Randy Sprick's Safe & Civil Schools – Practical Solutions, Positive Results!

Summer 2009

Getting Ready

Things to think about before school starts in the fall.

By Randy Sprick

At the beginning of the school year, it is important to revisit your classroom management plan. A good classroom management plan will help you set the stage to deal productively with the range of behaviors, both positive and negative, that students will exhibit in your classroom throughout the year.

As you consider your plan, keep in mind that effective management and discipline strategies are best when they are flexible. View your classroom management plan as a framework rather than an instruction manual—a scaffold that matches your teaching style and satisfies the collective needs of your students while it supports the variety of rituals, routines, rules, consequences, and motivational techniques that you use to ensure that your students are academically engaged and emotionally thriving.

We’ve added a number of user-friendly features to the new second edition of CHAMPS. There are more icons and award certificates, forms you can complete on your computer, more age-appropriate acronyms, and expanded coverage of old and new topics.

One of the enhanced sections pertains to your classroom management plan. While we have always stressed the importance of developing classroom rules and instigating consequences when those rules are violated, in CHAMPS, 2nd Edition, we offer even more suggestions for your consideration.

Develop and Display Classroom Rules

Rules in the classroom are as important as rules of the road—speed limits, stop signs, and right-of-way. Devise three to six rules (no more than that) and make them as specific as possible so that, as you teach the rules, you can provide clear examples of what it means to follow the rule and what it means to break the rule. Inform students that rule violations (unacceptable behaviors) will result in corrective consequences (see next section).

Some guidelines to keep in mind as you develop your rules:

Like rules of the road, your classroom rules should serve as the basis for implementing consequences for the most frequent misbehaviors. Ideally then, if students follow the rules, the most likely misbehaviors will not occur. Thus, before you develop your classroom rules, you need to identify the misbehaviors that you think are most likely to occur. Think about your grade level and the typical developmental stage of students in your class. Also consider your schedule, your routines, your procedures for managing work, and so on. And remember to teach students what the rules are and how they can demonstrate that they are following them.

Establish Corrective Consequences for Rule Violations

Before school begins, you will want to have on hand a menu of corrective responses for violations of your classroom rules. If you don’t plan in advance what your response will be, there is a high probability that you may inadvertently reinforce misbehavior with an overly emotional response or by giving too much attention to the misbehaving students.

The following suggestions can help you choose and implement effective corrective consequences that help the student learn that engaging in misbehavior has a cost associated with it.

Cultural Competence

Keeping these thoughts in mind as you pre-plan for the first day of school and beyond will put you on the right path to designing an effective classroom management plan. But, there is another concept I want to put into your thinking process, one that is often overlooked—the idea of cultural competence.

In CHAMPS, 2nd Edition, Keba Baldwin and Amalio Nieves wrote a brief but powerful piece on this topic. I believe it is something that teachers should consider if they want to help all of their students succeed.

Culture—those beliefs, customs, practices, and social behaviors that we learn from our families—is a powerful force. Students from other cultures will behave differently in our classrooms. For example, in some cultures children are taught to keep their eyes lowered when talking with an adult. Insisting that students look at you can be confusing and counterproductive.

Successful teachers will find out where their students are from—geographically, economically, and culturally—so that they can respond appropriately when issues arise. In addition, they may even incorporate small but compelling lessons and practices on the cultures they find in their classrooms. Doing so will have the dual benefit of helping students from different cultures feel welcome and helping students from the larger culture recognize the value of diversity.

For more information about this topic, Keba and Amalio suggest these titles:

A Framework for Understanding Poverty by Ruby Payne (1995). Available from aha! Process, Inc.

Never Work Harder Than Your Students and Other Principles of Great Teaching by Robyn R. Jackson (2009). Available from ASCD.

Other People’s Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom (2nd ed.) by Lisa Delpit (2006). Available from New Press.

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