How to teach expectations and set boundaries?
Gentle in what you do, firm in how you do it. —Buck Brannaman
In classroom management and life in general people work and strive better when they have set boundaries and expectations. Even me as a teacher always ask my admin. What are your expectations for me when you come into my classroom or what are you looking for? This helps me to prepare to be observed and ensure I’m not blindsided by something unexpected.
This is the same for children. Setting boundaries is not some rigid line that cannot be crossed but it is being clear about behaviors that are reasonable, safe, and tolerable. Of course, there are some that are going to challenge the boundaries but your job as the teacher is to be prepared to deal with the challenges that come with ensuring good classroom management.
Any expected behavior must be taught.
First, just as we teach academic expectations, we must teach behavioral expectations we must be proactive. Having clear and predictable routines and rules is a way to increase your students positive behavior. Students misbehavior may be due to unclear classroom expectations. Routines and rules should be explicitly taught and practiced. Before a task is begun teachers should remind students about the expectations.
Second, you should provide positive reinforcement when students meet your expectations. Positive reinforcement provides your students feedback about their behavior. When students feel more confident about their abilities, they are more likely to continue to exhibit positive behavior. Praise should always be sincerely delivered and systematic. Teachers should also praise four times as often as they provide corrective feedback.
Third, teachers need a systematic plan to address misbehavior once it occurs. Students are still going to misbehave, when this occurs teachers should immediately redirect students using positive and direct language. It is best practice for teachers to tell a student what to do, for example; get in a line, use kind words with your friends, versus telling them what not to do (don’t run, don’t tease). Another common mistake is the teacher is forming their redirection into a question like “Amy can you return of your seat”? This is known as an indirect command. Some students do not understand this, they think it’s actually a question and have a choice. We want to be direct and clear about our expectations.
When students do not follow the rules, there needs to be clear and consistent consequences. A reward and consequences approach is not effective. Many teachers use this, it is used to control students behavior, and consequences are typically uniform across children and situations. Students do know what to expect but it usually doesn’t correct the behavior. I find that students feel they have certain amount of chances before the big consequence or feel they need to be rewarded for meeting an expectation. However, when issued properly consequences provide students with the opportunities to learn and practice more appropriate ways of behaving. Consequences should be reasonable and relate to the misbehavior. It also should be delivered calmly and privately. That means you’re physically close to the student and can make eye contact when communicating. You should be specific and immediate and use a calm and respectful tone of voice. I explain often to my scholars fair doesn’t mean equal. The consequence will fit the crime and person.
How to teach expected behaviors through classroom rules and procedures.
Just like academically you must plan on how to teach expected behaviors. I treat it as another lesson plan. You need to ask yourself when planning:
*What should it look like or sound like? *Is it a procedure that I need to fix or a new procedure? *Do I need to change the environment for this to occur? *When and how am I going to introduce this to students? When will students practice? *How will students know if they are doing a good job? It takes that level of detail to plan out how to fix a procedure that isn’t going well or introduce new procedures? (think about beginning of school)
Lastly, follow through: remind, reinforce, and redirect
It isn’t enough to verbalize a policy, procedure, or routine, it isn’t enough to state reminders, it isn’t enough to catch it when you can. Following through like everything else needs to be routinized, intentional, and on your schedule. If you know your not going to follow through on something, offer it as a choice and not a directive. We follow through by intervening at key moments with specific focused language. When we are correcting behavior, it should sound dramatically different than when we compliment children. Words carry greater meaning through volume, intonation and pacing. Remember that redirecting language is stated in the positive and tells children what to do, not what not to do. And it isn’t a question.
As students have learned to self manage, use of authority to influence will have become much more subtle, you will need less direction and your boundaries will have evolved. You’ll be using a gradual release of responsibility the students will work at trying to meet your expectations. Remember the teacher begins with a high-level of control and gradually releases the control to students with explicit instructions and practice.
This doesn’t mean to completely let go but you’re putting things in place to manage your classroom with less frustration. Ensure that you are using brief sentences for clarity a firm tone, control volume, proximity, and eye contact and gestures all these things work together to set boundaries and have your scholars meet behavior expectations.
Don’t set your sights on a complete overhaul overnight, set small goals do a timeline, practice give yourself space and some time to feel comfortable with what you’re doing and plan it out. Good luck and let me know how it goes?