Monday, September 20, 2010

The Honeymoon is Over

"Honeymoon." It's that blissful period at the beginning of a relationship or endeavor when things are peachy keen (jelly bean). The school psychologist knows the honeymoon is over when teachers start to panic and the referrals start rolling in. For me, that time is now.

The beginning of the school year always begins with students (and teachers) putting on their best faces. Kids are still in that bleary beginning of school phase--perhaps due to nerves, perhaps due to the return of the early wake-up call. Teachers aren't yet aware of the "problem kids," and haven't gotten into academics enough to find out which students may have a tough time. Ah, but two weeks in, the gloves come off and the true personas come out.

Teachers at my building are starting to get a little wacky now that they're back from their honeymoons. When I pass folks in the office or hall, it's a sea of concerns regarding a student's behavior or low academics. It's a bit overwhelming, especially for someone who is new to the district and is jumping in headfirst. I'm also not as experienced with behavioral interventions as other, more seasoned professionals. But, since I've had to write two Behavior Intervention Plans (BIPs) in the first 10 days of school (we were out of compliance with regulations) and have more behavior modification plans coming down the tubes, here are a few basic, beginning of the school year suggestions to address behavior difficulties. These may be well-understood classroom management techniques, but it never hurts to have a refresher!

- Put a daily schedule with class and homework on board. Ensure students understand and have written it in  agendas, if they use them. Outline each subject area lesson and set expectations for what will be required and how the lesson will run. This may increase compliance, especially when consistent.
- Provide strict guidelines/classroom rules and behavioral expectations. Reward and provide consequences immediately and consistently. Explain why a reward or consequence is being given in direct, understandable language. Stick to your guns regarding what you expect from students and they will be more likely to comply.
- Teach and model how to follow the classroom and school rules. Many times students do not understand what they are expected to do because they simply haven't been taught. Generate lists of ways to or behaviors that would be examples of following the rules. Engage in roleplays of appropriate rule following. Point out and praise students who are following classroom and school rules. Be explicit with identifying the behaviors that are correct. It may also be beneficial to teach and model examples of not following classroom and school rules.
- Remember the importance of proximity. Seat students who have difficulty controlling themselves, who are easily distracted, or who are frequently off-task near the source of instruction (i.e. the board or the teacher).
- Circle the room during instruction, rather than remaining solely at the board, in order to monitor students' attention and focus. Teach from various points in the room when the board is not necessary. Visit students' desks frequently during independent seatwork to ensure they are on-task and working appropriately.

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