In the Classroom Professional Learning
Behavior Management with a PURPOSE
May 17, 2017
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Michael Bradburn
@bradburnm

The first year of my teaching career was full of growth and a lot of professional learning.  Most of the growth occurred because of a young man who I welcomed into my kindergarten classroom during the second week of my teaching career. I got a call that I would be getting a new student in my classroom who has some “behavioral concerns.” As a first year teacher, I thought I was prepared for ANYTHING and ready for the challenge. Little did I know, he was ready for so much more! I met Aaron in August of 2004 and his impact on me as a teacher will never fade. The day started with me trying to convince him to stay in my classroom for all of the fun we had planned and the day ended with me convincing him the day was over and it was time to go home. During the day we were learning our colors and he got very angry because I asked him to use his purple crayon and he only had a violet. Each and every transition consisted of me setting a timer, dodging his shoes and school supplies, and typically watching my back for a punch or a kick. Aaron showed me that a behavior plan centered on a reward was not going to impact or teach him how to behave.

The why of management must be considered. We have to remember the goal when we manage our classrooms and potentially punish our students for misbehavior. It is because we, as teachers, want to help our students become better people not just compliant students. There are two questions that I think about when I am planning, implementing or reflecting on my behavior management and how we can help our students become better people.

What is the behavior that I want to teach them?
When we manage our classroom our goal should be to teach our students the appropriate way to behave. We have to ensure that we are clarifying how to respond appropriately. For example, when we have a student who is consistently interrupting we may ask the student to wait to speak or to raise his or her hand without any more explanation. However, if a teacher clarifies that we should raise our hand or wait to speak because it is disrespectful, the student can attach the behavior to an expectation. This clarification could be tied directly to a positive behavior plan and reinforcement because the positive choice is shared and the students can choose to be respectful and then be reinforced for that behavior.

Is this something I need to manage?
As teachers, we try to anticipate the actions of our students. One way we try to assist in smooth transitions and increase engagement is through structure and routines. However, these routines may cause us to manage our students more than we are able to teach. For example, I used to assign carpet spots during large group instructional time. This strategy worked for several years until I had a classroom full of students who needed to be separated. At that point, I didn’t have enough spots for them to be away from one another. This group allowed me to reflect on the need for spots. I realized I was doing the thinking for the students and not allowing them to make the appropriate choice.  From that point forward,  I allowed my students to select their own spots in the classroom. When students make the appropriate choice to separate from their friends or ignore someone talking with them I am able to positively reinforce that behavior and reward them.

With the constant push to implement positive behavior plans it is important to be familiar with the process and focus on the WHY of behavior management.  Our job is to ensure that we are teaching our students the appropriate ways to behave and choices that will make them better people and prepare them for their future.

Michael is an Instructional Coach at Alcoa Elementary School. He has been an educator for 11 years. He received the East Tennessee PreK-4 Teacher of the Year in 2014 and the Wal-Mart teacher of the year in 2004. Michael is currently working on the Tennessee Standards Mathematics Review Committee and as a Teacher Partner in his school collaborating with teachers to impact student achievement. He was a Common Core Mathematics Coach in 2013. He is a graduate of The University of Tennessee, Knoxville with a Bachelor’s of Science and a Masters Degree in Child and Family Studies. He holds an Education Specialist Degree in Instructional Leadership from Lincoln Memorial University. He also serves as a Hope Street Group Tennessee Teacher Fellow, engaging his colleagues in providing classroom feedback to the Tennessee Department of Education on public education policy issues.

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