"I am Not Here to Make Friends"

 You are a teacher. Wait, I’m sorry. You are also a counselor, mama/daddy, nurse, confidant, secretary... the list goes on. The point is, you already have a ton on your plate and no time to eat it all. Literally. 

Therefore, for the sake of your sanity, you must set expectations. Will there be students who don’t agree and think that you’re being unfair? Yep. Will it take some time, persistence, and patience on your part? Absolutely. But, guess what? You are not there to make friends. Even better, just about everything within the four walls of your classroom belong to YOU. 

Now, I know this may sound harsh and probably goes against the grain a bit, but I think you get the point. Your ability to take charge of your classroom affects the social and academic success of your students. So, don’t freely give that authority away. 

While there are many, below are 6 practical tips to assist you in managing your classroom: 

1. Set your expectations on DAY ONE. 

I highly doubt that I am the only [elementary] teacher with an administrator who makes things very clear about “first day” expectations: 

1.Get them fed. 2.Be sure that you know how each of them is getting home. 

Check and check. 

The third thing on my checklist is to set the expectations. After a few Icebreakers and team-building activities, it is time for a “Family Meeting.” My students are gathered together and a PowerPoint presentation is displayed so that they not only hear, but visually see our classroom expectations. These are presented in a very serious tone to ensure that the students understand the importance of these expectations.


2. Be sure that your expectations are clear, concise, and promote 

positive behavior. 

Whether you teach Kindergarten or 12th grade, I believe that this still applies and significantly impact a classroom environment. Do you think any student wants to sit through an hour long lecture of what they better not even think about doing in your classroom? Nope. And, to be honest, you wouldn’t either. Hit the high points in a list of 5-7 expectations. Then, provide the students with an exercise or small group activity to engage them and to drive home those clear and concise expectations. 

3. Follow through. 

This step is probably the most important when trying to set a tone that will last an entire school year. This is why I suggest that you don’t go overboard with the list of expectations. When students have trouble meeting your expectations, address them and use these as teaching moments. No, this does not mean that you have to do so in a way that will humiliate the student. Instead, you can address your concerns one-on-one, and then let them know that you will be reviewing this expectation with the whole class, just to be sure that you are all on the same page. 

4. Don’t let up too early. 

Just about every teacher wants their students to feel welcome in the classroom and for their classroom to be a place where students can have fun while learning. This is great. However, a level of respect has to be established in your “house”. If the fun and games begin before the expectations do, you are bound to run into power 

struggles. There is not a set time frame for establishing the foundations of your classroom, so use your best judgement. If it is evident that you have a rowdy bunch, spend a couple of extra days reviewing and practicing the expectations until you are confident that your scholars are picking up what you’re putting down. 

5. “And that goes for everybody.” 

Fair does not always mean equal; especially in the world of education. However, we have to teeter carefully on the line of fair and equal when establishing expectations in our classrooms. Kids are smarter than we sometimes give them credit to be. If you play favorites and allow some to “get away with murder”, the others will notice. This will certainly taint your classroom climate and could result in a rolling snowball of behavioral issues. Personally, I introduce the meaning of the word GRACE. While my students know that I hold them to a high caliber, they also know that I do not expect perfection. They will mess up; I will mess up, and there is grace for that. Tomorrow is a new day, and the slate will be wiped clean. 

6. Develop genuine relationships. 

I am a firm believer in the quote, “A student does not care how much you know until they know how much you care.” The fact is, we are completely outnumbered by our students. [You are probably vigorously shaking your head in agreement if you teach middle or high school.] It is nearly impossible to know the intricate moments of each of our students’ lives; however, it isn’t impossible to express your genuine sentiments, not only for their academic success, but for their well-being, for their families. 

I made this a priority by establishing a routine at the beginning of each school year. This included greeting each of my students as they entered the classroom, asking about the previous night/weekend, and having brief “Family Meetings” each morning. I also created a space in my classroom for students to leave a note about absolutely anything that they needed to talk about privately. I even left sticky notes on my desk to remind myself to read these notes. Do whatever you need to do to let your students know that they are valued. 

Each of these practical tips have been useful to me and have contributed to my success with establishing expectations and building relationships with my students. My hope and prayer is that they will do the same for you.

Blog Post By: Bria Jackson

Instagram Handle: @tiredteachertales

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Did you know the biggest struggle parents have with their kids is homework? The struggle gets real the first-time students get homework, and this problem continues throughout their entire school years. I remember as a kid when I was assigned homework, boy you talk about stressful times! When I did not know how to do it, my mother would yell and scream, and even ridicule me, by telling me how much smarter my little brother was compared to me. I used to hate homework, it was more of a problem, because I knew the night was going to be long and stressful. So, my question is, why does homework have to be such a struggle? The goal of homework is to enhance student achievement, to help them become self-directed, independent learners, and to develop awesome working habits. The teacher’s intent of assigning homework is not to punish, but to help the student be self-directed, but what happens is that many parents end up micromanaging their child’s homework.

