Six Questions to ask about Behavior Management

Based on a Facebook live.

As a teacher, I’m sure you’re asked this question a lot. “Why did you go into teaching?” And seldom does anyone reply, “Because I love dealing with behavior management issues.”

Today, we dive deeper into why behavior management is so difficult and how to overcome its most common challenges. Let’s begin with six questions that are commonly asked or thought about when it comes to behavior management issues.

1. Why is behavior management so difficult?

Behavior management is renownedly difficult because it is difficult to measure. As someone very smart once said, if you want to do something well, you’ve got to be able to measure it.

It’s as simple as: You can’t manage what you can’t measure. But how would one go about measuring misbehaviors?

In our current state, teachers generally go with the anecdotal measurement: “This student has been acting out a lot recently.” Usually, this happens after the student has been acting out for a long period of time. Then we start paying attention to all of the anecdotes of misbehavior – the disruption here, incomplete work there. In our minds, we figure that these are the students with behavior issues. Then we call in psychologists, social works, guidance counselors, and other support systems that are available to help us.

The truth of the matter is, we’re not well served to manage behavior this way. It would be like asking someone to bake a cake without a measuring cup or measuring spoons and expecting them to just estimate. If you have a good measurement tool for behavior, you’re going to be much better at managing behavior. The reason why behavior management is so difficult is because the current tools we have to measure misbehaviors are not the best.

Spoiler alert: there is a better tool now. Read all the way to the end to learn more!

2. Why don’t incentive programs or point systems work?

Incentive programs and point systems do work for some children, but very often – especially as you get further into the school year – other children are just not motivated by these things. Why not; what’s the problem, and what can we do about it?

Here’s what you need for a points system: You need to understand why students are misbehaving in the first place. Very often, young students act out because they are just not capable of doing what they need to do. They don’t have the skills that are necessary, they’re under too much pressure, there are ongoing personal matters.

Of course, incentives can be effective. If you have a skill but you’re not motivated to use that skill, an incentive can increase your motivation. For example, imagine there is someone who needs a heart transplant. If you’re not a heart surgeon, there is no incentive in the world that is going to make it possible for you to do this heart surgery, because you don’t have the skills. But if you’re a highly skilled heart surgeon that would rather play golf, you can be convinced by a certain amount of money that will make it worthwhile for you to do the surgery rather than go golfing.

Incentives and point systems work fairly well when the skill is present and there is a lack of motivation. But with kids that lack skills, the incentive is not going to motivate them, especially since they feel like they just can’t accomplish anything even with incentives. So in many cases, the incentive is the wrong intervention, and like any wrong intervention, you won’t get the desired outcome.

3. How do I balance the attention that I need to give to particularly struggling students with the rest of the class?

It’s true that in many cases, there are a handful of students that require the most attention. In order to understand how to balance your time between these students and the rest of the class, you need to understand the different tiers of needs.

There are basic needs that every student needs; positive engagements, academic assistance, and acknowledgement. These are tier 1 needs, and your entire class requires them. And then, you need to identify those students that need a little extra attention. These are the students with tier 2 needs, and as long as you’re meeting the needs of the class on tier 1, you can move on to tier 2 and help those specific students.

At times, it will be beyond the scope of the classroom and the teacher’s role in the classroom to provide certain extra support. In these cases, don’t hesitate to ask for extra help.

4. Can I implement a classwide behavior strategy, or do I need to have it tailored to the individual?

For obvious reasons, a classwide strategy is easier to implement than a customized plan for each student. But, students sometimes need individualized plans.

The truth of the matter is that your behavior strategy does need to be tailored to the individual because each student has different needs which require tailored responses. If you can adopt a classwide strategy to provide a certain level of behavior management for everyone, then you can respond specifically to students that need the little extra. Again, we refer to this as tier 1 and tier 2 behavior management.

Practically, this can be done with tools like ClasStars. Read on for more.

5. Am I a teacher or am I a babysitter?

This is a very common question amongst teachers. “Am I here just to manage all the behavior issues, or is my job to actually teach certain material and cover the curriculum?”

Not only are you a teacher and a babysitter, but you’re a thousand other things. You’re these children’s support, their positive outlook, their role model, and much more.

No teacher ever said that they came into the field because they love working with behavior issues. We love working with kids, we love teaching kids, and we want to build them up. Unfortunately, these desires only make behavior management more difficult for teachers, and sometimes, you just need to manage behavioral problems head-on.

6. Is it fair that my performance as a teacher is evaluated based on how these struggling students are misbehaving?

Is it fair to give you a lower grade as a teacher in an evaluation because of the students in your class that are misbehaving?

Frankly, no; it’s not fair. The problem is that there’s no way to measure a good teacher working with a difficult situation when their goal is strictly student performance. Inevitably, it’s going to reflect poorly on you as the teacher when students don’t perform at a certain level. And it’s not fair, because why should a student who has personal difficulties determine your career outcomes?

