The beginning of the second half of school (January to May/June) is a wonderful time of year to review and revamp your classroom rules and procedures. All teachers struggle with behavior management from time to time; managing humans is a tough job. One of my favorite (and tried-and-true) methods of behavior management is a behavior reflection form.
Ultimately, the goal of educators in managing behavior is not to punish, but to create the ideal circumstances for cooperation, consideration, and learning. I don’t like to punish students. I don’t like being punished or penalized, and I loathed it as a student. We can all think back to one or two times in elementary-high school wherein we received a punishment. And, most of the time we feel it was unmerited and/or too severe. The fact that we reflect on the unfairness of punishment lets me know it isn’t an effective tool for long-term behavior changes. It’s a fear tactic. Educators can’t build circumstances for cooperation, consideration, and learning using fear.
Incentives and positive methods of behavior management are the most powerful tools a teacher has for classroom management. Having said that, sometimes a consequence is needed.
Consequences have more meaning than punishment.
For instance, if a parent scolds a child for walking around barefoot, the child understands s/he gets scolded for going barefoot. But, if a parent explains the consequences of walking barefoot -hurting your feet- a child understands walking barefoot is potentially dangerous. If a child walks barefoot and cuts his or her foot, s/he has a profound understanding of the consequences of walking barefoot.
Consequences > punishment.
I firmly believe any rule should have an accompanying consequence for rule-breaking; students need concrete boundaries. If a rule cannot have a consequence, then why is it a rule? Perhaps, it should be a procedure or an expectation. . .
There is often a disconnect between in-class student consequences and guardian understanding of student in-class behavior and consequences. Phone calls can’t/don’t always happen when the student behavior happens, and sometimes there is a lapse of days between the student behavior and guardian-teacher communication (it’s not ideal, but it does happen). Early in my teaching career, I dealt with this disconnect one too many times. I decided to devise a system wherein there is more direct communication about student behavior.
When a student displays a rule-breaking behavior, I ask him/her to fill out a “Student Behavior Reflection” form. On the front side, the form asks students to reflect on their poor choice, what led up to the poor choice, what choice they will make next time, and what they think the consequence of their behavior should be. On the back side, the form asks the teacher to describe his/her observations leading up to the student behavior, the actions s/he took, reflect on the consequences selected by the student and/or list the teacher assigned consequence, list the number of times the student has completed the form previously in the term, and outline the overall impact (if any) on the student’s grade.
The reflection is powerful because the student is able to reflect on his/her behavior in real-time, and it provides for teacher notes and actions. When the reflection goes home (via student, email, or fax), the guardian has a well-rounded idea of what happened and can see any immediate issues between teacher and student accounts. Finally, it also prevents the student from changing/developing a different story about what happened in the time between the incidence of the behavior and guardian-parent communication.
Here is a copy of my Behavior Reflection Form. You can download a free PDF copy by clicking here.