The strategy is counterintuitive and therefore doesn’t reach many teachers.
When a class gets off track, the tendency is to talk. It’s to rehash, remind, and redo. It’s to circle-up the community, lecture and rebuke.
And while you may see temporary improvement, it’s unlikely to result in real, enduring change.
The truth is, when your class becomes consistently wayward, you need something more. You need to send the message that you’re serious about learning and conduct most conducive to it.
You need to tighten your boundaries.
Not just hold them. Not just firm them up or further define them. But to draw them in and ask more of your students.
After all, they’ve just proven that they can’t handle the freedom within the boundaries you currently have. So you must adjust to match their needs.
How this looks depends on your grade level and personal choice.
Maybe you stop allowing your students to talk between transitions. Maybe you require them to stand behind their chairs and wait for your signal before sitting.
Maybe you add more routines, or more detailed routines—like, for example, a slower, straighter walk to lunch.
It doesn’t matter what it is. But limiting existing freedoms, or otherwise requiring more discipline from your students, is the one thing guaranteed to get their attention.
It communicates more clearly than any words that if you can’t to protect their learning and enjoyment of school with the current hedge, then you’re going to replant it closer.
Although your class may be fun, and you may be kind and pleasant, you will accept nothing less than excellence.
Pulling in your boundary may not be intuitive to you, but it’s logical to them. It makes sense. It triggers understanding. It shakes their intrinsic system and awakens their purpose for being in your classroom.
It’s a powerful strategy.
And it will work immediately if you do it with confidence. Remember, good teaching and classroom management requires boldness.
Show fear in the face of losing control, become stressed and emotional, and behavior will get worse, not better. Calmly and confidently tighten your boundaries, however—even in just one little area—and they’ll give in. They’ll acquiesce.
They’ll get the message and bear down on what’s important.
Once you have control and impeccable behavior, proven over time, you can remove the new line. You can extend the boundary and allow more freedom and responsibility.
But only if good behavior stays.
And it will. Because you showed your students undeniably that you mean what you say.
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