I was challenged with regard to behavior expectations recently. This made me think about my expectations with regard to student behavior. What matters?
When I see a child, I see their future. I don't spend a lot of time on small behavioral issues and save my energy for bigger issues with regard to behavior. For example, I may not spend a lot of time if students aren't listening well during a random transition, but I will make the time to make sure that everyone is listening if I'm relaying an important point with regard to a lesson, a safety issue, or detail that impacts the day.
Let Children Move
Also, if a child is one who likes to move a lot and has trouble sitting still, I'll give that child extra opportunity to get up and move. I find that a few minutes of extra movement here and there settles a child down rather than constant reminders about "not moving." My wise son inspired this a long time ago when he said, "No one jumps around like that at the high school." Now I know that some still jump around in high school, but in general children settle down as they get older, and young children love to move a lot. We have to make sure we're giving them adequate time and space to move.
I also always ask myself, why are children behaving the way they are behaving? If a lesson isn't going well and students start to act up, I'll say, "This lesson is not going as I planned so I can understand why you're getting anxious; try to stick with me, and I'll cut the lesson short so you have some extra time to play and move." Similarly, if another issue has found it's way into the classroom, I won't try to force the original lesson or issue. Instead I'll stop and address the issue that's taking priority, and then we'll get back on track.
Another factor that affects my behavioral expectations is focus. For example if one child is really reaching a wonderful point of learning or expression and another is acting out. I may choose to ignore the "acting out" if not dangerous in order to give the child who is excelling a chance to excel. Then I'll redirect the child who is off task.
Solve Problems with Children
One more strategy that works well is simply asking questions. For example if a child continually disrupts a lesson, I might say, "I notice that every time we _____, you make it difficult for us to proceed. Why do you think that's happening?" Then we'll converse about the issue as I explain why I need his/her support, and he/she explains what makes that difficult. Generally discussions like this make positive change for all.
Further, optimal seating helps. I tell children, "Everyone is sitting next to (or working with) someone who will help them learn in many ways." It's great to see them look at their study mates and start thinking about what gifts those students are bringing to them.
Over the years I've changed a lot when it comes to leading a classroom community. I've adopted the servant leadership model and I consider myself a "servant" to the students and families I work with. With this model, I am always thinking about how I can serve children better. What can I do to help them today and impact their future with positivity. I consider the children, family members, colleagues, and myself as a teaching/learning team. This model has empowered what I can do for and with children. It has made a dramatic, positive difference to the work I do each day. While there's always room for growth, I consider this to be a positive path to teaching and learning well.
I'll revisit the conflict that inspired this post. I can see positive ways to respond to the challenge, ways that will support children and our collegiality will strength. Onward.