Why These 3 Things DON’T Help Improve Student Behavior (and Actually Make Them Worse)

Why These 3 Things DON’T Help Improve Student Behavior (and Actually Make Them Worse)

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Student behavior is one of the toughest parts of teaching for so many teachers. What is taught during teacher training can seem great, but then doesn’t always work once there are real students involved! 🙂 

When I work with new teachers, I always tell them that by the end of my first week of teaching I had gone through ALL the things that I knew worked for student behavior AND all of the things that I knew didn’t work! 

But the good news…You don’t have to go through all of that. I write a lot about what’s best to do when working with student behavior but today I am going to tell you the 3 things that DON’T help improve student behavior to help you avoid the mistakes I made.

1. Punishment doesn’t change behavior (long-term)

I know, I know…this is sometimes hard for people to hear. The thing with punishment is that it works really, really well in the short term but it doesn’t bring about long-term change which means you are constantly chasing your tail. Punishment can be tempting because it often will stop the behavior in the short term but it actually ends up costing you more time and more frustration. Check out next week’s blog on some “quick fixes” to use instead of punishment!

2. Verbal Battles

This can be so hard when you are in the moment. A student starts arguing and before we know it, we are knee-deep in a verbal battle that we are bound to lose AND that takes away from what we want to be doing…teaching! There is a time and place to have a discussion with a student, but it is unlikely to be during escalated behavior. A few things to do instead of jumping into that verbal battle are:

  1. Walk away
  2. Reinforce other students who are sitting quietly
  3. Reinforce the student any time they stop arguing…Even if it’s only for a minute
  4. Ignore (ignore the battle, not the student)
  5. Change the activity or expectation (cut your losses)

3. Drawing attention to the behavior

Often when a student is misbehaving, we draw attention to the behavior which then can often reinforce the behavior as well as stop learning for the rest of your class. When a student is acting out, the behavior can be overwhelming to you and the rest of the students. Though giving the behavior minimal attention can be challenging (and not feel great), it can minimize a tough situation. A few tricks to help draw as little attention as possible to student behavior are:

  1. Physically move yourself away from the student 
  2. Change the activity to allow students to move away from the situation
  3. Have the students take a break
  4. Have the students leave the room if possible
  5. Reinforce the rest of the class for staying focused

Tip… I always had my class have an independent work folder (filled with fun activities) and if a student was having a challenging behavior, I could give the class a signal and they knew to stop what they were doing and take out their folder and work independently! Explore similar resources that could help improve student behavior here.

If you are ready to start really taming those student behaviors, check out my behavior buster toolkit

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