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Classroom Management: A Covenant Approach

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1 Classroom Management: A Covenant Approach
Dr. Marc Snyder Ave Maria University Irony is defined as an incongruity between what might be expected and what actually occurs. I think it’s kind of ironic that 10 years ago I taught 7/8th science and got steamrolled by my students. I almost quit teaching. My principal moved me down to 5th grade and gave me Harry Wong’s First Days of School. I read the book and spent the entire summer reflecting on what I did wrong and how I would do things differently the following year. Here I am -- ten years later -- standing in front of you as the Assistant Head of School for Students and adjunct professor of Ave Maria University in Classroom Management and Organization. God certainly has a sense of humor. Before I get into my talk for today I want to share with you some of my favorite education quotes:

2 Haim G. Ginott ( ) Between Teacher and Child, 1972

3 “I touch the future. I teach.”
Christa McAuliffe (September 2, 1948 – January 28, 1986 )

4 “Only the brave should teach
“Only the brave should teach. Only those who love the young should teach. Teaching is a vocation. It is as sacred as priesthood; as innate a desire, as inescapable as the genius which compels a great artist. If he has not the concern for humanity, the love of living creatures, the vision of the priest and the artist, he must not teach.” ~ Pearl S. Buck (1892 – 1973)

5 According to Harry Wong
“The single greatest effect on student achievement is not race, it is not poverty — it is the effectiveness of the teacher.” ~ “It is the teacher — what the teacher knows and can do — that is the most significant factor in student achievement.” “In an effective classroom students should not only know what they are doing, they should also know why and how.” Now for some classroom management humor:





10 Which classroom is yours? Which classroom would you rather walk by?



13 Definitions: Classroom management – act of managing relationships, behaviors, and instruction for learners Discipline – the act of teaching students how to behave appropriately; not just punishment Classroom management can be defined as so many different things. The definition that I would like to offer is a definition that forms an understanding of a classroom management model used by Annette Iverson (2003) in her book Building Competence in Classroom Management and Discipline. The model consists of three classroom management domains and is sometimes referred to as the “3 C’s of classroom management.” The first “C”, covenant management, is for relationship concerns; the second “C”, conduct management, is for behavioral concerns; and the third “C”, content management, is for instructional concerns. Therefore, one can see where the definition of classroom management comes from: the act of managing relationships, behaviors, and instruction for learners. Notice how the word discipline refers only to one part of the 3 C’s model (behavior). And has nothing to do with punishment. Discipline is the use of specific strategies to instruct students on the how-to’s of behavior that are socially acceptable or valid. Discipline is instructive and rehabilitative. It results (or at least should result) in increased incidences of pro-social behavior.

14 Covenant/Conduct/Content Management Interplay
Covenant Management Conduct Management Content Management One can see here the interplay of covenant/conduct/content management. Sometimes we can isolate a behavior problem into one domain. However, human behavior is complex and often more than one management domain contributes to a student’s problems. For example, consider the following fictional character John and this scenario: John gets sent to the office because he got up out of his seat and was about to walk out of the classroom. Why did this happen? Perhaps it happened because John did not have a good relationship with his teacher (covenant); perhaps John got angry at something that triggered him (conduct); perhaps John was trying to avoid an academic task that was too difficult or uninteresting (content); or perhaps all three contributed to John getting up out of his seat and leaving the classroom. The point is that if we understand classroom management as the interplay of all three domains, then we can use proper problem-solving techniques to get to the root of the problem. For the purpose of this talk, I want to focus on one domain: covenant management.

15 Overview 1) Definition of covenant management
2) Covenant management with the classroom group 3) Covenant management with the individual student 4) Covenant management and the research

16 Definition: Covenant According to Iverson (2003), a covenant is a promise, a binding agreement between two or more persons Covenant management is the facilitation of trusting, respectful relationships, willingly entered into, that promote optimal success for all children Covenant management is very much in-line with a Christian anthropology that respects the dignity of the human person. The word covenant appears over 300 times in the Bible – with many nuanced uses. The Bible refers to God’s covenants with Noah, Abraham, and Moses as the leader of the chosen people, Israel. In the Old Testament or Covenant, God revealed his law through Moses and prepared his people for salvation through the prophets. In the New Testament or Covenant, Christ established a new and eternal covenant through his own sacrificial death and Resurrection. With each use of the word covenant, what is implied is a promise, a solemn and binding agreement between two or more persons – entered into freely. Covenant management – in education – can then be defined as the facilitation of trusting, respectful relationships, willingly entered into, that promote optimal success for all children. It is my belief that covenant management is the cornerstone to all management success.

