Stopping problems before they enter the classroom

I am going to talk today about the topic of ‘Stopping Problems Before They Enter the
Classroom’. It is a key technique I have developed to help you in your paradigm shift as a
teacher who ‘Deals with Classroom Problems’ to a teacher who ‘Eliminates Classroom
You do want that, don't you?
Remember, a large deal of your success will come from the idea that you don’t accept any poor
behaviour at all in the classroom, from ANY student, regardless of their background. I know
how to deliver that message to my students and they get it.
Imagine you are sitting at home in your living room and you hear a stranger knock at the door.
What do you do? Call out, “Come on in! Whoever you are! The door is open! I don't care what
you look or act like, just come on in and we’ll deal with it afterwards!”
Of course you don't.
Before you would let anyone into your home, you would make sure they were safe, trustworthy,
and had an attitude you would welcome as deserving to be in your space.
How would you know? Think about that for a minute.
You would go to the door and listen to what they said, but you would also judge their non-verbal
cues, like the tone of voice, look on their face, posture.
I'm going to tell you to treat your classroom the same way.
Before you let students through your doorway, you are going to make sure they are worthy to
enter. Look for the specifics of how to accomplish this in the next newsletter.
Today my class was quietly reading. One student, in the front, was reading, but he was leaned
over and had his foot out to the side.
I walked by, monitoring, and said quietly, “Brent, turn around to a 90 degree angle to your desk
and sit up.”
No big deal, right?
Worth mentioning? Yes. When students see that you monitor the small actions that aren't truly
conducive to overall classroom learning, they realise at another level that grand misbehavior is
out of the question. The other students also hear me say the comment, probably don't even
notice the effect themselves, but understand intuitively I will be on top of all situations great and
So paying attention to every small thing that doesn't contribute positively to your classroom
environment will keep the big picture going nicely as well. It gives a strong psychological
message that you have a high behaviour standard.
Wait for the big events to happen, and you will get more ‘big stuff’ happening. You don't want
Think: “Do I want to let that little flame turn into a forest fire later, or put it out now?”
Do not allow a little disrespect, a little tardiness, a little disruption, a little lack of effort etc. These
things all escalate. Stay on top of it all and your days will go easier. If you think, ‘That's no big
deal, I’ll let it go’ you are right about the first part. But when you let it go, things become a big
deal quickly. Keep the small stuff big to stop the small from escalating to the big stuff.
You may already know that my system of classroom management revolves around the ideas of
accountability and leverage. Students are made accountable for every action through an
extensive teaching of procedures and rules, and there are consequences that matter every time
they are not adhered to in order to give you, as a teacher, the proper leverage to enforce them.
Here's a little more on that idea.
Accountability is a crucial element for the effectiveness of any family, business, political system
or classroom. To maintain a positive environment in your classroom at all times, you are going
to have to make students accountable for every action or behavior that does not contribute
positively to that environment; and what accountability really means is that there is a significant
consequence for not behaving properly.
The first step in this direction is to be exactly sure what you yourself find acceptable and
unacceptable. Have a list of rules that cover every behavior, positive and negative, that you
require from students. Any time a student veers from this acceptable behaviour, be ready to
hold them accountable. Every time!
Do you let certain behaviors ‘slide’ once in awhile, and at other times try to give consequences?
This kind of inconsistency will lead to constant turmoil in the classroom, whereas if a student
knows beforehand the response they will receive for undesirable behavior, they will not attempt
it in the first place, that is, IF you have the leverage to back it up.
If you spend your time warning students, telling them to be quiet, reminding them to get on task,
and find yourself endlessly repeating directions because they are not followed, it means you
have not built in accountability for your standards, there is no significant consequence for not
doing the undesired behavior, so the student repeats it.
Develop a system of accountability; know in advance the consequence for any undesirable
behavior, positive or negative (in other words, it is not good enough for a student to not talk,
they also must exhibit the positive behavior of being on task).
Some ways that teachers try to get classroom management under control that DON'T work are
lecturing, nagging or repeating directions, yelling, calling parents, and giving warnings
repeatedly. These do not work because they really do not hold the student accountable.
You must find a consequence that matters to the student, not a consequence that you think
SHOULD matter to the student, but one that REALLY DOES. Once you find something the
student cares about, like, for instance, having to come back after school, you have leverage.
This means when you give a direction, the student will now listen, because he or she does not
want to lose something they value more, THEIR TIME.