With so much exposure to technology, finishing syllabus, unit planning and assessment, let’s not forget the center of the education universe: our students! Let’s re-examine and learn about empowering positive behaviour in our classroom.
Going down the memory lane, when we were in the four walls of our classroom and a 30-minutes period meant setting expectations, lesson objectives, guided process, CFUs with a few, and homework discussion. In the Covid world, this has only slightly changed with setting expectations, tech issues and ‘Can you hear me?’, and everything else being the same.
In both these worlds, when are we actually connecting with our learners?
Not classroom management, but empowerment!
This basically is a choice between control-and-compliance OR autonomy-and-engagement. Do we, as educators, want our learners to respect and own up to their behaviour? Definitely, yes!
The first step is to make the learning environment agentic: accessible to students, organised with expectations, and authentic with students’ ideas and thoughts. When a student comes to you with a problem, how you say-what you say really matters!
An idea that works beautifully is to remind the students of ideal behaviour, but without sounding complaining. For instance, an educator may ask questions in the following manner.
Another technique is to involve the students and think together! Make them agents of their own behaviour and learning by asking questions that positively help them correct their habits. Not only does this make your classrooms conducive for learning, it also develops a long-term habit of constructive reflection and behaviour correction.
Believe in your students and build trustworthy relationships, before you set expectations.
Of positive expectations and consistent habits
The difference between rules and expectations is that of a stick and a smile. Do you prefer someone threatening you with a stick or asking with a smile?
Let the students be a part of creating classroom expectations as a group. This encourages a positive sense of belonging to the classroom space and its inhabitants, and imbibes a culture of responsibility. Going back to our 30-minutes lesson, it also makes time for more learning and less classroom management.
Lead with a simple activity asking students: What bothers them in the classroom? Thinking of challenges, expectations are bound to evolve on their own. Educators must ensure that they are age-appropriate. Another important factor to ponder and prioritise is values that you envision and want to build in your learners.
Make them clear, crisp and positive!
The catch, however, is to be consistent. Like we recapitulate our lessons, we remind ourselves of the expectations. It helps students know what’s expected of them, and makes them feel more engaged and connected. Moreover, it makes it easier for us educators to distinguish between positive behaviours and problem behaviours.
With clarity and consistency, collaboration with your educator colleagues will cushion behaviours from backfiring. Instructions should be consistent from classroom to classroom and teacher to teacher.
Here are some ideas for reinforcing communication about expectations, easily adaptable to remote learning.
Having covered the first two Rs of classroom management, let’s talk about building the right relationships.
Relationships always go a long way!
Here’s how you can start by asking WHY: Why is the student being disruptive? Why is his mic on mute throughout the class?
With an added challenge of virtual teaching and learning, there definitely is a disconnect of being face-to-face, and this disconnect is felt more by students with special needs! Ask these WHY questions about your students’ behaviour.
Be it in a four-wall classroom or a Google classroom, special needs behavioural management requires inclusivity, a three way partnership, and Special Needs educator experts.
Some of the strategies that have proven effective experientially include the 3Cs of ‘Connect. Communicate. Circle Time’, flexibility, adaptations, and parent-supported learning. The key to all these is investing in relationships for higher payoffs! Start your Zoom or Google classroom calls ten minutes early to check-in with your students that need attention, let them know that you are there for them! In some cases, educators may be required to customise curriculums, exercises and assessments for special needs learners.
It’s not what you say that matters, it’s how you say it! Let’s become warm demanders and lead the way to positive and happy learning experiences for ourselves and our students…
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