17 Handshake = sign of covenant

18 Covenanting with the Classroom Group
Covenant management can be viewed from two different levels: the microsystem and mesosytem level. These levels are derived from Brofenbrenner’s ecological theory, which is based on the assumption that multiple systems in the world around us and the human beings in the systems powerfully influence an individual’s growth and development. The microsystem level is the level that most directly impacts the individual; some examples of microsystems include: the family, classroom, and school. The mesosystem level consists of relationships between different microsystems (for example, the relationship between home and school or the classroom and the school building). For the purpose of this talk, I will speak about covenant management from the microsystem level only – which includes covenanting both with the classroom as a group and the individual student. Covenant management from the mesosystem level – which includes covenanting with the home – will not be discussed, but is a whole other aspect of covenant and classroom management that must be considered.

19 Some Things to Consider…
Human relationships are complex and require constant attention and nourishment Classrooms are especially complex environments in which to build quality relationships Teacher and student are usually “stuck” with each other and are expected to get along Creating a working unit from an assortment of student personalities is a difficult task Some things to consider before getting into covenanting with the classroom group: Read from the list.

20 Covenanting with the Classroom Group
A classroom group takes on the personality of its members, some of whom will have a more compelling impact on the group than others The power aspects of the “hidden” curriculum can shape much of classroom life E.g., a few students with strong personalities can turn others against one or two students (bullying) It is the teacher’s responsibility to form healthy peer relationships in the classroom through the year It is important to understand how only a few students can shape much of classroom life. I’ve seen it our school – a couple of students with strong personalities bully other “weaker” students and turn the class against them, Or a few students with strong personalities and who do not care about learning twist others into having the same attitude (toward learning), Or a few students who have racist sentiments and make others feel inferior I’ve seen the majority of discipline often come out of one classroom – and that has everything to do with a breakdown in “covenanting with the classroom group”

21 Well functioning groups do not just form out of the blue
Well functioning groups do not just form out of the blue. It takes time for a group to develop to a point where it can be effective and where all members feel connected to it. Bruce Tuckman (1965), in article titled Developmental Sequence in Small Groups, identified four stages that characterize the development of groups. Understanding these stages can help determine what is happening with a group and how to manage what is occurring. These four group development stages are known as: Forming Storming Norming Performing

22 The Forming Stage The forming stage can be characterized as the “honeymoon” period This is the stage when students are generally on their best behavior Students look to the teacher for structure and direction This is an important time for teachers to treat all class members equally This is the initial stage when the group comes together and members begin to develop their relationships with one another and learn what is expected of them. This stage is often referred to as the “honeymoon” period and is the time when students are on their best behavior. In this stage, the students look to the teacher for structure and direction. They want it and need it. This stage usually lasts about two months (from the beginning of school, Aug. 15th or so, until the beginning of October). Some of the skills needed to guide students through the forming stage include the following: Be inclusive and empowering Make sure that everyone in the group is involved Identify common purposes Create an environment that fosters trust and builds commitment to the group

23 This picture clearly indicates the importance of formation.

24 Getting Off to a Good Start
Virtually all the research points to the beginning of the school year as the linchpin for effective classroom management Four seminal studies on the beginning of the school year performed (two at elementary and two at secondary): The results showed that the most effective teachers made sure classroom management strategies: 1) were understood by students, 2) accepted by students, and 3) practiced until they became routine In the forming stage, it is most important to get off to a good start. All the research points to the beginning of the school year as the linchpin for effective classroom management. Teachers must know this. Harry Wong says that what you do (or do not do) on the First Days of School will determine your success (or failure) for the rest of the school year. I had a Sister from the Missionaries of Charity tell me once: beginning the year of teaching is like a tube of toothpaste. You must keep the toothpaste in the tube because once it gets out there’s no getting it back in. Effective teachers, therefore, must make sure that classroom management strategies are 1) understood by all students, 2) accepted by all students, and 3) practiced until they become routine.

