Student behavior focus of principals’ workshop

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 19, 2010

NATCHEZ — Students are more likely to behave when teachers enforce rules in a positive manner rather than adopt a “Do it, or else,” policy, school psychologist Dr. Dale Bailey said.

Bailey addressed Adams County School District principals Wednesday at the Grand Soleil Casino Resort about controlling student behavior.

Natchez-Adams School Board Director of Curriculum and Instruction Charlotte Franklin said the workshop is a good way to make sure principals keep teachers on the same page in terms of discipline.

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“When we have discipline under control, we don’t have to worry about academics as much,” she said.

He said teachers should focus on expectations for good behavior rather than dishing out lists of “nos.”

He said some teachers might find it frustrating to remind students of basic rules and social skills they should already know. However, educators should not assume every student knows the rules or has basic social skills, he said.

“What does respect mean to a kindergartener?” Bailey asked, rhetorically. “What does (respect) mean to a fifth grader who has never been shown respect?”

Bailey said it takes practice and constant reminders to imprint behavioral patterns into students’ brains. For example, he said one definition of learning asserts in order for a child to learn, the lesson must be repeated an average of eight times. In order for a child to understand and develop a skill, even a social skill, it takes a child an average of 28 times to ingrain it.

Bailey said leveling with students by providing explanations is more effective with older students than justifying rules based solely on authority.

He said bright, inquisitive children ask why, so teachers should satisfy their need to know. For example, Bailey said teachers should explain to students that they must tuck in their shirts because the professional world expects it and also as a safety precaution to ensure no one smuggles weapons.

Another area teachers and administrators can improve on is making clearer distinctions between teacher versus office-managed behavior referrals, he said. Some teachers rarely send students to the principal by using their discretion to keep students in line before bad behavior boils over into the principal’s office. Other teachers send students to the principal before attempting to solve the problem on their own.

In addition, it is a common misconception that students tend to care that they are sent home by the principal, he said.

To drive the point further, Bailey said if it takes a teacher 15 minutes to get students’ attention, nine weeks of teaching have been wasted during the entire school year.

Another way to keep students in line is to reward them when they behave by offering positive feedback, such as prize lotteries for students with no referrals, so they keep up the good work.

Bailey’s workshop on behavioral issues is one of many workshops principals and assistant principals have attended this week. Other workshop topics included differentiated instruction, which pertains to teaching to student’s individual interests, abilities, and learning style; clinical supervision, which pertains principals’ classroom observation sessions; and legal issues.