Based on a Facebook live.

As a teacher, I’m sure you’re asked this question a lot. “Why did you go into teaching?” And seldom does anyone reply, “Because I love dealing with behavior management issues.”

Today, we dive deeper into why behavior management is so difficult and how to overcome its most common challenges. Let’s begin with six questions that are commonly asked or thought about when it comes to behavior management issues.

  1. Why is behavior management so difficult? 

Behavior management is renownedly difficult because it is difficult to measure. As someone very smart once said, if you want to do something well, you’ve got to be able to measure it.

It’s as simple as: You can’t manage what you can’t measure. But how would one go about measuring misbehaviors? 

In our current state, teachers generally go with the anecdotal measurement: “This student has been acting out a lot recently.” Usually, this happens after the student has been acting out for a long period of time. Then we start paying attention to all of the anecdotes of misbehavior – the disruption here, incomplete work there. In our minds, we figure that these are the students with behavior issues. Then we call in psychologists, social works, guidance counselors, and other support systems that are available to help us.

The truth of the matter is, we’re not well served to manage behavior this way. It would be like asking someone to bake a cake without a measuring cup or measuring spoons and expecting them to just estimate. If you have a good measurement tool for behavior, you’re going to be much better at managing behavior. The reason why behavior management is so difficult is because the current tools we have to measure misbehaviors are not the best. 

Spoiler alert: there is a better tool now. Read all the way to the end to learn more!

  1. Why don’t incentive programs or point systems work? 

Incentive programs and point systems do work for some children, but very often – especially as you get further into the school year – other children are just not motivated by these things. Why not; what’s the problem, and what can we do about it?

Here’s what you need for a points system: You need to understand why students are misbehaving in the first place. Very often, young students act out because they are just not capable of doing what they need to do. They don’t have the skills that are necessary, they’re under too much pressure, there are ongoing personal matters.

Of course, incentives can be effective. If you have a skill but you’re not motivated to use that skill, an incentive can increase your motivation. For example, imagine there is someone who needs a heart transplant. If you’re not a heart surgeon, there is no incentive in the world that is going to make it possible for you to do this heart surgery, because you don’t have the skills. But if you’re a highly skilled heart surgeon that would rather play golf, you can be convinced by a certain amount of money that will make it worthwhile for you to do the surgery rather than go golfing. 

Incentives and point systems work fairly well when the skill is present and there is a lack of motivation. But with kids that lack skills, the incentive is not going to motivate them, especially since they feel like they just can’t accomplish anything even with incentives. So in many cases, the incentive is the wrong intervention, and like any wrong intervention, you won’t get the desired outcome.

  1. How do I balance the attention that I need to give to particularly struggling students with the rest of the class?

It’s true that in many cases, there are a handful of students that require the most attention. In order to understand how to balance your time between these students and the rest of the class, you need to understand the different tiers of needs. 

There are basic needs that every student needs; positive engagements, academic assistance, and acknowledgement. These are tier 1 needs, and your entire class requires them. And then, you need to identify those students that need a little extra attention. These are the students with tier 2 needs, and as long as you’re meeting the needs of the class on tier 1, you can move on to tier 2 and help those specific students.

At times, it will be beyond the scope of the classroom and the teacher’s role in the classroom to provide certain extra support. In these cases, don’t hesitate to ask for extra help.

  1. Can I implement a classwide behavior strategy, or do I need to have it tailored to the individual?

For obvious reasons, a classwide strategy is easier to implement than a customized plan for each student. But, students sometimes need individualized plans. 

The truth of the matter is that your behavior strategy does need to be tailored to the individual because each student has different needs which require tailored responses. If you can adopt a classwide strategy to provide a certain level of behavior management for everyone, then you can respond specifically to students that need the little extra. Again, we refer to this as tier 1 and tier 2 behavior management.

Practically, this can be done with tools like ClasStars. Read on for more.

  1. Am I a teacher or am I a babysitter? 

This is a very common question amongst teachers. “Am I here just to manage all the behavior issues, or is my job to actually teach certain material and cover the curriculum?”

Not only are you a teacher and a babysitter, but you’re a thousand other things. You’re these children’s support, their positive outlook, their role model, and much more. 

No teacher ever said that they came into the field because they love working with behavior issues. We love working with kids, we love teaching kids, and we want to build them up. Unfortunately, these desires only make behavior management more difficult for teachers, and sometimes, you just need to manage behavioral problems head-on.

  1. Is it fair that my performance as a teacher is evaluated based on how these struggling students are misbehaving?

Is it fair to give you a lower grade as a teacher in an evaluation because of the students in your class that are misbehaving?

Frankly, no; it’s not fair. The problem is that there’s no way to measure a good teacher working with a difficult situation when their goal is strictly student performance. Inevitably, it’s going to reflect poorly on you as the teacher when students don’t perform at a certain level. And it’s not fair, because why should a student who has personal difficulties determine your career outcomes?