Behavior Management Tips from Veteran Teachers

  • Don't make any rules for your class that you are not willing to follow through with. Always be consistent and fair and let your students know that you mean what you say.

    Joan Young
    Chestatee Elementary School
    Gainesville, GA
    Grade Levels: 3-5

  • The first few days are the most important ones of the year. Help children to formulate two or three rules for the classroom. If the kids help it's easier for them to own the rules. Be sure that you're consistent in keeping the rules so the children know that they are important. Have fun and let children know you care about them.

    Sister Doreen Willis
    St. John the Evangelist School
    Silver Spring, MD
    Grade Levels: K-2

  • Never get into a power struggle with your students. Always listen to both sides with a nonjudgmental and non-confrontational attitude. Watch the body language for both yourself and the students. With the student, it can give you clues as to what the real problem is; for the teacher, you need to convey that not only are you listening but you are hearing what the student is saying. Then have them help in the solution.

    Ann Koutrouba
    Lit People's
    Sacramento, CA
    Grade Levels: K-2

  • You won't damage your students' psyches by taking the lead and being the boss of your own classroom. Once you gain the confidence things will go more smoothly, and once you take a firm lead, the students will respect and respond more readily.

    Patricia Duncan
    Centralia, WA
    Grade Levels: K-2

  • Have a good balance of discipline and humor with the children. In order to gain their respect, you need to convey your genuine enjoyment to be with them. My students understand I am sometimes tough on them because I care enough to wish they try harder and get better. I also manage to find a way to show I care in some meaningful way. Humor is important to have for your own perspective and for the children. It keeps the days lively and enjoyable.

    Georgene Asseiri
    Montessori Day School
    Phoenix, AZ
    Grade Levels: K-2

  • It's not what you teach, but how you teach it that makes all the difference. If what you are doing in your classroom is exciting and motivational, classroom discipline problems disappear. Students do not want to get in trouble because they do not want to miss out on what is going on in your room.

    Linda Burdine
    Perry Meridian High
    Indianapolis, IN

  • Not every student will like you. And, you won't like every student. Try to find at least one thing you can respect each student for – even if it's just showing up at school.

    Cityview Community
    Minneapolis, MN
    Grade Levels: 6-8

  • Avoid putting the "bad" kids in the front of the room. Unfortunately, that's often what they want. Now they are able to gain everyone's attention. This is exactly what you do not want. Put these students toward the back of the room and minimize their ability to use disruptive behavior to get attention.

    Kelly Wandler
    Stobart High School
    Saskatchewan, Canada
    Grade Levels: 6-8

  • Children will quiet down when the teacher is quiet and waiting for their attention. I lost my voice the first year trying to focus their attention on me. Now, I simply wait for the attention I deserve before moving on to the next lesson or set of instructions.

    Cecilia Martinez
    Sylmar, CA
    Grade Levels: 3-5

  • In terms of behavior management, there are three key principles I always try to keep in mind and they all revolve around being positive.
    1. Make sure not to hold onto grudges from the day before. Wake up and start with a clean slate.
    2. Introduce a positive reinforcement schedule. This simply means that each child's positive behaviors should be noted by you and whenever a child displays a certain amount of positive behaviors, reinforce them with a little prize or something that shows you care that they are behaving well.
    3. Compliment each child at least once a day.

    New York City, NY
    Grade Levels: K-2

  • Adolescents love choices and challenges! Whenever possible, give students choices – whether it's a long-range project on a country they select, or coloring a map with crayon, marker, or colored pencil! I try to give as many "small" choices as possible, even if it seems insignificant.

    Linda Norman
    Ayer Middle School
    Ayer, MA
    Grade Levels: 6-8

  • Examine your classroom carefully for the best traffic patterns. Even if you have to ask a custodian to move a "permanent" fixture such as a pencil sharpener mounted on the wall, arrange traffic so that students may get out of their seats to take care of business (sharpen pencils, turn in work) without walking through areas where students may still be working. I have found that this works especially well to keep many potential mischief makers in check at the high school level where students are a bit old to ask permission every time they need to "blow their nose."

    Charmaine Wierzbicki
    Calumet High School
    Gary, Indiana

  • Don't "play games" with the students in an attempt to get to know them on the first day. Establish yourself as the authority in the classroom, and you will get to know the kids soon enough. How I WISH someone had given me this advice eleven years ago when I started. I was SO SMART that I played the "Toilet Paper Game" with middle schoolers on my first day in the classroom. Not only was that day a disaster, it was difficult to salvage the rest of the year, because I'd already established myself as a "goofball," instead of the teacher. This doesn't mean you can't have fun with your students; it's just best not to do it on the first day in the classroom before you've established your classroom presence.

    Cynthia A. Knight Jones

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