The following are behavioral practices that promote strong teacher-student relationships, student engagement, and increase the likelihood of appropriate behavior. Though we know disruptions or misbehavior will occur periodically, teacher responses to student behavior are a critical factor that can determine whether learning continues or situations get escalated. Always remember to connect before you correct, with the goal being to keep students in class and learning.
- Build relationships, and know your students.
The Two-Minute Relationship Builder, often referred to as 2 x 10 is a management strategy as well as a motivational strategy. Students need to feel safe and connected in classrooms. This strategy provides the opportunity to purposefully and consistently build relationships with your students and learn more about their values, interests, and experiences.
Getting to Know You questionnaires can also give students prompts that allow them to share as much, or as little, as they’d like to help you get to know each one a little better. Consider completing one of your own and sharing it with them to let them see some of your interests, hobbies, favorite books, etc. When developing and sharing getting to know you questionnaires, it will be important to engage with students in a manner that demonstrates that you have used the information. Another resource can be found here: Getting to Know You Activities | pbis.org
- Intentionally teach emotional awareness and regulation skills.
A Daily Practice That Students Can Use for Self-Regulation is described here, where teachers guide students early on through a process of identifying “anchors” to help them maintain and/or regain self-control. Quick emotion check-ins can be used by students of any age. As they enter class each student can do a quick self-assessment, and then communicate their reflection with the teacher in various ways. The following Edutopia article shares a few considerations for check-ins in the high school setting: Building a Better Check-In. When establishing check-ins that offer students an opportunity to share their emotion, adults should also be mindful to ensure that those conversations are a part of a larger classroom culture in which students feel seen, heard, respected and supported.
- Create a culture of acknowledgement.
Talking with a student after class to briefly give genuine process praise can also help to build stronger teacher-student relationships and cultivate a climate of acknowledgement and reinforcement of engagement. Read more about this evidence-based practice in the following skill sheet: Behavior-Specific Praise. Taking half a minute at the end of the lesson or class to offer personal praise and appreciation can do wonders. This strategy takes little time but has a big impact on teacher-student relationships and students’ sense of self-worth: Keeping a Student After Class. Offering opportunities for peer-to-peer acknowledgement in the classroom can also help to develop a stronger classroom community after norms have been set and reviewed periodically. The 60-second strategies Shout outs and Appreciation, Apology, and Ahas are two examples of this practice in action.
- Preserve dignity when correcting errors.
Whenever possible address misbehavior privately with the student. This demonstrates respect for them, allows you to connect first, increases the likelihood they will be attuned to what you are saying, and decreases the likelihood that the student will escalate in an attempt to preserve their dignity. Taking time to co-develop non-verbal signals to support private communication between teachers and students can also be a powerful strategy to support redirection. Read more here: Non-Verbal Signals – The Teacher Toolkit
- Respond mindfully to behavior.
All behavior is communication. Behavior often reflects a need a student may have, so try not to take it personally. Keep in mind that you create the climate in the classroom, and your initial response often matters the most. Your response plays a key role in whether a situation is escalated or deescalated. Taking time to identify your triggers and plan ahead how you will model emotional regulation with your students. This practice will support your ability to respond versus react to behaviors. Sometimes there are factors that make this more difficult (e.g. time of day, internal state) which are known as vulnerable decision points (VDPs). Neutralizing routines are great tools to help minimize the impact of VDPs and allow for more mindful responses. There are lots of great neutralizing routines for responding to behaviors that can be found online but here’s one of our favorites to get you started: use the CALM strategy to pause, disengage and delay your response whenever possible.