Archive | September, 2014

Empathy, Essential Classroom Management

empathy is bubble wrap, classroom managment, pbisAre you using empathy in your classroom management plan?  Starting the new year off, the focus begins with building relationships.  Working with students with behavior and emotional disorders this becomes even more imperative.  I have to know my students.  I need to know who they are, why they choose behaviors, and what is really going on for them behind the scenes.  If I don’t know these things, I am looking at blank slates and assuming all my students are alike and will react and choose identically.  That isn’t the case.  Students have buttons that get pushed, students may decide they have had enough, and quickly you are in a place of upset.  Knowing their details can make all the difference.

If a student is going to blow, they need someone they can trust to aid the diffusion.  When a student does not have that trust or connection, there is no safe path for them to deescalate.  How does a student know you are there for them?  Because you cared enough to get know them, for the reason they know they are not the blank slate with a generic student X on their desk.  Oftentimes, I find my room is a place to deescalate.  This week alone, I made it a point on several occasions to let a student know I was on their side, that I was there to support them and ask them, “Hey, what’s going on?”  This isn’t a free pass to do as they please.  Yet I also can’t change what a student choses to do or say; I can only influence the space around them.  That space isn’t visible.  And it is different for each young person.  I sometimes recommend to another teacher, “just pretend they are wrapped in bubble wrap.”  Meaning, they are fragile and will quickly break out of your expectations if handled incorrectly.  What is that bubble wrap?  It’s empathy.  Empathize before you react.  They need to feel that, to ever come back to the fold.

My principal came and spoke to me about a student on Friday.  She was looking for a new place for him to be during study hall.  I ended up thinking about him all weekend. I wondered why I was going to be haven this student needed verses the classroom he was currently in.  Reflecting on the stories she shared about his current placement, I realized what I had for this student was empathy.  The student was having an issue with another teacher and what he wasn’t getting from her was listening and understanding.  For whatever reason, the latest incident ensued and she didn’t want to hear his side and he wasn’t willing to work with her after that.  He had a reason, he then wasn’t heard.  He was done.

Don’t get wrong. I still expect his behavior to be in check.  Always.  Nonetheless, I have a keen sense of empathy for the lives, troubles, moods, and the thing that is going to set them off.  I may be ok with ear buds, if I stop and listen to why they need them.  I may not even question it, because I know this student works better when using them.  I may allow a student to use the restroom at a time that may be less than ideal, simply because I can see the alternative.  I can see they need that mental break from what is going on in class.  That requires empathy, but you can’t have empathy unless you know them.  Unless you understand your students.


How to Teach Routines and Procedures: the 4 D’s

Discuss, Demonstrate, Do, Do over

It is that time of year, when we all head back into the classroom and of course we begin teaching our routines and procedures.  However, are we teaching them effectively?  Are we teaching all of them?  Are we presuming too much?  Take the time to evaluate your effectiveness and ask yourself if you accomplish these 4 steps.  If you do, and you do continuously throughout the year, you will in effect save yourself time for more teaching of your content.

1.  Discuss. Do not expect students to know routines or procedures. Teach what it is you want. Tell them and discuss with them how things should work and look. Be explicit. Nothing is too simple to mention. We are not in charge of homeschooling these students and so we do not know what skills or knowledge are accompanying them prior to your class.

2.  Demonstrate. When teaching the routines and procedures, demonstrate. Show them how it looks to line up, sharpen a pencil, turn in their work, and behave in an assembly. Again, do not presume students to know what is expected of them. And then, do not envisage these students will also listen…show them. Model and demonstrate the expectations.

3.  Do. Practice over and over. Understand that this may be a new skill. It is certainly a new environment for the students. Do the routines and procedures so much that it feels silly. That is how something becomes an actual routine or procedure.

4.  Do over. Expect delays and derailings. When students miss an opportunity for success or an expectation is not met. Do over all the steps again. Discuss, Demonstrate, and Do individually and as a whole class. Think about it, if one student forgot the expectations for sharpening a pencil during class….he/she is probably not the only one. Look at this as the perfect opportunity for a refresher course in the specific skill. If an assembly is coming up, do not assume the students will remember; do the steps again as a booster before the assembly.

Routines and Procedures needs to be taught throughout the year. Take these steps and incorporate them into your classroom management practices, in the end saving time for instruction and teaching of content.

Happy New Year Everyone!


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