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6.08 Standard Eight: Supervision of Student Conduct. The principal is knowledgeable about the design of a positive learning environment focused on student achievement and characterized by appropriate and acceptable standards of student conduct and effective behavior management strategies.
I have been strongly influenced by my wife’s views on this subject. She is a school psychologist and has trained school teams in the area of positive behavior supports and school wide discipline. These are the two primary areas that require intentional planning so that students are engaged and prepared to learn. Positive school wide discipline policies give both students and teachers a clear set of guidelines within which to function (Sprik, 2004). Kids need limits and structure. When they understand the boundaries for behavior they feel safe. This perception of safety is internalized, freeing students to focus wholly on learning. The other critical area that educators must design and instruct is in positive classroom management techniques. Sprik (1998) developed a thorough resource guiding educators through the process of defining a vision for the classroom and then discussing the importance of active instruction related to behavioral expectations. He explains that the skills of learning the behavioral ‘rules’ in a class or school are just as important as learning and practicing academic concepts.
Taking these concepts to the system level is important. Teachers and parents need clear communication about what is expected from students. They also need to know how to reinforce this in a positive manner. Horner, Sugai, and Horner (2000) recommend visible reminders for students such as posters, reward tokens, etc. These approaches can effectively manage and reinforce most students. Other students will need more intensive levels of support in order to emotionally and cognitively access instruction. Packaged curriculum that addresses specific behavior issues such as bullying and violence prevention can be very useful. Implementing lessons both at the classroom and small group level to support students with greater needs gives them the repetition and intensity necessary for their success.
Behavior, behavioral supports, and managing the discipline process demands equal time in planning by teachers and administrators. This, like classroom instruction, will yield returns based on the time and effort invested in it.
I had the opportunity to put this concept into practice during my intern experience. I regularly met with a third grade boy who struggled with behavior in his classroom. The very issues I described above applied to his situation. His perceptions about school, about how his teacher felt about him, and about his ability to behave and succeed in class grossly mismatched what he could actually do. I used the opportunity to connect with him individually as well as to consult with his classroom teacher about how to help him reframe his thinking. It was also a great opportunity to exercise supportive leadership with the classroom teacher around strategies and responses that she could use in her interactions with the student. After a few weeks time things were much better for this student.