‘STOPPING PROBLEMS BEFORE THEY ENTER THE CLASSROOM’ CRAIG SEGANTI 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 Problems’. 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 small. 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 that. 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.