Promoting Positive Student Behavior

“Teacher growth is closely related to pupil growth. Probably nothing within a school has more impact on students in terms of skills development, self-confidence, or classroom behavior than the personal and professional growth of their teachers.”

Roland Barth

This July, I took part in what has become an annual educational event and a highlight of my year. Along with nine respected friends and colleagues, I gathered in Boston prior to the National Principals’ Conference and wrote a collaborative book in just over 48 hours. This is the third year we have undertaken this project called #EdWriteNow (Officially, Education Write Now). This year, we wrote about educational challenges and solutions, resulting in the upcoming book: Education Write Now: Solutions to Common Challenges in Your School or Classroom.

As I approached Year 3 of #EdWriteNow, I assumed there was little chance of matching the work of the inaugural team (linked here) or the Volume II team (linked here) but I was wrong. This year’s crew was just as awesome and I believe our final product may well be the best book yet!

Once everyone arrived at the hotel, we met as a writing team. First on the agenda was sharing information about the Will to Live Foundation, a non-profit foundation to which we donate all proceeds from book sales of each #EdWriteNow edition. Will to Live is an organization dedicated to preventing teen suicide by improving the lives and the “Will To Live” of teenagers everywhere through education about mental health and encouraging them to recognize the love and hope that exists in each other. You can learn more about their work by watching this compelling video that our team watched to kick off our own work.

Our next task was to decide what to write about and how to turn ten individual 5,000 word essays on education into a single cohesive book. We quickly decided on an overarching theme of “Educational Challenges and Solutions.” Each author wrote about a specific problem, or challenge, we face in our roles as educators. My own contribution was to write a chapter about challenges we face in classrooms with student behaviors and how we can best plan for and resolve such issues when--or even before--they arise.

Once we determined our writing topics, the rest of our time was spent writing alone, coming back together as a whole team to share our work, meeting with writing partners to provide critical feedback, and gathering after hours for great food, conversation, and much laughter. When we came together as a whole group, we actually read parts of our chapters aloud. It was a bit scary, reading our work aloud to nine friends we all respected not only as amazing educators, but also as excellent writers. However, when we did so, we were thrilled to learn that our individual efforts were coming together nicely as a unified book, with our voices sounding much more alike than different from chapter to chapter.

For my chapter on promoting positive student behavior, I wrote that teachers who work to explicitly create a positive classroom culture at the beginning of the school year and work intentionally throughout the year to maintain, reinforce, and even practice their classroom culture tend to have less instances of student misbehavior than those who do not. Here is a short excerpt from that part of the book:

“...The most effective teachers I have observed take time at the very start of each school year to establish a positive classroom culture. Each subsequent school day, they intentionally reinforce and even practice cultural norms and values. It is a culture co-created with the students they teach and lead, whether in a first grade classroom or a high school biology class. In classrooms with clearly established and consistently reinforced cultural norms, values, behaviors, and beliefs in place, students behave much better than those in classrooms in which teachers have, instead, left this vital piece of the “classroom management” puzzle to chance. In some instances, teachers create a shared culture in their classroom with fierce intention; in others, teachers insist they were not even aware they were doing this, yet it happened almost intuitively. Regardless of teachers’ self-awareness of their culture-building actions, I suspect that in classrooms with the most positive and productive cultures--resulting in much more positive and productive student behavior and much less student misbehavior--these teachers have much in common. They may teach Kindergarten or they may teach Advanced Placement Environmental Science. They may be veteran teachers with many years of experience or they may be a first year teacher. They may be gregarious, extroverted, charismatic individuals or they may be much more reserved. Yet despite the many ways in which they differ, these culture-building teachers all possess certain mindsets when it comes to promoting positive student behavior in their classrooms…”

Next week, please look for David Geurin’s thoughts on our writing process, as well as an excerpt from his chapter. I was honored beyond words to partner with David and eight other amazing writers and thinkers on the Education Write Now project. Of course, we could not have hosted this education writing retreat without the support of our sponsor, Routledge, who will publish this book, due out in December.

Next year will be the fourth year of the #EdWriteNow project; after serving as co-editor for the first three versions, I will be rolling off this noble project, but Sanee Bell will continue to lead the work as co-editor and she will invite nine different educational writers to join the team next summer. Please let her know if you would like to be considered as a participant.

Huge thanks to the third Education Write Now team for donating their time and energy to this project. They are all outstanding and passionate educators. More importantly, they are just about the nicest friends a person could ever hope to have and I am humbled to have had this opportunity to work with them. Discussing real challenges we face as educators and brainstorming possible solutions is another way we Teach, Learn, and Lead with Passion!

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