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Three Simple Ways to Improve Student Behavior

Most of us start out the school year with great ideas, focused on new ways to engage and educate students, but roadblocks often surface before we’re too far along. We might be tempted to complain when these obstacles come or blame others out of frustration, but the solution may be to implement simple habits early and often.


Each year I find myself trying to “figure out” how to make school exciting and new for the students who will be entering my classroom. I’ve tried many strategies in the past in an attempt to have a well run class. One thing I have found, however, is that so many things come down to student behavior. 

Although there are many factors that can determine student behavior, there are also things that remain constant year after year.  It is finding that “constant” that can often be difficult.

How Coaching Softball Inspired Me In The Classroom

Along with being a teacher I am also a coach.

Over the past nine years I have had the honor of running one of the largest high school softball programs in my area.  When I came into the program the team had only won five games in the previous ten years and had players who had no desire to further themselves after high school. I knew it would be a challenge to get them back on track.  The problem wasn’t talent, as they had an enormous amount of girls to choose from, but rather they needed discipline and respect.  It took two years to implement a culture that demanded excellence in attitude and character.  Once it was adopted the team began to improve slowly.

Fast forward nine years…

The program now holds one of the winningest softball teams in the school history having gone to back-to-back State Sectional Championship games.  Close to 100 percent of players now attend college after high school and the program is viewed as one of the classiest teams in the area. 

For years I thought that my coaching style and my teaching style should be kept separate. I realized however that there must be a similarity between how a well disciplined athletic team functions and how a classroom is supposed to run.  My approach changed when I found a way to link the strategies I used in coaching to the students in the classroom.

Three Simple Habits To Earn Student Respect

1.  Shake each student’s hand daily before entering the room

As a coach: Everyday I make sure to start (whether practice or game) by shaking each player’s hand and individually acknowledging them.  By doing this each player understands that they are an integral and important part of the team and they are respected.

As a teacher: Shaking hands with each student before they step into the classroom is something that gives them individual respect daily.  They will in turn get into the habit of returning the respect that they are given.

Why this strategy helps with behavior

 Many behavior issues arise due to the student feeling as though they are not respected.  Giving them respect immediately can lower this dramatically.  Often times students misbehave because they feel unimportant.  This habit gives each student respect, a sense of belonging, and a feeling of importance each  day.

2. Make eye contact with students when speaking to them

As a coach: Whether I am demonstrating a skill, teaching a strategy, or sharing a life lesson with my team or an individual player, I am very intentional on keeping eye contact the entire time.  This allows for me to demand concentration and attention while at the same time demonstrating respect.  By making eye contact directly with my players I am giving them 100 percent of my attention in the moment.  This can go a long way.

As a teacher: Making eye contact gives the student 100 percent of my attention in the moment.  This habit allows for each student to know that they have my focused attention several times throughout the class period. 

Why this strategy helps with behavior

 Poor behavior can occur when students do not feel they are the “center of attention.” By intentionally making the student the “center” anytime they make a contributing remark helps to eliminate acting out on purpose.  Eye contact is one simple way to gain respect from students and show them that their contribution is important .

[shareable cite=”Chuck Poole”]Giving students 100 percent of your attention in the moment can go a long way.[/shareable]

3. Choose two different students each day to encourage and compliment

As a coach:  Each day after practice I make a point of choosing two players to either compliment or encourage.   This allows for each player to know I am invested in their achievement and well-being.   In turn I have found that my players strive to work harder to improve with each practice simply because their behavior has been noticed.

As a teacher:  I choose two students from each of my classes to compliment or encourage every day.  I also keep a simple checklist to keep track of who I have approached and who I have not.  This way I can guarantee to talk to each student without missing anyone.  By the end of two weeks I will have complimented or encouraged every student individually.  This habit allows the students to understand they are cared for, are being noticed daily, and encourages them to want to do a great job in class.

Why this strategy helps with behavior

Everyone enjoys a compliment and can always use encouragement.  Students often need just a little “push” in the right direction in order to soar.  I have found that when students know I care about them and notice the “little” things they do well daily, they are more apt to try harder, do better, and be on their best behavior in my class.

Question: What are some of your strategies to help improve student behavior? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

[shareable cite=”Chuck Poole”]When students know we truly care about them, they are apt to try harder, do better, and behave well.[/shareable]


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