Day 1: Take CHARGE of your classroom and the moment
Updated: Feb 11, 2020
(To listen to this post as a podcast, click here.)
Today is the first day of the rest of your life.
It's also the first day of the rest of your school year. It doesn't matter that you might be reading this after winter break, in March, or even after spring break. It's never too late to change the culture of your classroom. One of the deadliest phrases a teacher can utter is next year.
Next year I'll do a better job with my procedures.
Next year I'll spend more time building classroom culture.
Next year I'll start making positive phone calls home.
Let's forget about next year. Let's talk about today. What you do right now can knock down the first domino in a chain events to make your classroom more positive and your students' misbehaviors all but disappear. Join me on a six-week, thirty-day journey to explore the many facets of classroom management, social-emotional health, and strengthening relationships. Today we'll look at the big picture of both taking charge of the classroom, at a macro level, and taking charge of the moment, at a micro level. Each subsequent day will explore a different facet of one of those principles.
Take CHARGE of the classroom
Using the acronym CHARGE, there are six keys to creating and sustaining a culture of empathy, connectedness, and respect in the classroom.
Confident: Students misbehave because they feel empowered to. Successful teachers have a strong presence in the classroom. They subconsciously communicate to students how to treat them and each other through body language, posture, and tone of voice. Confident teachers know that any problems that crop up will not define them but instead offer an opportunity for growth.
Human: Students misbehave because they feel disconnected. Teachers who fully come into the classroom, rather than hiding behind a professional facade, build deeper relationships. Through vulnerability, teachers connect with children and model for them how to build a classroom community. Daily or weekly rituals help build a strong sense of family between students.
Anticipate: Students misbehave because of a lack of planning. Teachers typically have an ideal version of how simple tasks should be completed but sometimes don't communicate them adequately. Routines and procedures, practiced consistently, provide students with structures for correctly navigating daily actions. Additionally, failing to plan adequately for daily instruction is the same as planning to fail.
Reflect: Students misbehave because its habitual. If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got. Take a few moments at the end of each day to highlight what went well. How can those moments be replicated? Also, what trends are emerging that need your attention?
Grow: Students misbehave because of a lack of skills. When students don't know how to read, we teach them. Yet when they don't know how to behave, we punish them. Many students are missing appropriate skills in areas such as self-regulation, working with others, and executive functioning. Teachers that teach social skills instead of simply doling out punishments give students the tools they need to interact effectively within a social context.
Engage: Students misbehave because they are bored. All the morning meetings and teacher greetings at the door will be useless if students are expected to focus on worksheets and other low-impact instructional tools. When teachers learn and utilize the five facets of student motivation, their lessons become so engrossing that students don't have time to misbehave.
Take CHARGE of the moment
Using the acronym CHARGE, there are six keys to handling classroom disruptions as they occur so that misbehaviors are minimized and students are helped through their emotional meltdowns.
Calm: Teachers must cultivate the skill of composure. They should identify their triggers so that they are aware of which behaviors disproportionately set them off. Learning to breathe to reduce anxiety and refusing to take misbehavior personally allows them to approach the incident from a place of strength rather than frustration. Anxiety is contagious, but so is serenity.
Help: Teachers must cultivate the skill of mindfulness. Being aware of the moment allows them to take in the entire context of the situation, not just the part that got theirr attention. It also allows them to view their own desires in the moment. Wanting to help, not hurt, students allows them to change their internal dialogue from "How can I get ____ to stop ____?" to "How can I help ____ more successfully ____?"
Attune: Teachers must cultivate the skill of empathy. To assist students through the incident, it helps greatly to be able to recognize and understand their emotional state. Those in a fight, flight, or freeze amygdala hijack need something completely different from those throwing an upstairs, or executive state, tantrum.
Reframe: Teachers must cultivate the skill of perspective. Any incident can be viewed in its most negative light, most positive light, or somewhere in between. To help students, teachers can name the emotion they see, acknowledge it as valid, and state what the student is trying to gain from the misbehavior. This framing allows the teacher to then provide a reframe so that the student can move forward.
Give: Teachers must cultivate the skill of flexibility. There is no one answer to any given situation. Unfortunately, behavioral silver bullets do not exist. Instead, skilled teachers have an assortment of tools in their classroom management tool belt. With practice, they can learn whether to give instructions, give options, or give an open-ended question.
Embrace: Teachers must cultivate the skill of love. Once a situation has been resolved, how teachers welcome students back into the community will do much to determine whether the behavior is repeated or not. There are many ways to restore relationships and help students provide restitution for their actions. Ultimately, it's okay to be disappointed in the actions of students, but teachers must do so while always demonstrating love.
It's these principles that we'll explore over the next 29 weekdays. Working off the assumption that you're in the middle of your school year, we won't start from the beginning and move sequentially to the end. Instead, we'll hop around to start with the highest leverage pieces first and then spiral out toward the periphery. Use the acronyms above to keep track of where each blog post falls in the larger picture.
Action: Find an accountability partner, ideally someone you teach with at your school, to join you on this journey. Taking charge is a long, arduous process. Finding a wing man (or woman) will lighten the load and give you a much needed outside perspective.
Reflection questions: Which of the six areas in classroom environment (take charge of the classroom) do you feel you are doing the best in right now? Which one are you most interested in learning more about? Which of the six areas in behavior management (take charge of the moment) might be the missing piece from your skill set?
To read Day 2, click here.