The classroom is a safe space to explore new ideas, be creative, and express yourself – but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t come with certain behavior expectations.
It might sound counter-intuitive, but by expecting positive behavior from your students, you’re also ensuring you keep your classroom as that haven you work hard every day to achieve.
So, how can you up your classroom management this school year? And how can you set high expectations without overwhelming anyone?
First thing’s first – get yourself a Social Contract template. There’s plenty to choose from!
What is a Social Contract?
Also known as a Classroom Contract, Social Contracts are classroom rules that are thought up and signed by the whole class. No matter what year or subject you teach, Social Contracts can be used for any student, from PreK to elementary school; middle school to high school.
Collaborating on these as a class is a perfect way to initiate conversation around culture and respect, but it’s also vital for setting up the ideal learning environment for every student.
Social Contracts define what you all consider to be good behavior or misbehavior. Having these defined and printed out as a “classroom rules poster” on your bulletin board for all to see and refer back to is the perfect problem-solving cheat sheet – resolving issues before they get out of hand.
For more details on the types of rules and how to get started, read this blog.
Rules and expectations – what’s the difference?
Introducing a Social Contract is a great way to set your non-negotiable classroom rules for every student to agree upon, however, classroom expectations can be treated a little differently. Instead of being rules that should be upheld at every moment, expectations can be treated more as classroom behavior goals for students to work towards.
For example, you can expect students to be prepared for every class, however, there shouldn’t be any negative consequences if they don’t have the right stationary or supplies. Instead, it should be something to acknowledge and learn from – not everyone is the perfect organizer.
Another example of expected behavior could be for everyone to actively participate during each lesson. This shouldn’t necessarily be a set rule, as each student might have their unique ways of participating, or they simply might be having an off-day. As long as it’s acknowledged, and your classroom is considered to be a positive environment, you shouldn’t have any trouble with students living up to your classroom expectations.
Cell phones in class could also go both ways. A rule could be set to not use cell phones in the classroom at all, or, it could be an expectation that, if they are to be used, they’re for learning purposes only. This level of trust is a great way to establish a sense of respect between you and your students (even if it might take a few gos to get right!).
Why is this important?
Maintaining a sense of classroom community is vital for keeping your class respectful, inclusive, and safe for every learner no matter their skills or abilities. So, we need to be setting expectations at the beginning of the school year—as soon as the first day of school—to avoid any misbehavior slipping through and becoming habitual before you have a chance to catch them.
Following directions while sticking to class expectations is also great for social-emotional learning (SEL) development, no matter the grade level. Generally speaking, successful students are those who have learned to respect others and classroom routines through positive behavior management. For more info on supporting students’ behavioral, social, and academic health, read up on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) here.
If you haven’t yet set any student expectations, there’s no better time than the back-to-school season, when everyone’s refreshed and ready for the year ahead. Establishing expected behaviors for your learners is a key management system that’ll put you on the path to a more positive and effective classroom environment all year round.