C.M. Corner: The Object of Your Attention

Travis Chapman

With student behavior ranging as widely as the earth to the moon, how can we implement a strategy to address all of the behaviors in the classroom?  Two simple words, your attention.  Yes, every situation is different and needs to be carefully considered.  However, if we establish what does or does not gain our attention as the underlying factor, we set the stage for a consistent approach to managing behavior. 
One thing I constantly encourage in our trainings is to consider the behavior exhibited.  If we consider behavior as an action based upon a need, consider what the need is.  If a student wants attention, they will behave in a way to gain that attention, whether from their peers or from adults.  Often times they will misbehave because it is recognized more often then positive behavior and therefore meets their need.  They don’t care as much about it is positive or negative attention, as long as they have the attention.  When students are misbehaving, take a moment to identify if it is potentially an attention-seeking situation.  If it is, don’t give it your public attention.  Instead, ignore the behavior and silently monitor.  Often when we hear ignore, we think that we are dismissing it altogether, but that is not the case.  If we jump right in and begin to address it, we unintentionally reinforce the behavior as we communicate that if they do that behavior, it will meet their need.  If the behavior begins to severely impact the learning environment, then address it.
In contrast to misbehavior, research shows that giving your attention to the positive behaviors in class is the most effective classroom management tool.  Notice and recognize the appropriate things by offering praise statements based upon effort.  The most effective is to publically thank a group of students rather than individual students.  For example, “Thank you to those who are working quietly on their assignment,” as opposed to “Thank you Jenny for working quietly on your assignment”.  The reasons are discussed more in depth in STEDI.org’s Advanced Classroom Management training and our Classroom Management Workshop.  However, if we decide to give our attention to the positive behaviors in class rather than all of the misbehavior, our students will learn that to meet their need for attention they need to behave in an appropriate way.  Their behavior will transition accordingly and we will find that we are fighting fewer battles and the situations we deal with are the more important misbehaviors. 
Take some time to consider where your attention is currently going toward?  What types of behavior are you directly addressing?  What effect is that having on your students?  Could your classroom focus on more of the positive behaviors?  If you focus on more of the negative behaviors, try to take a moment to determine if it needs your attention.  Try ignoring the misbehavior, praise positive behaviors and see how it affects your students.  I bet you’ll be please with the ultimate results!