Many of the article requests we receive at SCM center on big problems.
Readers want to know how to rein in an out-of-control class.
They ask about how to handle defiance and disrespect.
They inquire about tantrums, incessant talking, and entire classes that disregard their directions.
We’re happy to tackle these subjects. All have been covered extensively and can be found in the archive.
But one of the keys to effective classroom management is to avoid big and dramatic misbehavior from happening to begin with. It’s to do things correctly from the get-go.
It’s to focus on the little things.
A common mistake struggling teachers make is that they don’t teach their behavior expectations with enough detail.
They think they do. After all, they talk a lot. They remind a lot. They repeat themselves a lot.
But they don’t show their students what fulfilling those expectations actually looks like. They don’t walk them through the precise moves, attitudes, and actions they wish to see.
They don’t model how to sit and listen, how to ask questions, how to follow directions, or how not to behave. They don’t allow their students to experience their expectations. They assume that saying it is enough.
You see, when you communicate what you expect using words alone—or with halfhearted demonstration—students hear only preferences.
When they witness well-defined actions, on the other hand, and are given a chance to try them for themselves, they understand that you really mean it.
In fact, there are times when words aren’t even needed.
Details, however, are always needed. They are must-haves—because the more explicit you are, the less your students will stray from your desired path.
Big problems and issues aren’t given room to breathe, fester, and grow. They’re eliminated before they even occur to students.
They’re eliminated because all children crave boundaries that mean something, that are more than the lip service paid by so many teachers before you. They crave them because they’re a tangible expression of love.
When students know precisely where your boundaries are, they’re able to relax and revel in the freedom that comes with staying inside of them.
It makes them feel safe and cared for. It frees them to listen and learn and love being part of your class without worry, stress, or the desire to misbehave.
Detailed teaching, however, doesn’t mean tight, confined spaces. It doesn’t mean inflexibility, stinginess, or limits on fun and friendship.
It isn’t a constriction of personality. Rather, it’s just the opposite.
It’s only when boundaries are inarguably defined and faithfully defended that students are truly free to be themselves.
Explicit teaching of the little things keep students from big, dramatic acts of misbehavior.
It keeps them inside, where it’s safe and warm. Where they can learn and enjoy school without interference.
Where there exists a world that makes sense.
Quick update: My new book, The Happy Teacher Habits, has just entered the formatting and design phase and is on track to be released in early May.
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