We have hit the ground running with our first facilitations of the new school year. What better way to start off than with classroom management.
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Foster Student Perseverance – Teach the Habit of Effort
We are approaching the end of the semester. Any chance you might have this experience? Students are receiving their grades for the semester. As your students are leaving your classroom you hear a couple of your students say, “I can’t believe Mr./Mrs. (insert your name) gave me a C.” In your mind you are thinking, “GAVE YOU! GAVE YOU! You earned that C or didn’t earn a B. You think of all the times you attempted to assist this student so they could “earn” a higher grade – but John wasn’t willing to try harder – wasn’t willing to persevere.
This leads to the age-old question: Can perseverance be taught? Van Overwalle & De Metsenaere, 1990, found that students who were taught about the relationship between effort and achievement increased their achievement more than students who were taught techniques for time management and comprehension of new material.
Students generally contribute their success or failure to one of four causes:
Teaching students how to link effort with achievement will lead to the skill and habit of perseverance.
“Class! Class! Class!!!!!! I NEED YOU TO LISTEN TO ME NOW!!!” By December, I had just about reached my wits end trying to get my 8th grade English class to listen to directions. Due to my lack of control/respect/authority in this class, many of my students were not doing their assignments and not succeeding. Before I was going to, again, revert to daily threats and an extreme amount of individual busy work, I decided to sign up for this class.
My biggest problem with this English class was that they are my only 8th grade class. I have six 9th grade Geography classes and then at the end of the day I have this 8th grade class. It was a tough adjustment for me to go from the 9th grade mentality to the 8th grade mentality. I was trying to interact with both grades the same way, and I began to realize that 8th graders react much differently to my teaching style than 9th graders. This led to several problems with my 8th graders. The 8th graders were very social and the class contained many friends.
After attending only two sessions of Classroom Management, I began to analyze what was happening in my class. I decided that getting them to listen to direction and explanations was my biggest concern. I needed to get them into the habit of stopping their talking and listening to me. At first I didn’t think I would ever be able to accomplish this task with what little time I had left in the year. I had also severely damaged my relationships with two students.
During Christmas break, I put a lot of thought and research into how to get this class to behave. So in January, I began bribing students to listen and do what they needed to do. I then read a “Love and Logic” book and realized that I was bribing them to do something they should be doing anyway. I then began to only reward the students that were doing what they were supposed to at certain times. This backfired and I had several students start complaining they should be rewarded too. In response to their requests/complaints/whining, I replied with sarcasm. It was then that I realized things had gotten way out of hand.
I decided the way to save this class and my own sanity was to teach them to have better listening habits. I loved the ideas of having “habits” and not “rules.” I had to stop fighting with my students and start fighting for them. I needed to rebuild my relationship with my 8th grade English class.
To start, I let the students know I had let them down over the last two months. I asked how we, as a class, could repair the damage and get to a healthy place. The students gave me a few examples of things that would help them get more out of the class. These included: students pick topic for essays, student choice of books and stories, and earned free time. I told them I would gladly agree if they would go along with only one of mine: develop better listening habits.
In order to help them develop this habit, I went through the four steps of creating a habit. We started by listing on the board what a GOOD LISTENER “ looks like” and “sounds like.” We next discussed each item. This step went very well and the students liked that it was their ideas and not mine.
Next, I asked two students to demonstrate what a BAD LISTENER “looks like” and “sounds like” and what a GOOD LISTENER “looks like” and “sounds like.” I picked one of my talkative and disruptive students and one of my least talkative and disruptive student to model both good and bad listeners for the class. They performed both types of listeners wonderfully. The class then discussed how the models followed or did not follow our lists of what GOOD LISTENERS “look like” and “sound like.” The class enjoyed and had fun with this step.
I also explained what I would do to help them know when to give me their attention. I said I would stand in one spot and say, “Class, I need your attention (pause), now.” The whole class practiced this habit of responding to an attention prompt for several minutes. They were happy when I told them I would have to my part to help them do their part. The class began to feel more empowered after going through these three steps.
With the exception of two students whose behavior needed to be refined, this work has been a success. After one week, students were asked to complete a self-evaluation regarding how they were doing with the new habit. From this rating, students chose two items they wanted to work on during the next week. We completed this for several weeks. The students noted their improvement as time progressed. As students evaluated themselves, I informally evaluated them. I publicly praised students who showed mastery of the habit. I suddenly found myself publically praising more students.
This habit was much easier to implement than I thought it would be. This class has become completely different. We are now all working together and not against each other.
Next year, I am going to spend the first few weeks teaching my students basic habits. The habits I am going to teach include: listen while the teacher is talking, follow directions the first time given, self-start, and respond to an attention prompt. I know this will take time, but I now see how important it is to establish these habits.
Finally, I am going to force myself to have better teaching habits. The biggest habit I am going to use is more public praise and little or no public reproval. I also want to treat my toughest student as good as my best student. I can really see now that students judge the teacher based on how he/she treats the students who misbehave and not just on how he/she treats the best students. I will also not be afraid to revise and refine things late in the school year. I am excited to have more success next year. I feel much better equipped to create a great environment in my classroom.