If you’ve ever had classroom behavior challenges, poor student work habits, or just plain classroom angst (with one or two students—or a handful like me!), you could begin to see your whole classroom experience as a struggle. “They” talk too much, or “no one” will work hard, or “they” are full of too much drama.
In any classroom, the few can blur into the many until your whole class seems suspect. Maybe you find yourself yelling at the whole class when it’s really only 4 or 5 kids creating the disturbance. Over time, your whole class may rise to the occasion and become that class that you dread all time.
I completely get that!
This past school year I’ve had plenty students not completing their work and even more not turning in their assignments. In years past, I would have one or two with those problems, but this year I had around seven who consistently do not turn in their work, and several more not doing their work at all.
During small group, I would look around and see 3 or 4 kiddos staring into space, drawing, or engaged in some off-task behavior. I’m not one to back down from a challenge, and soon I found myself creating strategies designed to fix just those few students. Some strategies worked—others not.
But what was really happening is that I became a hostage to those students—I spent way too much time holding them accountable instead of just giving them a zero. More importantly, I had stopped enjoying the other students who were doing everything they needed to.
I knew that was not the classroom that I wanted. I needed a shift in perspective. But how? Well, I knew that when I write in my gratitude journal I feel better. I also know that when I compliment and praise my students, they feel awesome and I do, too.
So I shifted. And maybe you could use a shift in perspective too.
Imagine a beautiful city—with plenty of natural landscapes, clean streets, and attractive architecture. Traffic flows easily, with an abundance of fun things to explore.
But there’s a major pothole on Broadway. Everyone warns, “Watch out for that pothole on Broadway, it’s a whopper!” So while 99% of the city is beautiful, most everyone focuses their attention on the pothole. They talk about the pothole. They propose solutions for the pothole.
But if you can begin to shift your perspective to see only the beautiful city—the shiny souls of your classroom—everything else pales. How can you begin to see that way? Try this simple 3 step method to shift your mindset and change your view.
Step 1. Focus on specific students. Focus on the students that model the behaviors or work habits you want to see. Compliment and reward them as exemplar students. The more you do this, the more you’ll notice about them, and the more other students will want to do the same.
Step 2. Focus on specific good behaviors. Begin to compliment and reward the other students that aren’t meeting your expectations. Compliment them on something that they do well. For example, if Cindy doesn’t ever turn her work in but is always helpful to others—compliment her for that behavior.
Step 3. Focus on all the positive aspects. Compliment your class as a whole—tell them you’re proud of them—tell them you believe in them—let them know you think they’re amazing. Do it consistently and with gusto. Convince them and you will convince yourself.
When you expect to see great things, your students will rise to the occasion. Reward, focus on the positive, and focus on those students who are truly engaged and motivated. You will be pushing the others by believing in them. You will see a change. Believe in all your students’ abilities. Believe in that no matter what.
I believe in you—you got this!