Mistakes teachers make the first weeks of school … part 5

… that may result in behaviour issues throughout all the school year.

Here is part 3 of the most common mistakes teachers make during the first weeks of school. If you want to check out part 1  please click here!    


5. Not having a game plan

Imagine you come into the classroom, the students don’t behave the way you expect them to behave and now what? Did you think of what to do when a child gets up or blurts out the answer? Or did you tell yourself “I’ll handle the situation once it comes up”?

So what will happen when the real situation happens and you are standing there, not even knowing what to do? Children feel your insecurity and if you only take a few seconds to think, they will know what’s going on and the whole thing will turn exactly into the situation you don’t want.

There are two possibilities of how you can deal with this. Either you come up with a plan yourself. Write it down and implement it (back to point 4: follow through!). This is what I personally do when the children are still
very small. Obviously, they won’t see my list, but I know exactly how I’m going to react when things happen.

The other thing I like to do with older children is to get them involved in the process. First, I teach them about my expectations. I ask them if they want to add something and then I ask them what they think the
consequences should be if things didn’t go in the right direction.

I know what you are thinking now … they will come up with the most ridiculous answers and easy ways out, but you would be amazed that actually the contrary is the case. So far I didn’t have any class where I didn’t have to intervene and tell them to think of something “not as bad” or “more realistic (some of them do watch too many movies)”.
Sometimes you need a bit of psychology to guide them to the direction you want them to go, but that’s ok.

If I have a good feeling about a class (and they already have some level of English), I do the entire process with them together. I ask them what they think we need in order for the class to run smoothly. What they think would be good or bad to do and also what expectations they have from me as a teacher (for example, they can expect from me that I teach them the best way possible).

But this can also be a tricky one because often they repeat the things that other teachers have imposed on them as this is what they have been told over and over again by the other 10 teachers they have this year and they take it that this is what you want to hear. 
So, encourage them to come up with their own ideas and also ask them “why” they think this or that is important for a smoothly running classroom. It’s important that they understand WHY they have to do things and not just repeat what others said. Why should I look at the teacher? Why should I listen? Why should I be quiet? Why should I not
get up and walk around?

They can either tell you, or you can have them draw if their vocabulary doesn’t allow to tell you yet.
If there is something missing, that I want on the list of expectations and consequences, I try to guide them in that direction with questions. If they really don’t get the point, I tell them that I will add that to the list (with the reason why).

And my experience is, if the children feel like they are part of the whole process, they tend to stick to it a lot more – after all, it was them who wanted it this way ;).