Forgive me if this article sounds like a rant.
I don’t mean it to be.
It’s just that . . . well, it’s a topic, or classroom management practice, that really bugs me.
It involves a strategy many teachers and administrators use in response to misbehavior.
And although I believe their heart is in the right place, the strategy is terribly misguided.
It’s also knee-jerk, shortsighted, and harmful to students.
So what is it?
It’s avoidance. It’s limiting the healthy freedoms of students in order to avoid the possibility that misbehavior could occur.
“Let’s keep Josh, Raymond, and Jocelyn separated because they don’t get along (or they goof around together).”
“Let’s no longer allow students to use clay (or paint or glue) because they throw it at each other and get it all over the carpet.”
“Let’s close the playground equipment because students are running, playing tag, and standing atop the bars.”
“Let’s not allow certain learning games or activities anymore because the students get excited and start misbehaving.”
Not to be confused with the effective use of consequences, these broad reactions punish students unnecessarily and send the message that they don’t have the capacity to improve or do things the right way.
They also limit their social and academic development, rob them of creativity and joy, and cause more problems than they avoid.
So what’s the alternative?
The alternative is to teach students in detail what your expectations are. Model for them, show them, how to behave during every activity, transition, task, and routine throughout the school day.
Establish clear rules and consequences to support and enforce those expectations. Lay everything out ahead of time, supervise closely, and then faithfully hold them accountable for the high standards you set.
No more, no less, and no exceptions.
In this way, students learn self-control, patience, and poise. They learn how to get along with others and work together for the common good.
They learn responsibility, accountability, and the skills they need to succeed and be valued members of a community.
This is why they’re in school.
We want to put them in situations that challenge them to make good decisions and to work with those who are different than themselves.
When we systematically and arbitrarily remove people, things, situations, and ideas they don’t naturally handle well, or may not like or agree with, we do them a disservice.
We cause them to become less mature, less tolerant, less empathetic, and less self-controlled.
So instead of trying to avoid misbehavior by limiting the very things that help your students grow into responsible adults, outlaw the actual misbehavior itself.
Continually challenge them to improve by showing them the way and then holding them to it. This is how we create great schools and classrooms.
We teach our students how to deal with it.
We teach them patience, kindness, understanding, appreciation, self-restraint, discipline, discernment, and the tools to handle themselves with grace and aplomb.
We teach them to see the world from many perspectives.
To live and love others and contribute to the greater good.
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