Take CHARGE of Your Classroom: Grow and Engage (Part 3 of 3)
Classroom management is not about maintaining power but unlocking potential. Trying to control students is like trying to keep the tide from flowing in and out. When an earthquake causes damage, we do not question why the earthquake would do such a thing. Earthquakes are a force of nature, uncontrollable and unpreventable. Damage is minimized with new construction techniques, not because architects have found a way to reduce the power of earthquakes. Instead, they’ve learned how to design buildings to move with the earth rather than rigidly fighting against it.
In the same way, student misbehavior acts like a force of nature. While it cannot be conquered, careful design can reduce the impact of occurrences. Using the acronym CHARGE, the first post in this series looked at two qualities that proficient teachers embody. First, they are confident. They show resilience in the face of difficulty and when they struggle, they are sure of their ability to bounce back. Instead of saying, “That doesn’t work,” they say, “That doesn’t work – yet.” Also, teachers should emphasize their humanity, leveraging our need for relational connections to increase productivity. When students are seen, heard, and known, they are much less likely to act inappropriately.
The second post of this series looked at two actions that teachers should employ to take charge of their classrooms – anticipate and reflect. Like the metaphor of building structures to resist earthquake damage, teachers can build behavior-resistant classrooms by looking for patterns and planning ahead. Visualize the daily routine and think of some alternatives to try if things go awry. Another form of preparation is the institution of procedures. It’s hard to hold students accountable for actions they’ve never practiced. In this final post, we’ll look at two more actions teachers can take from the CHARGE acronym – Grow and Engage.
Teachers are hired to teach content AND behavior. They might not like it, but that doesn’t change the truth.
What would happen if a kindergarten teacher assumed that her students could already recognize all their letters and the sounds they make on the first day of school? What if she never addressed those standards and jumped straight into decoding CVC words? While some of her students might have the preparation, either from home or from preschool, most would struggle mightily. In the same way, teachers should intentionally embed behaviors into their lessons.
While teaching behaviors might seem obvious with a little examination, there are other areas in which we can grow our students. Not only do they need assistance with proper behavioral expectations, students do not all have the necessary executive functioning skills to navigate school. Executive functions, broadly defined as a set of processes that have to do with managing oneself and one’s resources to achieve a goal, are incredibly important. They help students stop inappropriate behavior, shift freely from one situation to another, and control their emotions, to name a few.
Additionally, empathy is a key area that students might be lacking in. Loosely defined as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another, empathy builds positive classroom culture, strengthens community, and gives students the tools to be leaders. When students are shown how to walk in the shoes of others, they are less likely to stomp on those shoes.
Mindfulness is an area that has recently (and thankfully) exploded in schools and workplaces across the world. Many programs, techniques, and videos exist to assist teachers in providing students with the tools needed to regulate themselves. Between every stimulus and response is a moment. The moment is where highly regulated individuals consider their options and determine an appropriate response, rather than being driven by their emotions. For some students, the breadth of that moment is almost non-existent. Mindfulness and empathy help students grow their moments.
The final component of taking CHARGE of your classroom, engaging students, is equal to the previous three steps (anticipate, reflect, and grow) combined. Teachers can be the most prepared, organized, and relational educators in existence but will lose their students if they’re bored. On the other hand, highly engaged classrooms need little to no supervision. When students are enjoying learning, they’re having too much fun to misbehave.
When defining engagement, two key factors should be considered. First, engagement is active rather than passive. Learning is done by the student, not to the student. When teachers pass out worksheet packets or lecture endlessly, they have no right to complain about students misbehaving. Instead, actively involve them in generating understanding. Let them touch, make, tweak, discuss, argue, and create meaning from the information you share. Instead of sitting-and-getting, they should be working hard. At the end of the day, it should be the teacher, not the students, who are exhausted.
Second, engagement occurs when instruction overlaps with student motivation. Some students are excited to learn when they feel capable and competent. Others are drawn by the relationships they build with their peers and their teachers. While some students are highly motivated when offered choices in learning, others are moved by the relevance of the content. Above all, emotions play an integral part in learning. Negative emotional states destroy any potential for learning.
Benware, C. A., & Deci, E. L. (1984). Quality of learning with an active versus passive motivational set. American Educational Research Journal, 21(4), 755-765.
Cooper-Kahn, J., & Dietzel, L. C. (2008). Late, lost and unprepared: A parents guide to helping children with executive functioning. Bethesda: Woodbine House.
Daffern, A. (2017). Solving student engagement: Designing instruction to motivate every student. Aaron Daffern Consulting.
Decety, J., & Ickes, W. (Eds.). (2011). The social neuroscience of empathy. Cambridge: The MIT Press.
Owen, L. (2015, November 11). Empathy in the Classroom: Why Should I Care? Retrieved February 22, 2019, from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/empathy-classroom-why-should-i-care-lauren-owen