25 Begin with a Strong First Day
The frequently used expression “you have only one chance to make a first impression” applies well to the first day of class What you do on the first day of school sets the tone that can carry you through the rest of the year Do the following: 1) stand near door, 2) greet students, 3) make seating chart, 4) tell something about yourself and do brief get-acquainted activity, and 5) discuss class rules and procedures When it comes to classroom management, the First Day of School is THEE most important day of the entire school year. This day must be scripted as much as possible. I still use a separate piece of paper and write a list of everything I want to accomplish. I try to account for every minute that I am with students. Some things to do on the first day of school and to begin covenant management include the following: Stand near the door and greet students Have a seating chart ready Tell something about yourself and do a brief getting-acquainted activity Discuss class rules and procedures (involve students as much as possible)


27 Emphasize Classroom Management for the First Few Days
Go over rules and accompanying consequences; explain their rationale and invite input from students; make any changes if necessary Practice classroom procedures with students until they can be executed efficiently and without confusion Go over grading procedures with students; again, invite input from students Continue to engage in activities that allow students to get to know you and one another better The first few days of school should NOT include the teaching of new material. Instead, review old material and make it fun (this is an excellent content and covenant management strategy). The emphasis should be on establishing rules and consistent consequences. Rules should be explained and there should be “buy in” from the students. Basic procedures for the smooth operation of the class must be TAUGHT and practiced by the students until they become routine. Go over grading procedures with students. Continue to engage in activities that allow students to get to know you and one another better.

28 The Storming Stage The storming stage can be characterized by the testing of limits; students become relaxed and are willing to take a few risks Often occurs between October and December Teacher should not get upset, but see this stage as an opportunity to restructure and renegotiate relationships; expectations need to be clarified Teacher must pay more attention to conduct management Some distancing from the teacher; students will expect teacher to be fair when managing individual and group behavior Teacher must establish clear limits by the end of this stage It is human nature to test limits. Around October or so (if not before), students will begin to test limits. They become more relaxed and they want to know exactly what the boundaries are. During this stage, teachers must pay more attention to conduct management. Expectations must be made explicit and consistently enforced. There is a natural distancing by the teacher (which is normal) and it is up to the teacher to be fair when managing individual and group behavior. Students will count on this and it is an important part of covenant management. Even though students don’t like consequences, they will more readily accept them when they feel the teacher has their best interest at heart. It is critical that by the end of this stage, clear limits are set. If not, the storm will only continue to grow and become like…this.


30 The Norming Stage The norming stage, which often extends after Christmas break for several months, is dominated by orienting and fueling activities Students have (hopefully) accepted standards of conduct and can orient themselves to real learning Fueling activities can keep students moving towards their learning (and social) goals For teachers, the norming stage is the stage in which the relationship between the teacher and student is grounded (hopefully) in mutual respect

31 The Performing Stage The performing stage is the coalescence of the three previous stages Students are now more self-reliant, self-controlled, and self-disciplined than at the beginning of the year Capable of working independently and in groups Occurs within the other three stages and reaches its zenith in the final months of the school year The extent to which the performing stage is distributed throughout the school year depends on the management abilities of the teacher

32 Covenanting with the Individual Student
Let’s no look at covenanting with the individual student.

33 Positive Interactions
When students are asked to account for their motive for learning, they frequently cite their admiration and respect for a particular teacher According to Glasser (1972), today’s society is role oriented (identity) rather than goal oriented In a role-oriented society, people place more value on being respected as human beings than on being valued for what they can do In other words, the student in the classroom is saying, “I can insist that I have a right to respect and dignity apart from what I can do” Respecting students for who they are is an essential first step in building positive relationships When it comes to covenanting with individual students, positive interactions is key. I have seen so many discipline problems with students in a classroom that are a result of poor teacher-student interactions (relationships). On the other hand, I have seen many successful classrooms that are a result of positive teacher interactions with students (relationships). When students are asked to account for their motives for learning, more often than not they cite their admiration and respect for a particular teacher; they express their desire to please the teacher and often attribute their effort to an affinity for the teacher rather than the subject. In The Identity Society, Glasser (1972) highlighted the powerful impact of personal relationships on individual’s aspirations and achievements. According to Glasser (1972), in today’s society, people place more value on being respected for who they are as persons as opposed to being valued for what they can do. This is what students want. Respecting students for who they are is essential in building positive relationships.

