3 Bad Habits You Must Avoid This School Year

Smart Classroom Management: 3 Bad Habits You Must Avoid This School YearMost teachers begin the school year strong.

They teach their classroom management plan in detail. They set expectations and polish and hone routines.

They build quick rapport and inspire good initial behavior.

Everything seems so easy.

But then, three or four weeks in, things begin to change.

Restlessness creeps in. Attitudes develop. Listening takes a nosedive and the room starts buzzing with voices and excitability.

Some will tell you that this is only natural, that it happens to every teacher.

The truth, however, is that slowly, imperceptibly, you’ve fallen into a progression of bad habits.

This progression, which is extremely common, opens the door to misbehavior and invites it to come in.

It’s also completely avoidable.

What follows are three bad habits that, unless you’re aware of and know how to stop, will progress from one to the next like a California wildfire.

1. Complacency – The Kindling

At the beginning of the school year, your students are just getting their bearings. Many are hoping to turn over a new leaf. Others are looking for a fresh start, better habits, new friends, less trouble, etc.

They’re more eager and receptive than at any other time of the year.

This is wonderful, of course, because it gives you a wide-open window to establish your boundaries and expectations. But there is a danger lurking.

You see, the novelty of a new school year can give you a false sense of how things are going. The bright, attentive faces, the positive energy, the natural motivation . . .

It can all cause you to become complacent.

It can cause you to let your guard down, take your foot off the gas, and question—in the far recesses of your mind—why you need to be such a stickler about following rules, routines, and procedures.

2. Inconsistency – The Spark

Before you know it, you’re letting a few, wee little bitty things go.

You ignore the occasional call-out. You overlook, or fail to notice, how your students enter the classroom. You look the other way when enforcing a consequence is inconvenient.

And slowly but surely, these small inconsistencies send the message to your new class that you don’t really mean what you say.

Predictably, their respect for you takes a hit. They start pushing boundaries to find out what you will and won’t enforce. They begin thinking that maybe you’re not who they thought you were.

Now you’re struggling just to get their quiet attention. Your directions are met with yawns and sighs and zero sense of urgency.

Frustration builds.

3. Resentment – The Fire

Inevitably, no matter how disciplined you are with your emotions, when your students are ignoring you or misbehaving right in front of you, it’s hard not to get frustrated.

It’s hard not to become resentful.

It’s hard not to react and try to regain control by glaring, threatening, or raising your voice. Which, in turn, makes your relationship with them antagonistic and distrustful.

It weakens your influence, likability, and rapport and undermines your classroom management plan.

It turns you into just another mean teacher.

The end result is even more misbehavior, scant leverage to do much about it, and every day feeling like the Siege of Bastogne.

Stay True

This same sad progression will play out this fall in classrooms from here to Bangladesh.

So how do you stop it?

You stop it by being aware of how quickly and easily it can happen and by refusing to take even a single step down its slippery slope. You stop it by never giving in and never going back on your word.

You stop it by cultivating the mental toughness to do exactly what you say you’ll do.

So right now, this second, vow to follow your classroom management plan as it’s written. Stay true to your promises and high-bar standards.

Keep your foot on the gas.

And your students will only get better, sharper, and happier than they were the week before.

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16 Responses to 3 Bad Habits You Must Avoid This School Year

  1. Tina McCulloch August 19, 2017 at 8:25 am #

    This is why I have rule review every morning all school year long. After about a month I turn it over to rotating students. The students pick one or two rules to highlight and ask their classmates for examples, non examples, illustrations and they will choose the ones that need addressing. It’s very illuminating to see the rules through their eyes and it gives me a better picture how they view and have internalized the rules.

    It also helps substitutes get a better footing in your classroom.

    • Connie Moore August 19, 2017 at 6:42 pm #

      This is a very good idea Tina McCulloh. I will be stealing this idea. Thank you for responding to this article.

    • Tracey St. Pierre August 20, 2017 at 5:42 am #

      That’s a great idea. Even my kindergarten kids could totally handle that after they have been taught. I will implement that this year. Thanks.

  2. Angie Hentz August 19, 2017 at 4:30 pm #

    Awesome. Thank you

    • Michael Linsin August 20, 2017 at 10:12 am #

      You’re welcome, Angie.


