• Aaron Daffern

Take CHARGE of the Classroom #3: Procedures

This is post #3 in a 20-post series designed to disrupt outdated behavior management models and help you create the classroom culture of your dreams. This post contains excerpts from my book Take CHARGE of the Classroom.

When teachers change the lens through which they view procedures, their understanding of them will crystalize. The primary function of teachers in the classroom is to teach. While this might seem obvious to you, the scope of the teaching is sometimes limited by a lack of vision. More than simply teaching students how to read, solve multi-step problems, or execute the quadratic equation, teachers also have the privilege of teaching behaviors.

Routines are merely those – expected behaviors. Whether it be how to enter the classroom, where to find missing work, or how to ask for permission to use the restroom, there are many behaviors that students engage in every day or even multiple times a day. While these sound simple, they can vary greatly from classroom to classroom.

Some teachers have no expectation for how students should enter the classroom, so students can enter quietly and noisily as long as they are in their seats before the bell rings. Others want students to line up in the hall and wait until the teacher has signaled for them to enter. Some teachers have work on the board and expect students to come in and get started right away while others have a series of prescribed actions to perform, such as hanging up backpacks, turning in assignments, and sharpening pencils.

The scary part comes when all of these varying expectations exist within the same classroom and shift from day to day. Some teachers are fickle and their lack of procedures creates wildly changing expectations. When students don’t know what is expected of them, they feel insecure and untethered. Behavior that was acceptable yesterday brings a strong reprimand today. This lack of clarity creates anxiety and tension.

Routines, then, are not restrictive but expansive. They teach expected behaviors in the classroom and the school. This, in turn, provides consistency and predictability. These are two qualities that students need in abundance because it helps to answer a fundamental question they ask subconsciously every day, “Am I safe?”

What can you do tomorrow?

Reinforce routines. Consider the procedures you already have in place. Commit to practicing them a few times this week and explaining to students why they are important. If there are some procedures you’d like to put in place, it’s never too late to start.

Make them visible. Provide visual support for students by taking and printing a picture of the completed procedure. This might be a picture of students lined up quietly and placed above the door or a picture of a neat and orderly library center placed on the library bookshelf.

What does this look like in the classroom?

The teacher establishes and consistently practices routines that are:

· Clearly structured and explained;

· Visually depicted for easy reference; and

· Reinforced and revisited when correct execution begins to diminish.

I first learned about safe places when reading Conscious Discipline (Bailey, 2015). This procedure is actually five separate actions all rolled up into one. And even before teaching students the steps to use when they need to regulate themselves, teachers have to first create a physical safe place for students to use when upset.