• Aaron Daffern

Two behavior management models that are incomplete

As someone who has the privilege of working with and seeing dozens of schools each year, I've seen hundreds of classrooms with a wide range of official and unofficial classroom management systems. In another post, I looked at two models that simply need to go away. Here, however, we'll examine two types of systems that have useful components but are insufficient as stand-alone programs.


Back in 2000 when I started teaching, the Bible for new teachers was Harry and Rosemary Wong's The First Day of School. It emphasized procedures and routines, a key component of any successful classroom. According to them, there should be a procedure for everything. A procedure for entering the classroom. A procedure for packing up for the day. A procedure for turning in homework.

Procedures are powerful tools. They show students the preferred way of doing something. For many students, their behavioral struggles stem from simply not knowing what to do. Procedures fill in that gap, showing students what to do and how to do it.

But what if they don't?

This question nagged at me as I tried to implement procedures as a classroom teacher. Though they worked for a good portion of the class, there were always students who didn't thank me for practicing a procedure for the umpteenth time. They were over it, quick.

If the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. But some students are screws, some are staples, and others are gummy worms. A one-size-fits-all approach is lucky if it fits even half of the class.

Social-emotional learning

Don't shoot the messenger.

Social-emotional learning (SEL) is an integral part of building a positive classroom environment. When students can identify emotions, learn to express them appropriately, and even begin to self-regulate, they are on their way to becoming strong learners.

It's simply insufficient on its own.

Having circle time every morning to connect with others is fantastic. Yet it doesn't address academics directly nor keep lessons from being snooze-fests.

Creating a safe place (e.g., calming corner, chill zone) is a must-have for students as they learn to work through big feelings. But it can't help with poorly planned lessons that have pacing and fidelity issues.

SEL is fantastic but must work in tandem with other components. Teachers must embrace procedures and the use of differential social attention. They should harness student engagement techniques and build in time for perspective taking.

How does everything fit together?

On August 9, 2021 I am beginning a free, 20-day web series exploring a classroom management model that will help you create the classroom culture of your dreams. You can sign up for it here or learn more about the book here.

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