  3. Rachel Y August 19, 2017 at 6:56 pm #

    Your methodology is amazing, it really works!
    I used it as a long term substitute in the end of the year and was extremely successful!
    I have a question and I would appreciate getting your opinion on this. I am going to be working in a different school this starting september (4th grade) and my new principal thinks that this method it too harsh (the school uses the Harry Wong methodology where rules aren’t as important as procedures) and I need to give the students more chances before the time-out and a letter home. She recommended a warning, losing 5 minutes of recess, losing 10 minutes of recess, and then the time-out and letter home.
    I personally think that it’s too complicated and don’t like the idea of taking away recess because it isn’t an immediate consequence.
    I was thinking of maybe having 2 warnings instead of one and then continuing with the consequences, maybe changing the letter home to a note from the principal to get back into class…
    I was wondering your take on this?
    Thanks again for your amazing articles and courses!

    • Michael Linsin August 20, 2017 at 10:27 am #

      Hi Rachel,

      There is too much there for me to comment on in the time and space I have here, but I will say that the actual makeup of your consequences is far less important than your consistency in following them. In other words, other configurations may not be ideal, but they can still be effective.


  4. Candy August 19, 2017 at 10:47 pm #

    Thank you! I can’t thank you enough for helping me love teaching like never before, even after 20 years of teaching.

    • Michael Linsin August 20, 2017 at 10:28 am #

      You’re welcome, Candy! That’s fantastic. Thanks for sharing your success with me.


  5. Trish Keller August 20, 2017 at 11:47 am #

    We’re starting our third full week of school and it’s been a huge challenge for my team (7teachers). Since day one, students will not stop talking. They don’t let teachers finish sentences, listen to instructions, follow routines, and complete work. Typically used consequences have been limited by our admin. Documentation, phone calls, and notes home are highly encouraged, which we all agree are appropriate. It’s the day to day management which isn’t working. Do you have any suggestions how we can reign this in before more time passes? What should we be looking at to solve this? Thank you!

  6. Kim August 20, 2017 at 2:11 pm #

    Great reminder that we all need to say what we mean, and mean what we say. This is important as a teacher and a parent. I admit that I have been down that slippery slope of letting small things go and last year it became an avalanche. Thank you for the article that brings it all back to the basics. I am ready to begin a new year, in a new grade level, with the management skills I need, thanks to your weekly tips!

    • Michael Linsin August 20, 2017 at 2:31 pm #

      You’re welcome, Kim. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Kim Heaslip August 20, 2017 at 8:47 pm #

    Thanks for the article. I am wondering if you have any advice for daily substitute teachers who don’t have the opportunity to build rapport with kids and parents. I like the first comment about doing a rule review first thing. Is there anything else you can suggest to establish our authority in classrooms? Thanks.

  8. Steve August 24, 2017 at 5:00 pm #

    I’d agree with everyone of these statements. In my own personal experiences every year I was the first statement. I was going to do better than the year before! I seemed to quit when I got discouraged. That’s when I wish my educator would have taken me aside and said where are you struggling….finally Mr. Hank Pankratz did that to me and rather than do the written test, he gave it to me orally. I made the honor roll twice my Sophomore year. I was proud of myself and the encouragement my mother gave me. I also appreciate Hank for actually taking the time to listen rather than teach at that moment. 😊

  9. Cesar September 10, 2017 at 3:55 pm #

    I believe it is important to stay consistent because once we let go, then that’s when we start losing control. I will admit I see myself doing it sometimes too and you described my last class last year to the letter. For example, during the final period when my phone would ring three times in the middle of my lesson and it threw my momentum off. As a result, the kids got chatty and I found myself a bit frustrated. Also, I think my mood rubbed off on my students and they would start to get all squirmy. It’s amazing how easily the class can feed off your energy and mood. I am seeing myself handle situations more calmly lately, but it has taken a lot of practice and experience. I used to raise my voice often when I first taught, but I find myself controlling that much easier this time around. Talking to my kids in a calm or emotionless manner seems to work. I do not mean I am cold, but I try to be more assertive. This year my goal is to be more consistent with my consequences.
    I personally like to have a lively class, but only when the moment calls for it such as with group work. However, there is something I am trying to figure out. What is a good method to communicate or signal to 7th and 8th graders when it’s not ok for them to talk without fear of getting a consequence? I do not want to treat them like they are in elementary school and post stop signs for them to know when to stop talking. I feel it is too childish at their age. I would like it to be more natural such as when I used to sub for accelerated students the moment I would begin talking their voices would lull down quickly and then cease.


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