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Addressing Student Behavior

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No matter the age, student behaviors can be challenging as an educator. Here are some strategies and practices to keep in mind.

If you haven’t already, take time to write out your specific expectations of students in each setting of their day and share them with your students in writing, verbally, and through modeling.

  • Environments may include direct instruction in a classroom, group work in a classroom setting, passing time in the hallway, lunch, arrival, and dismissal from class.
  • Be specific about bodies, eyes, voices, noise level, use of technology.

Leave room for student expression or negotiation.

  • Explicitly teach and model for students how they can appropriately advocate for their own individual needs (raise their hand, write you a note, email you, request a meeting, find you during office hours, etc.)
  • Have a class or group discussion about your needs and expectations as the educator in the learning environment and invite students to share their needs so you can create community agreements.

When in doubt, reteach.

  • When you feel routines are slipping or you get frustrated with student behavior, take some time to reteach your expectations and revisit your community agreements.

Keep it positive. Use positive reinforcement more than you think you need to.

  • Students thrive when we stick to the 4:1 ratio of four positive comments for every one negative or critical comment/experience.
  • One great way to share positive comments is with “I noticed...” statements.  For example, “I noticed that you remembered to hang your coat up on the hook this morning.” Or “I noticed that you submitted your essay early.”

When necessary, use your school discipline procedures for behaviors that impede learning for students or compromise safety. If your site doesn’t have discipline procedures, consider asking your leadership team to create them.

If you don’t know what to do to support a particular student, ask for help.  Consider seeking help from the counseling staff, from your administrator, using the referral or RTI process, or consulting with colleagues.

Parents and families are often our strongest allies in supporting students. Early on, try to contact them to share what you have noticed in class and listen to understand what you may not know.

  • Try to use neutral or non-judgmental language like “I noticed…have you ever seen that behavior?’ or ‘Do you have any insight you can share about…”