstances beyond her control. Perhaps your child has tested her patience all day for several days, and she comes down hard on him. As long as it is a rare occasion, and not a repeating pattern, this isn’t serious cause for concern.
Whatever system of classroom management your child’s teacher has chosen, it should be clearly communicated to the parents. A rationale for its use and an explanation of how it works should also be provided to you. If you have serious concerns about this system, address them directly to the teacher. Do not approach administration unless you have talked to the classroom teacher first. Do not discuss your negative feelings about the system with your child. Doing this undermines the often tenuous hold a teacher has on any sort of control or respect from her students. Imagine if your spouse talked trash about you to your child, and then that child was expected to respect you and follow your rules.
Classroom management is a tough nut to crack for parents. Hopefully, this handy guide has provided some insights into what your teacher is doing and why it is happening.