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How to Address Common Behavior Problems

Learn how to deal with the most common behavior problems from education consultant Grace Dearborn in this Howcast video.


Common behavior problems in the classroom and how to address them; I would say the most common behavior problem in the classroom are students arguing with the teacher, that's more secondary, middle and high school or students being off-task or distracting others and that would be K12. With students arguing setup an arguing policy there are a lot of different ways to do that, some are very simple and some are really involved. The simplest I saw was a teacher who when a student would argue with her she would say, "Oh I think you forgot I argue by appointment only." So then she would say, "If you would like to make an appointment to argue with me you can go ahead and put your name on the board and we will setup an appointment for that but for right now you need to do this." That worked for her that requires a lot of confidence on your part to pull a procedure like that off but if you think you can that's really the simplest way to go about addressing arguing. If you want to get more structured about it you can setup a whole structure that you can teach to the students. One of the procedures we talk about in our book and when we are doing workshops with teachers is we talk about no arguing with the ref. That I am the referee as the teacher and the students are not allowed to argue with me.

And we role play with our students some different ways in which to address the teacher correctly and incorrectly in a moment of arguing. So I'll call a student up and I'll and I'll ask a student, and we have arrange it in advance, and I will ask the student to move and they would, "Ha why do I have to move" and that would be the incorrect way. Because that's going to lead to a consequence, when I ask you to move this is the correct way please move to this other seat, "Yes Mrs. Dearborn I will gladly move to this other seat." But we make it into a game and we make it really funny when we do that and we set these things up in advance and we are teaching it and modeling it and even just play acting at it when it happens in real time the kids are much more likely to do what I am asking them to do because they have that in their minds what the right and wrong ways are. That might seem silly to a high school teacher but I was a high school teacher for a long time and I have done those kind of things with my students and had it work out really well. With distracting students and students who are off-task, which is common at all grade level, you just need to be clear about what you expect from them and what is going to happen if they can't do that, "Johnny you have a choice right now, you can be on-task and stop talking to the person next to you and then all is well or you can choose to move to the back of the room and work by yourself." Be really clear with them what it is you need from them and what is going to happen if they don't choose to get back on-task and then follow through consistently, really a lot of classroom teaching ultimately comes down to being consistent.

When he doesn't quite down, did you or did you not move him to the back of the room. But let's start with all of these things from a place of assuming the best about the student, Johnny doesn't want to act out, Johnny doesn't want to argue with me, but there is something there where he maybe doesn't know who I am yet or he is trying to feel out where my boundaries are or figure out who we are going to be together in the classroom so he's testing me. How far will I go? How calm can I be? How much can I love him and at the same time hold him a 100% accountable for his behavior and his progress? If I envision this is a test for me to pass I can pass it, and that would be easier for me than coming to that conversation as if he is attacking me or defying me or disrespecting me. There is no disrespect, there is no defiance, there is just a behavioral test for us to pass and we can pass it in a safe and structured and calm way with compassion for them while still holding them a 100% accountable for their behavior and progress in the class. Then they learn to trust us and inside of that trust they stop testing us, they start doing what we want the first time we ask them to do it and everybody is better off in the classroom.

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