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Reaching Consensus About Behavioral Expectations in Schools

By — Stop Bullying Now!
Updated on Jan 8, 2009

The process involves three brief conversations with staff, possibly in the last ten minutes of three consecutive staff meetings.

Meeting one

The administrator or the bullying prevention team talks about one crucial element of behavior management for all staff- our ability to differentiate between student behavior and use different responses depending on the type of behavior. We discuss the idea that all staff- consciously or unconsciously- keep three lists in the back of our heads while supervising children:

1. We all have a list of behaviors that we usually ignore. Included in this list might be students’ politely telling others they don’t want to be their friends for a while. We will be calling this list the GREEN list. Placing behaviors here does not mean we approve of them; it does mean that we do not plan to interrupt instruction or other activities to deal with them. We may sympathize with a student whose friend has broken up with them, but that does not mean that it is our job to tell the ex-friend that she or he must return to the friendship. Deciding not to react to all behaviors we see lets us have time to teach. In addition, parents will not support us if we tell their children who to be friends with. They will object if we do not allow any kind of arguing, low-level teasing, or behavior that people will correctly interpret as “kids being kids.”

2. We all have a list of behaviors that we act on in the moment. Included in this list might be inappropriate language or minor pushing and shoving. We might tell the person that the behavior is unacceptable, use an immediate consequence such as having the person sit away from the group, or act in some other way. We will call this list the YELLOW list. Repeated YELLOW behaviors might lead us to reporting the pattern of actions to the office.

3. We all have a list of behaviors that will lead to a referral to the office for further intervention. Behaviors on this list will likely include serious physical aggression, hate speech, or name calling that is likely to make a person feel unsafe. The most severe behaviors in this category would lead us to send the student to the principal immediately instead of sending a behavior report and having the principal follow up. These are our personal RED list.

Ask staff members what behaviors are on their personal green, yellow, and red lists. Stress two things:

  • Each of us will be more effective if our own lists are the same from day to day and from student to student. If we are consistent, young people will be more likely to learn what behaviors are acceptable and unacceptable.
  • Our school will be more effective in dealing with aggressive behavior if we all have the same behaviors on our yellow and red lists. Bringing our lists together does not mean that we all have to use the same interventions with behaviors on the yellow list. We all have different styles as disciplinarians. It does mean that we all commit to doing something to discourage yellow-list behaviors when we see them, and to reporting red-list behaviors. Ask staff members to think about these issues between this meeting and the next.
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