Campus staff learning to find better solutions to student behavior issues

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What is the best way to react if a student starts misbehaving in your class?

While it’s a scenario nearly every teacher faces at one point or another, how disruptions are handled can either positively or negatively affect the student and the learning environment for the rest of the class.

This week, representatives from every Dallas ISD campus are being trained how to implement Proactive Behavior Management (PBM) at their schools and in each and every classroom.

The goal is to curb infractions that resulted in a total of 2,013 suspensions in 2015–2016 for students in grades pre-K through second grade. Level 1 offenses are considered the lowest-level infractions. A policy change makes official the removal of out-of-school suspension as a consequence for Level 1 infractions by children in those grades.

PBM is planning ahead to prevent disruptive classroom situations that lead to behavior incidents. Teachers are proactive when they:

  • Set up classrooms to create a positive physical and emotional environment that teaches students to self-regulate
  • Provide students with explicit expectations for behavior
  • Avoid overuse of punishment

Jennifer Span of Dallas ISD’s Districtwide Student Initiatives wrote the plan along with Jeremy Hardin specifically for Dallas ISD teachers and administrators. Span said PBM reflects what many teachers already do in their classrooms, but the program provides a framework to let teachers focus and be more intentional in curbing student behavior issues.

Classroom disruptions can include getting out of their seats without permission or forgetting their pencils. The plan takes into account a search for root causes of behavior and planning that stops the behavior from escalating.

“They’re getting suspended for that,” Span said of the infractions. “If you know your students, you’ll be able to plan.” Further, she said finding out why things keep happening can be best for the student. “Let me find out what’s going on, why don’t you have a pencil? Why are you always late to school?”

Students are often expected to behave a certain way simply because they’ve attended school for a length of time, Span said. Challenges at home, learning struggles and health issues can lead to disruptive behaviors. PBM focuses on why certain behaviors happen to solve them before they reoccur.

“Can we take that for granted? Your school, your classroom, is the first opportunity they have for a learning environment,” she said.

Without planning and being proactive, focus turns from educating students to punishing them. Span contends – and participants gave personal examples – that the punitive mindset might actually cause lasting damage to students.

“All behavioral changes must begin with the adult,” Span said. “We must learn how to manage our emotions and help the students manage theirs.”

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