Today’s guest author is Troy Schuknecht, the Head of School for grades 5-12 and Science Teacher at Veritas Academy. He is also my son, who I am blessed to work very closely with. Troy holds his students consistently to high standards in both their behavior and work. At the same time he strives to know each student as an individual, looking for their unique God given potential. His faculty memo this week included classroom management tips which have great applications for discipleship at home as well. They are listed below.
Classroom Management Tips by Troy Schuknecht
(Parent Application by Ellen)
“A friend recently asked me for some classroom management advice, so I put together 10 tips for him and thought I would share them with you. If your classroom runs smoothly every day, don’t waste your time reading this but if your management needs a little beefing up, enjoy these practical tips, keeping in mind that in all of this your ultimate goal should be to address the heart of the student.”
- Change up the discipline often. The same approach can grow stale and ineffective. But always have some clear consequence in mind and work hard to obtain a reputation of consistency in dishing it out. Parent application: Be consistent while including variety to your means of discipline.
- Make the consequence something you are willing to dish out for minor offenses. If the consequence is too large, you will never give it out. It needs to be slightly inconvenient for the student, but not so great that you only give it for major or repeated offenses. Parent application: Deal with issues before they escalate into major ones, with consequences you are willing to follow through with – making threats you don’t carry out leads kids to question and trust what you say.
- Give out the consequence without letting the students see any frustration in you. They must perceive an attitude in you that is unfazed; otherwise, they will try to misbehave, just to get a rise out of you. Parent application: Don’t give your kids control by losing yours!
- The best way I’ve found to dish out the consequence is to give students choices. The key is to ensure that you will be okay with either choice. It might be something like, “you may either spend the rest of the day working silently at your desk doing only the odd problems, or you can mess around and force me to assign the even problems as well.” Another way of stating it could be: “Students who are not distracted by their peers will continue to be allowed to sit by them.”Parent application: Give your kids choices of consequences with options that are fine with you. For example rather than nagging your kid to eat dinner (over and over and over), say “Kids who eat dinner get dessert, watch a movie, etc” – this implies that you are fine with them eating or not eating and their choice has either a positive consequence or negative one. Kids need to learn that their choices have consequences in real life.
- If you are giving them time in class to work on something, give them a reasonable time limit, then set a timer and hold them to it. Parent application: Encourage wise use of time and teach your kids the skill of starting and finishing a project within deadlines. With this skill alone, they will stand out among their peers as reliable and responsible individuals that can be counted on.
- Get to know your students and what they value and then have a consequence that will work for them. Some kids are motivated by grades, which makes things like having to do less problems a successful consequence for them. Others are not worried about grades, so a more social consequence is required (like moving seats). Parent application: Know how to motivate your kids individually.
- In every class there are 15% of the students who will always do what is right, no matter what. There are also 5% who will always push the boundaries no matter what. Then there are 80% who will go either way. If you have even the smallest little consequence consistently administered, that 80% will end up doing what is right and you will only need to focus your energy on the 5%. Parent application: Consistency is the key. If kids can get by with inappropriate behavior on occasion, the risk is often worth the effort just to test what will happen.
- Now, with that 5%, once you have them identified, there is one trick that has never failed me. I just make it a point to notice them each and every day. I stand at the door as students enter class and have something planned ahead to say to them every day. It needs to be honest, which can be difficult with some of these kids. I would say something like “Hey, are those new shoes? I like them.” Or, “I see that you have a picture of Justin Bieber taped to your binder, is it his music that you like or his hair?” Or, “I saw you in the hall the other day listening to your friend’s problems, thanks for being there for him.” Something…anything…if you do this every day, most kids behavior will be turned around in your class in 2 weeks…some will take longer. Parent application: Get into the habit of paying attention to your kids without them trying to get it. Giving attention when they are not demanding it indicates that you care and think about them and encourages an environment in which they don’t grow to be attention seekers.
- Make sure you avoid the most common mistake in classroom management…disciplining the entire class for the behavior of a few. This is the fastest way to take the 80% and make them turn against you, but it is also the easiest thing to do because it requires no forethought, but only a reaction. If you lump the 80% into the “bad kids” by giving them a consequence or even chiding them along with the group, they will quickly become the bad kids. The most important thing is to identify the 5% and deal with them….. individually. Parent application: Treat your kids as individuals and be intentional rather than reactionary in delivering consequences.
- One final note, you produce in kids what you pay the most attention to. So, you need to get to the point where you are publicly praising those who are doing what is right more often than you are correcting those who are doing what is wrong. Also, once someone has done something wrong, spend as little time as possible correcting it then move on and pay attention to those who are doing what is right. Parent application: You will produce in your kids what you pay most attention to. Criticism draws attention to what is wrong. Correction draws attention to what needs to happen instead – a focus away from misbehavior to what is desired.
Enjoy your spring break!