It happens for no apparent reason.
You’re cruising along.
Your students are attentive and respectful.
They’re listening and getting their work done.
Behavior is good.
But then, out of nowhere, you notice a slight fraying at the seams.
They enter the classroom with a hint of carelessness.
They seem less motivated to follow your directions.
They slouch an inch or two lower in their seats.
No rules are broken, but there is an attitude or mood in their demeanor you can’t quite put your finger on.
Your instincts are telling you that something is off.
You know that if you leave it alone, if you allow your class to continue down the path they’re headed, then a bad day is just around the corner.
Now, in previous articles we’ve talked about the importance of never moving on until you’re getting what you want from your students.
This is so, so important.
But there are times when you sense something is amiss without knowing precisely what it is. The author Malcolm Gladwell wrote a book about this gut feeling called Blink.
When you have a “blink” moment in your classroom, when your intuition tells you your class is headed off the rails, it’s best to do something about it right now.
But the question is, what to do?
Many teachers will stop everything and give a lecture. They’ll remind. They’ll warn and threaten. They’ll cross their arms and let their heavy words hang in the air.
But the problem with this approach is that your boundary lines of behavior, as defined by your classroom management plan, were never actually crossed.
In fact, your students may have no idea why you’re even lecturing them, which causes resentment and the belief that you’re being unfair or even “mean.”
So what’s the solution?
The solution is to back up to the previous transition and cheerfully teach that routine again.
Remember, well-taught routines transfer excellence to everything you do. They’re the best way to eliminate complacency, sharpen sloppy performance, and get your students headed in the right direction—without causing resentment.
They replace borderline behaviors that lead to misbehavior, and the inevitable bad day, with alertness and pride in being part of your class.
There is no need to say much or make a big deal out of it. Just, “Hey, we can do better than that. Let’s try it again. This time, be sure and do it like this.”
Then, as a refresher, model how to line up for lunch, circle into groups, put away materials, or whatever routine that took place nearest the moment your teacherly instincts kicked into overdrive.
Model with the same lighthearted enthusiasm you did during the first week of school. After a long pause and a smile, and your ‘go’ signal, let them practice as a group.
When they finish, if they did well, go ahead let them know it. Tell them that you appreciate their good work.
If they didn’t perform the way you modeled, then, without showing a hint of displeasure, send them back to do it again.
Once they’ve proven themselves, you can rest assured that they are back on track. It’s a proven strategy that works as long as you have good classroom management to begin with.
In other words, your students must know the feeling of returning to doing things the right way.
What’s great about the strategy is that it’s easy. It causes no friction or misunderstandings.
It fixes that off-kilter feeling you can’t quite put your finger on.
So you can avoid a big, ugly bad day.
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