Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Two Classroom Management Models: Fireman vs CSI

Classroom management is a cute little phrase that teachers have come to know as a pseudonym for discipline, and too often, dispcipline is just a set of tools used to do things to kids in order to make them behave.

This is a real shame, because a student's misbehavior should rarely be seen as something that should just be discontinued. Misbehavior is not the real problem - it is the symptom of a larger one - and if we silence misbehavior without first investigating the real problem, we risk doing a real diservice to the students.

Classroom management techniques tend to turn teachers into a kind of misbehavior fireman - where the teacher simply identifies the misbehavior and immediately puts it out. I would like to see us do less of the fireman work and more of the crime scene investigator (CSI) work. That is to say, I would like to see us investigate more into why the fire took place in the first place. And the best way to do that is to ask the student why they are misbehaving?

Imagine the student who charges into class late and tosses his binder across his desk in obvious frustration and plops himself into his desk, making all kinds of dispruptive noise that interrupts our beautifully planned anticipatory set. The teacher then orders the student to leave the classroom and enter properly. The student does so.

The problem is solved.

Or is it?

What if the student had just showed up late because his alcoholic mother had just finished dropping him off at school while still drunk, and the student knew exactly what was going on and was furious at how his mother could be so irresponsible?

Knowing the details behind why the student acted the way he did seems to change everything, making this kind of information an invaluable necessity. How can a teacher properly work with students to help them become good people if we don't take the time to ask why?

This kind of inquiry does take time and effort, but it is well worth it. Remember, we rarely remember what teachers teach us - we typically remember how they make us feel - and taking the time to ask why may be one of the best ways to show that we care.

more to come,

Joe Bower


  1. At my old school, any student who had a problem with a teacher had to see a counselor, either from the teacher's referral or the student's choice. We implemented this process because we decided that the why of student behavior is important. Yes, it's important to help kids cope with the bigger issues in their life but it's also important to help them learn self-awareness so that they can determine when they need help and reach for it.

  2. I think the problem is that when things like this happen teachers aren't usually thinking "He seems to be upset, I wonder what the problem is?" but rather "How dare he barge in here and disrupt the students and my class?" The problem is they need to think more of what the student is feeling and not how they want him to act. It reminds me of how I always see and hear "You must earn respect" or "respect others and they will respect you" but the teachers never enforce this, other than by saying a kid is being disrespectful for doing anything a teacher finds rude, even if it wasn't intended. Is the purpose here to make the kids feel bad or is it to help them become better people?

  3. I completely agree with your point but I fear that "dealing with the behavior" rather than "addressing the issue" starts in as early as Pre-School. Students learn to "play the game of school". Some will choose to "play" the good kids, others the "bad",some will fit the system (that was me!) and others will simply opt out of the game altogether (me a few years later).
    In my experience it is common sense when you look at all behavior (child or adult) as a manifestation of feelings and our reaction to events. When we seek to "understand and relate" to the underlying root cause we are better able to assist the student and ourselves by avoiding any further problems.
    Classroom Management (as the name suggests) is not a solution simply a temporary, short-term coping mechanism for class sizes that are too large and lack of time that generally creates more problems than it fixes!


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