Why Panic Is a Bad Classroom Management Strategy

No matter what’s going on in your classroom, don’t panic!  I’m not promising you everything will be okay – how could I know that?  The only thing I know for sure is that panicking won’t help.  It will just take a bad situation and make it worse.

That Out-of-Control Feeling of Panic

I know that out-of-control feeling, and it isn’t pretty.  Case in point – It’s the first day of school. I am in front of a class of 42 7th graders, many of whom swagger into the room in gang-banger droopy pants and baseball hats (which is a violation of dress code.)  They talk trash to each other across the room – loudly – and completely ignore me, the teacher, standing up here in the front of the room.

Panic Seems Reasonable, But Not Helpful

Why Panic is a Bad Classroom Management StrategyPanic seems reasonable.  However (I remind myself) not helpful.  What will change if I take a moment to compose myself?  Nothing.  They will keep talking, but I will have regained my composure.

Breathing a couple of times, I take a look around the room.  Of the 42, only seven are actually trash talking and being loud.  The others are either quiet, or talking with their friends – just what I would do while waiting for class to start.  True, I still have a problem, but it’s not the all-encompassing rebellion I initially thought.

I decide to pretend the seven swaggerers aren’t there, and address the 35 students that are just fine (and waiting to see how I’m going to react.)  Another deep breath, and I start class just as I had planned.  No, it wasn’t perfect, and yes, I did need to redirect.  But at least I kept my sanity, and didn’t alienate the rest of the class by blaming them for the minority of students who were acting out.

Will staying calm solve all your problems?  Of course not, but at least you won’t make a bad situation worse.  And who knows?  You may discover it isn’t as bad as you initially thought.

Now go create a great day for yourself and your students!

Katrina Ayres, Positive Teaching Strategies

Additional Awesome Teacher Nation Resources

Books

  • Create a Great Day for Yourself and Your Students
  • 5-Minute Classroom Management Hints
  • The Take-Charge Teacher
  • All The Ways I Screwed Up My First Year of Teaching
  • The Classroom Teacher’s Coloring Book
  • The Classroom Teacher’s Coloring Book, Volume 2

VideosAwesome Teacher Nation TV videos, including:

  • Why Threats and Punishments Don’t Work
  • Saving Time on Paperwork and Grading
  • 7 Strategies to Deal With the Pencil Sharpener
  • What’s the BEST Classroom Management Strategy?

Online Courses

  • Taming the Chaos: How to Create and Effective Classroom Routine
  • Making Money as an In-Demand Substitute Teacher
  • A Day in the Life of a Substitute Teacher
  • The Substitute Teacher’s Troubleshooting Guide

Gain Instant Access to the Awesome Teacher Nation Resources Library

With Solutions for Administrators, Classroom Teachers, New Teachers, Substitute Teachers, and more

Tattling and Advice-Seeking

Tattling Students“My friend lied to me!”

“My parents are getting a divorce!”

“My boyfriend broke up with me!”

“Everyone’s gossiping about me!”

“He cut in front of me in line!”

When students come to us with personal problems it’s easy to fall into one of two extremes—dismiss the problem as unimportant (“I’m sorry. Go play with someone else.”) or get drawn into the drama and spend hours counseling and problem-solving (“Who’s gossiping about you? What did they say? Let’s have a meeting and work it out.”)

On one hand, as trivial as some problems may seem to us, they are still important to our students, and it’s disrespectful to minimalize them. On the other hand, as important as some issues sound, we may be making them even worse by intervening.

Of course your response will depend upon the maturity of your students and the severity of the problem. But in nearly every case the goal should be to help our students develop problem-solving skills instead of solving the problem for them.

Questions That Empower StudentsNext time a student comes to you with a problem try asking these three questions:

1—What have you done about this problem so far? (You can skip this question if they’ve already told you a long story.)

2—What do you think you’ll try next? (Helps them own the problem and empowers them to solve it.)

3—What can I do to help? (Clarifies their motivation for coming to you, expresses sympathy, and defines your role as a concerned adult, not a magic problem-solver.)

Sometimes you don’t need all three questions. For example, for outright tattling, question #3 might take care of it. And sometimes when you ask question #2, students will realize they really don’t want to do anything about the problem—they just wanted a sympathetic ear.