The parents try to do the right thing for the child, and instead of having the student take responsibility for their own success, the parent ends up taking the responsibility for their kids’ success. When this happens, kids learn that homework and grades are more important to their parents and teachers than themselves. What ends up happening is that kids end up not caring about their homework, they refuse to do it, and for many cases like what went on with my mom and me, a power struggle took place! In the end, kids will end up proving to you, that you can’t make them do their homework. Some other challenges that goes along with assigning homework are, kids may have countless after-school activities, parents maybe working full or part time or are single parents with too many responsibilities. If parents have more than one child in the school, it becomes a bigger problem. The struggle of trying to find time for kids to get their homework done becomes an issue that teachers can’t control. I am not suggesting that teachers ban homework altogether, but what I think is teachers need to understand the issues that happen outside of the classroom.

Some of your students are so stressed about doing their homework that they end up giving up, due to all the issues of fighting with parents. Kids will even start lying about not having homework, due to the issues. It ends up taking the joy out of education. Furthermore, when homework doesn’t get done at the house, teachers suggest that parents discipline their child for not getting their homework turned in on time. Let’s flip the script for a moment, how would react if a parent asked you to discipline their kid for not getting their room cleaned or choirs done? If you are like me, you would be like, OMG I am not responsible for disciplining your child for not getting their house choirs done! This ends up becoming a battle which is stressful for all stakeholders involved. Our end goal should be getting our students to take responsibility on completing their homework, but what happens is we focus too much on punishment and when we don’t get what we want, we end up assigning more punishment. We have this belief that the more punishment the child receives, the more motivated the child will be to succeed. You have to remember, punishing a child to be motivated will not work. So, we have to find different approaches when it comes to homework.

One positive way is to have parents offer encouragement for their kids to complete their homework. Teachers might even have a parent-student-teacher problem solving meeting to help guide the student on coming up with solutions on getting the homework completed. When doing this, just remember, don’t gang up on the student. The goal is to guide the student to come up with a plan. The student may have choices on which nights of the week will be homework night. Remember when students have input and choices they perform better. Another option teacher could do is to tailor the homework to the student. You may have some students who need a lot of practice, and others who need more of a challenge. You might even offer opportunities where student can opt out of homework by scoring high on quizzes and tests. Some other cool ideas teacher can do are setting their own policies about what they will do if homework is not completed. Teachers can use the first this, then that method. For example, first homework, then free time. Or teachers can create a homework club that takes place at school, to give kids opportunities to do their homework and get help on it if needed.

You can also set up a homework zone in your classroom, where kids help each other out with their homework. Another cool idea is to assign homework buddies, this is really helpful for older students. What it does is it establishes an accountability partner. You may have students that just can’t study by themselves and they need someone to study with them, to help motivate them to study. Just remember student, teachers, and parents don’t have to suffer when it comes to achieving academic success. If you just start thinking outside the box, there are plenty of awesome alternatives you can do. Your end goal is to get students to take responsibility and be accountable for themselves, instead of expecting their parents to make them be accountable

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It’s that time of the year again, school is starting and it’s time to get organized. If you are running a school wide behavior program, there are few things you need to do in order to start the school year off right. The most important thing that you need to make sure happens, is behavior intervention training for teachers who have students with behavior plans. Too often we assume all teachers have received IEP paper work on the kids, but most of the time, teacher haven't received any IEP paper work, or if they did they havent really looked through the paper work. New teachers especially may not really know how to implement student plans.

So, as a behavior specialist, what I tend to do is schedule professional development, training teachers during their conference time or after school on how to implement the students behavior plan. This allows me to get to know the teachers, and it gives the teachers an idea on what to expect from the student and how to mange any behavior problem from the student that they might encounter. Remember, this could be the only training a new teacher will have on managing behavior in the classroom. So it is crucial that BIP training be done at the very start of the school year. Another reason why BIP training needs to be done at the beginning of the school year, is to prevent behaviors from happening.

The last thing you want to do, is start the school year off with behavior problems, when all you needed to do was train teachers what to look for and how to manage that behavior in the classroom. After you train all teachers on the behavior intervention plan, you need to look at your student IEP goals. How are you measuring those goals? Do you dedicate time throughout the school day to sit in on the kids classes to take data on their goals? One of the systems I have created for my behavior program, The Champion within me, gives me a structured system to take 15-20 min observations on our students two times per week. We also check on our students every class period as well. The key to taking data is simple, you need to make sure your goals are actually measurable. Believe it not, some goals that have been written in the past are not measurable at all. So make sure you actually have some really good measurable goals to start with. You also need to know the baseline for the goal. Taking data on a goal with no baseline proves nothing. Its hard taking data on a goal with no baseline. So if your goals have no baseline. then start taking data to get a baseline.

The second thing you need is a team. Conducting two 15-20 minute observations per week on a caseload of 15-20 students can be tough to do if you do not have the staff available to do it. I have extra help in my program, so its easier for me to be able to take this much data. If you do not have staff members to help out with taking data, I highly recommend you develop a weekly or daily behavior report card based off the students goals, and work with your teachers to help you take data. I can defiantly say, teachers can be very busy, and sometimes they forget to take the data. This is just a time to send out a friendly reminder about the importance of taking data. When you send out a friendly reminder, it is best if you talk to them in person about it. Sometimes emails can be read harshly, and your reminders may sound negative when all your trying to do is be positive. I always assume people read their emails in the current mood they are in. So if they are mad or upset at the time they read your email, then your email may come off negative to them. I believe the best communication is in person. So, to recap. You need to train teachers on all your students current behavior intervention plans, and organize the best way to take data on those goals.

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