The term ‘behaviour management‘ has always bothered me. It gives the impression, that as teachers, all we are trying to do is ‘manage‘ behaviours in hopes of getting by and surviving the day. If our focus is only on managing behaviours are we missing an amazing opportunity to help develop good humans? I think so.
In my opinion one of the biggest culprits of ‘managing‘ behaviour is the good ol’ whole class behaviour plan.
You know the one. Maybe you’ve seen it. Maybe you’ve used it. Maybe you’ve experienced it as a child. It comes in many shapes and sizes. Sometimes it is shaped like a guitar. Sometimes it looks like a stoplight. Sometimes it uses IB language. Sometimes there are stickers involved. Other times, clothespins. Lately it has made its way online in the form of Class Dojo. No matter how you slice it, it is what it is. A whole class behaviour plan. Very public. Very one-size-fits-no-one. Google image search “Whole Class Behaviour Plan” to see the full spectrum of options!
I’m not the first blogger to launch an attack on the whole class behaviour plan…
But I do want to take a different approach when re-thinking the whole class behaviour plan. I have decided to interview the most child-centered educator I have ever worked with. You may know her as the Globally Minded Counsellor or follow her on Twitter @h_sopierce. I know her as Heidi, my colleague, sounding board and friend. I have decided to interview her in order to explore the debate about whole class behaviour plans from a counselling lens – with the student’s best interest at the heart of it all.
Press play on the podcast below to listen to what Heidi had to say about whole class behaviour plans versus individualized behaviour success plans:
Here is a summary of the major points from Heidi’s podcast:
From a counselling lens, what do you think about whole class behaviour plans with regards to classroom management?
- only manages behaviours at a surface level, but unless we look at what each individual students needs they will only be management tools to help the teacher succeed, but not necessarily impact the students’ behaviour
- more about keeping a classroom in control, than changing students’ behaviours
- sets the tone that the teacher believes that students will fail in their behaviour somehow
- shaming and calling students out in public are harmful to the student in the long run
Is there ever a time when a whole-class behaviour plan is needed?
- need to reflect on strategies teachers are using and perhaps gaps in systems, routines, consistency, boundaries that might make it seem like a whole-class behaviour plan is needed
- might need to identify behaviours that 2 or 3 students need to change, not usually all 20 students need to change
What can teachers do who want to move away from the use of whole-class behaviour plans?
- build authentic, genuine relationships with students (greet each student at the door – make eye contact, shake their hand use their names; get to know them as individuals – what motivates them, what’s happening at home, what are their interests)
- reach out to other teachers and counsellors and see what works, what they suggest, and what resources are available
How do you know when an individualized behaviour success plan is needed?
- after you have tried a variety of differentiated strategies for behaviour supports for your students and they still aren’t working that might indicate that a student would benefit from an individualized behaviour success plan
- the 1 or 2 students who need to be “taught” about their behaviour and not just “told” or “reminded” about their behaviour
What advice to do you have for teachers who want to create an individualized behaviour success plan?
- sit with a counsellor or administrator and consult about wanting to set this up
- create it with the student – sit with student and discuss behaviour; pick one or two specific behaviours to focus on;
- ensure it is goal oriented – make it specific, not general and vague
- make it developmentally appropriate
- ensure the plan allows for the student to celebrate success
- have a ‘celebration’- high five, chat with the teacher, playing with teacher etc.
- build in time to re-set
- praise, praise, praise, praise – share the good stuff with their family!
- keep it simple
- make it a working document that is revisited
- needs to be consistent
- be okay with trial and error
- involve student in tracking and self-reflection in an age-appropriate way
(To read more about Heidi’s perspective on the impact whole class behaviour plans can have on students, check out her blog post: How your classroom management practices led to counselling.)
To sum it all up, I will use a famous “Heidi question” that I hear Heidi ask all day, every day (it’s what makes her such an amazing, truly student-centred educator)…
What’s best for students?
If we use this question to re-think our use of whole class behaviour plans and drive our process when building individualized behaviour success plans, we can rest assured the we too are keeping our student’s wellbeing at the heart of everything we do.
What are your thoughts on whole-class behaviour plans?
What are your thoughts on individualized behaviour success plans?
How do you ensure you practices align with what is best for students?