34 Dr. William Glasser.

35 Relationship Management as a Solution to Behavioral Problems
Teachers recognize that a renewed focus on relationship building can help resolve difficulties with individual students Emphasis on getting assignments turned in should be set aside in favor of building the trust and confidence of the student What a student needs most is often the reaffirmation as a person; this allows the student to open up to the teacher When students feel like you are truly vested in them as persons, they will open up to you and “behave.” Most behavioral problems can be prevented by building such positive relationships. This is not to say that no consequences should be administered when a student messes up. But the emphasis needs to be on building those relationships first. Then when a student messes up, he or she will be more willing to accept correction as an act of love and not vengeance. Some things a teacher can do to communicate respect for the student include: Open body language Praise Actively listen to student


37 Problem Solving with Individual Students
What happens if relationship effort attempts fail and a student persists in disrupting the class? The teacher cannot dismiss the behavior The teacher must engage in a problem-solving process to help the student select more responsible behavior Glasser (1965; 1977) developed an eight-step problem-solving process to help students regain control Despite all the efforts made to build positive relationships with students, often problems will still occur. What do you do? The teacher cannot dismiss the behavior. According to Glasser (1965; 1977), the teacher must engage the student in an eight-step problem solving process to help the student select more responsible behavior. This problem-solving process puts the student in control of his or her behavior and need for behavior change. It helps the student to be held accountable because he or she is involved in the process. It respects the student as a person and is an excellent covenant management strategy.

38 Glasser’s Eight-Step Problem Solving Process
Get Involved with the Student Deal with the Student’s Present Behavior Get the Students to Make Value Judgment About the Behavior Help the Student to Develop a Plan to Change the Behavior Get a Commitment from the Student to Stick to the Plan Do Not Accept Excuses for a Failed Plan Do Not Punish or Criticize the Student for Broken Plan Never Give Up – Return to Step 3 and Start Again The teacher must show concern for the student as a person and express belief that things can be worked out. The teacher must avoid being a historian who talks about how many times the students has transgressed in the past. Once the student knows what he or she is choosing, get him or her to make a value judgment about their actions. Is what you are doing against the rules? The student must acknowledge this. In order to get students to take responsibility for changing their behavior, the plan must come from them. The teacher can assist the student in the development of a plan. A commitment from the student to stick to the plan must follow. This commitment can take the form of a handshake or a signature on a written contract. Often students will stumble and fall and desire to “give up” on the plan. Do not accept excuses for a failed plan. Do not use punishment if the student fails the plan. This does not mean the natural and logical consequences cannot be used. The teacher should never give up the student. Try, try, again.

39 Student Responsibility
The research on the impact of teaching students strategies geared towards personal responsibility is strong According to Marzano (2003), responsibility strategies are associated with a 25% decrease in disruptive behaviors Self-monitoring and control techniques Cognitively based strategies When students are put in control of their own management, they are more likely to take responsibility when the fail. The research has shown that responsibility strategies are associated with a 25% decrease in disruptive behaviors.

40 Group Problem Solving by Means of Class Meetings
The following class meetings offer students an opportunity to entertain issues and think about problems that defy singular and simple answers: 1) Social Problem-Solving Meetings 2) Open-Ended Meetings 3) Educational-Diagnostic Meetings Social-problem solving meetings – serve as socialization function. They help students deal with social-emotional dilemmas and peer conflicts associated with growing. Friendship, honesty, success, fear, belonging, respect for differences, harassment, bullying, social skills or life skills, or conformity might serve as topics Open-ended meetings – allow for students to discuss questions that link their lives with the curriculum; however, these meetings need not be confined to questions associated with school subjects. Education-diagnostic meetings – directly related with what the class is studying or to ways to improve students’ learning abilities. For example, teachers might use these meetings to solicit student opinions about an upcoming unit of study. These meeting give students the opportunity to enter into a partnership with teacher as it relates to their learning.


42 Covenant Management and the Research
The following research studies gives evidence to the benefits of covenant management.

