The relationship between a child and their teacher can influence the way a child feels about education and the behaviour they exhibit in the classroom. In order to achieve this kind of influence, educators must pick the right approach that will create a positive learning environment and build trust between them and their students. The mentoring approach is much more effective than the (rather old-school) authoritarian. It empowers learners to connect to their learning and to feel heard and appreciated, therefore manifesting fewer disruptive behaviours.
Let’s take a look at 5 techniques that will help you achieve this connection and cut down on behaviour management in the classroom.
1. Start the class the right way
Teachers should set the right tone before starting a lesson so that students feel seen and appreciated before they even enter the classroom. One simple way to do this is to decide with each student how they want to be greeted as they enter the class. It could be a high five, a fist bump, or just a bow, etc. Devote a few extra minutes to greet each student individually. This way you let them know that you acknowledge their presence and that you’re glad they’re there. It also gives the student choice at the very beginning of the lesson and helps to set up that ownership-based approach of student voice and choice right from the start.
Does this small ritual really make a difference? Evidence shows that it can boost engagement by 20% and decrease disruptive behaviour by 9%. So, apparently, it does make a difference!
2. Set an amazing learning environment
The goal here is to request input from your learners and create a student co-created learning space.
Take a look around and ask yourself how much of the space is owned by students. What did they have a say in or create themselves? Ask students if they like the classroom as it is and what improvements they would like to see. An effective way to receive feedback is by making a suggestion. Have everyone close their eyes and raise 1-5 fingers depending on how much they liked the idea or not.
However, you must never ask students to do anything you wouldn’t do or don’t want to participate in. For example, if you want to establish a routine of picking up the rubbish from the floor at the end of each lesson, make sure you do it too.
3. Introduce mindfulness in the classroom
If you start with a few meditation sessions, after long classes, for instance, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find that children will enjoy meditation so much that they’ll ask for it to become a daily practice.
The best option is guided, 5-10 minute meditations that you can easily find on YouTube or Spotify. To further facilitate the feeling of relaxation, you can play nature scenes on the projector and dim the lights, if possible. Needless to say, you’ve got to lead by example and participate in the meditation yourself. You also need to present your students will choices so that you all decide together which meditation session you want to practice today.
Keep in mind that children with regulatory issues might find it hard to stay still. To make the process easier on them, provide them with a sensory regulatory tool that doesn’t produce noise, like a play-dough.
4. Hold regular class meetings where students have voice and choice
Holding several short meetings per week will encourage students to participate and resolve class matters collectively. Your class meetings should never be run from an authoritative standpoint or to punish someone. If there are behavioural issues to be resolved, deal with them with discretion and in a private setting.
As for the practical aspects of the meeting, make sure you signal that the meeting begins (by playing a musical cue, for example) and that you are sitting in a circle facing each other. Create along with the students an agenda of topics to discuss and give them options to voice their opinions in different ways. E.g., some might prefer a suggestion box while others may feel more comfortable painting a picture. Keep your eyes open for non-verbal cues to get feedback, as well. Some students might hesitate to express their true feelings. It’s also nice to finish on a positive note with a gratitude or mindful activity.
Your end goal is that class meetings are ultimately run by students. This signals your success as an educator. It’s the point where your students don’t need you anymore because you’ve taught them how to be resourceful and problem-solve on their own.
5. Finish strong
This is the most challenging part for many educators. How do you finish a lesson in a way that leaves students with a smile on their faces and eager to come back?
First of all, make sure you keep an eye on the clock so that there’s enough time to go through your “before we leave checklist” and wind down before the bell rings. Your checklist can include staff like cleaning the whiteboards or storing the equipment used for the lesson. Doing these chores might sound insignificant, but it actually helps students grow ownership of the learning space.
Also, don’t forget to give brief feedback commenting on the highlights of the day. Then, ask for feedback in return (you can do this as part of your “before we leave” checklist). You can additionally ask a cliffhanger question so that students have something extra to look forward to for your next class. Finally, don’t forget to greet them with an interaction of their choice, just like you did when they entered the classroom.
Extra tip: Get rid of your teacher’s desk!
The teacher’s desk is a physical and hierarchical barrier to your children and has no place in a classroom. If getting rid of it is not an option, then put it at the back of the classroom or use it to place students’ creations, like artwork. If you need to work on a desk (e.g, to grade an assignment) what’s stopping you from sitting on a desk next to a student?
These classroom techniques are proven to have a positive impact on students’ performance. But perhaps the most significant impact is the one on their personality. Giving them choice and voice helps them build confidence, grow their critical thinking and problem-solving skills, all while forming a deeper connection with you, their classmates, and ultimately their learning.
Working Together We Can Build Better Brains!