Now go create a great day for yourself and your students!

Katrina Ayres, Positive Teaching Strategies

Additional Awesome Teacher Nation Resources

Books

  • Create a Great Day for Yourself and Your Students
  • 5-Minute Classroom Management Hints
  • The Take-Charge Teacher
  • All The Ways I Screwed Up My First Year of Teaching
  • The Classroom Teacher’s Coloring Book
  • The Classroom Teacher’s Coloring Book, Volume 2

VideosAwesome Teacher Nation TV videos, including:

  • Why Threats and Punishments Don’t Work
  • Saving Time on Paperwork and Grading
  • 7 Strategies to Deal With the Pencil Sharpener
  • What’s the BEST Classroom Management Strategy?

Online Courses

  • Taming the Chaos: How to Create and Effective Classroom Routine
  • Making Money as an In-Demand Substitute Teacher
  • A Day in the Life of a Substitute Teacher
  • The Substitute Teacher’s Troubleshooting Guide

Gain Instant Access to the Awesome Teacher Nation Resources Library

With Solutions for Administrators, Classroom Teachers, New Teachers, Substitute Teachers, and more

Why Ignoring Misbehavior Won’t Extinguish It

Students who misbehave to get the teacher's attentionI had just about had it with one of my 3rd graders. All day long it had been one thing after another. Shouting out, clowning around, throwing things, making faces and fart noises, wandering the room… you name it, this student was doing it.

Students who get in your face while you are talkingI finally just about lost it when he walked up to me while I was addressing the class and interrupted me mid-sentence to show me his new watch. Couldn’t he see I was busy? And then I finally realized he was acting out to get attention.

Common wisdom says the way to “extinguish” attention-getting behavior is to ignore it. In my experience, this doesn’t really work. I find what usually happens is the attention-getting misbehavior will keep accelerating until you finally snap and react in some way. Once the misbehaving student gets a reaction, the misbehavior is reinforced, making it more likely to happen again.

Preventative Attention - attention you give a student to prevent attention-getting misbehavior
If you have students who tend to act out to get attention, shower them with attention the moment they arrive in your room, before they’ve had a chance to start misbehaving. Say hello when they walk in. Ask their opinion about something (anything!) Ask them to show another student how to do something. Notice and comment on something they are doing right. Do not be fake and weird about it, but keep it going as consistently as you can for as long as you can.

If your students are already acting out, do what you need to do to stop the misbehavior, then start the positive attention routine as soon as possible. For example, when the 3rd grader tried to show me his watch during direct instruction, I smiled and said, “Show me during recess, honey,” and gestured toward his desk for him to sit down. Then I quickly called on him to answer a question I knew he could answer.

It may seem like this takes a lot of time and energy, and it does. But it takes even more time and energy to deal with all that attention-getting misbehavior all day long while trying to stay positive and maintain your sanity.

Do yourself a favor and give your needy students a little preventative attention. It couldn’t hurt, right?
Why You Can't Extinguish Misbehavior by Ignoring It

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Katrina Ayres, Positive Teaching Strategies

Additional Awesome Teacher Nation Resources

Books

  • Create a Great Day for Yourself and Your Students
  • 5-Minute Classroom Management Hints
  • The Take-Charge Teacher
  • All The Ways I Screwed Up My First Year of Teaching
  • The Classroom Teacher’s Coloring Book
  • The Classroom Teacher’s Coloring Book, Volume 2

VideosAwesome Teacher Nation TV videos, including:

  • Why Threats and Punishments Don’t Work
  • Saving Time on Paperwork and Grading
  • 7 Strategies to Deal With the Pencil Sharpener
  • What’s the BEST Classroom Management Strategy?

Online Courses

  • Taming the Chaos: How to Create and Effective Classroom Routine
  • Making Money as an In-Demand Substitute Teacher
  • A Day in the Life of a Substitute Teacher
  • The Substitute Teacher’s Troubleshooting Guide

Gain Instant Access to the Awesome Teacher Nation Resources Library

With Solutions for Administrators, Classroom Teachers, New Teachers, Substitute Teachers, and more