43 The Research and Theory
In a study involving 68 high school students, 84% said that disciplinary problems that occurred could have been avoided by better teacher-student relationships In their review of the literature, Sheets and Gay (1996) note that many behavioral problems ultimately boil down to a breakdown in teacher-student relationships “The causes of many classroom behaviors labeled and punished as rule infractions are, in fact, problems of students and teachers relating to each other” Research study #1: Sheets and Gay (1996) The majority of behavior problems could be avoided by better teacher-student relationships.

44 Characteristics that Make Teachers Likeable
Barr (1958) & Good & Brophy (1995) identify the following characteristics that make teachers likeable: consideration, flexibility, patience, (friendly, helpful, empathetic, understanding, good listeners) In terms of teacher-student dynamic, Wubbels et al. (1999) identify two dimensions whose interactions define the relationship between teacher and students: Dominance vs. submission and cooperation vs. opposition High dominance = clarity of purpose of guidance (but also lack of concern for interests of students); high submission = lack of clarity and purpose (middle ground = optimum) High cooperation = concern for the needs and opinions of others (but also inability to stand on one’s own); high opposition = active antagonism towards others (middle ground = optimum) Research study #2: Barr (1958) and Good & Brophy (1995) Characteristics that make teachers likable include: consideration, flexibility, patience, friendly, helpful, empathetic, understanding, good listeners Research study #3: Wubbels et al. (1999) In terms of teacher-student dynamic, most students prefer teachers who exhibit med-high dominance and cooperation

45 High Dominance Optimal Teacher-Student Relationship High Opposition High Cooperation High Submission

46 Classroom Management Styles
Chiu and Tulley (1997) conducted a study on student preferences for the following teacher management styles: 1) Rules/rewards-punishments = teachers articulate rules and procedures and present them to students (students who follow rules = rewards; do not follow rules = consequences) 2) Relationship-listening style = little or no emphasis on disciplinary issues per se; emphasis is on attending to student concerns 3) Confronting-contracting style = direct attention to disciplinary problems, but not in an inflexible way 4) No preferred approach Research study #4: Tulley (1997):


48 Results… Out of 712 students in grades 4, 5, and 6 interviewed (368 males and 344 female), results indicate a clear preference for: Confront/contract (420 student or 59%) Listening (135 students or 19%) Rules/Rewards – Punishment (121 students or 17%) No preference (36 students or 5%) Student preference of teacher management style is confronting-contracting = direct attention to disciplinary problems, not in an inflexible (relationship) way.

49 Differentiating Student Treatment
Schools may be the only place where the needs of “problem” students are met Some problems students face include: homelessness, depression, suicide, violent students, eating disorders, alcoholism, ADHD, physical and sexual abuse, etc. In a study conducted by Brophy, 98 teachers were interviewed and presented with vignettes regarding “problem” students Results indicated that effective teachers employ different behavioral strategies with different students Research study #5: Brophy (1998) Effective teachers employ different behavioral strategies with different students.

50 Taking a Personal Interest in Students
Talking informally with students before, during, and after class about their interests Greeting students outside of school – for instance, at extracurricular events or at stores Singling out a few students each day in the lunchroom and talking to them Being aware of and commenting on important events in students’ lives, such as participation in sports, drama, or other extracurricular activities Complimenting students on important achievements in and outside of school Meeting students at the door as they come in and saying hello to each child, making sure to use his or her fist name Going back to covenanting with students, teacher must take a personal interest in their lives. Read list.


52 Responding Appropriately to Students Incorrect Responses
Emphasize what was right (giving credit to the aspects of the incorrect response that are correct) Encourage collaboration (allowing students time to seek help from peers) Restate the question (allow time for students to think before you expect a response) Rephrase the question (paraphrase the question) Give hints or clues (provide enough guidance so that students can gradually come up with the right answer) Respect the students right to pass, when appropriate

53 Summary Covenant management is an important aspect of classroom management that is often overlooked It can be defined as the facilitation of trusting, respectful relationships, willingly entered into, that promote optimal success for all children Covenant management can be viewed from the microsystem level: classroom group and individual students Review of the literature emphasizes that the majority of discipline problems are the result of poor teacher-student relationships



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