Making the Most of Your Time: Teacher Tips for Reducing Minor Infractions and Maximizing Instruction

By LaShauna Britt, M.Ed., Daria Lorio-Barsten, M.Ed., and Kara McCulloch, M.S.

Educators are focused on meeting the individual needs of each student. With classrooms filled to capacity and the pace of instruction continuing to quicken, every minute counts. The emphasis on maximizing instruction leaves no time for even minor infractions that may take away from student learning.

To that end, creating and establishing relationships within school communities fosters healthy environments for faculty, staff, and students.  Implementing structures, routines, and behavioral supports helps to increase teaching and learning time.  Many local educators have implemented these types of practices in their classrooms and buildings and thereby decreased the occurrence of minor infractions within their schools and classrooms. They share their thoughts here.

“If I had to pick one thing that really makes a difference in my classroom, it would be morning meeting (Responsive Classrooms, 2016). Morning meeting allows me the opportunity to capitalize on both academic and social emotional learning for my students. I can set the tone for our day as well as review skills learned the previous day. It allows us, as a group, to problem solve around issues we are having by engaging in tough conversations in order to find solutions. I like that students know that no matter their state of mind or the emotion in their heart, their thoughts/ feelings are honored and accepted, and we work together to find joy and solve problems, no matter what they are. Everyone is invested and all ideas are honored and respected.”

  • Deanna Guiseppi, 3rd-Grade Teacher
    DJ Montague Elementary School

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“This year we focused on incorporating cooperative learning, integration of technology, and establishing and maintaining daily routines and structures. This has assisted us in reducing behaviors and referrals in our classroom.”

  • Jessica Vargas and Quinta Speller-Williams, 3rd-Grade Inclusion
    Elephant’s Fork Elementary School

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“For me, relationship building is definitely the key to classroom management. I have always tried to treat my students as adults, but I understand that they are still kids and are sometimes going to make kid choices. I try very hard to build trust with my students by being honest, vulnerable, and showing that I am there to support them in the classroom as well as at after school activities. I try to go to their extracurricular activities in order to show my support there as well.”

  • Chris Eames, Math Teacher
    Jamestown High School

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“As educators, we should be proactive and very intentional in preventing minor infractions.  I start by looking at discipline data the same way I look at student achievement data.  Schools should identify what infractions are occurring and develop steps to prevent them.  These steps could include schoolwide messages about behaviors that cause excessive minor infractions.  A school could also identify ways to provide incentives for students when they exhibit positive behavior.”

  • Craig Reed, Principal
    Gloucester High School

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“One thing that has really helped us as a school are the systems that we have tried to put in place to make things run smoothly for MTSS (Multi-Tiered Systems of Support). Our team has been deliberate in establishing goals based on data and then setting aside time to plan for achieving those goals. We have been transparent with our faculty in an effort to foster trust and buy-in, and that seems to have worked. We have also tried to keep everything available to all teachers by developing an electronic guidebook that houses resources and documents related to different aspects of MTSS and overall school function.”

  • Anna Thomas, Student Advancement Coach, & Amber Spicer, School Counselor
    Hornsby Middle School

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“We use PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports) at our middle school.  In the summer prior to the start of school, we reviewed our referral data and determined our behavior needs based on the previous school year.  Behavior matrixes were created and posted in every classroom, hallway, bathroom, and on buses outlining desired behaviors. The students are taught short social skill lessons weekly to address these concerns. This helps to create consistent expectations across academic content and grade levels.”

  • Letitia Frank, English Department Chair and Title 1 Data Specialist
    Lake Taylor Middle School

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“We’ve really tried to look at what we are doing at a schoolwide level. We get feedback from our faculty and look at data to make decisions. This year we have really focused on schoolwide acknowledgments as well as our token economy. These reinforcements have built on the practices that we had before, like developing our matrix of schoolwide expectations, direct teaching of those components, as well as supporting our staff when rolling out. We have staff binders that outline everything we have going on, including minor versus major incidents and what to do with each, which has helped with consistency across the school.”

  • Scott Holland, Assistant Principal
    DJ Montague Elementary School

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“As a high school math teacher, my students and I create classroom expectations and procedures at the beginning of every school year. These expectations and procedures may be revised or revisited as the needs of the students changed. The parents were also aware of their child’s expectations, and they knew that I would maintain contact with them throughout the school year concerning their child’s behavior.  I also made sure not to only contact parents about negative experiences. I also contact them to say something positive about their child!”

  • Tisha Jones, District Math Program Specialist
    Portsmouth Public Schools

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“This year we have really focused on looking at our data and making implementation decisions for MTSS based on that.  We have implemented a positive office referral that results in a celebratory phone call home and have received great feedback in response to that. We have also focused on a schoolwide roll-out of morning meeting. We provided systematic training ahead of time, and have tried to be visible in the classrooms during roll-out in an effort to ensure consistency across all grade levels. The meetings have created a wonderful opportunity for both teachers and students to build relationships. All of these things have helped improve the overall feeling in our building.”

  • Amy Meister, School Counselor
    Laurel Lane Elementary School

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“Some students need time to think about their actions/reactions.  Students often have lots on their minds and [are] not always equipped to respond in the most appropriate manner.  One method to help them respond appropriately and in a timely manner is to use Buddy Teachers (Responsive Classrooms, 2005).  With this system, students who need time to process their thoughts and responses are sent to a teacher with whom their teacher already has an agreement.  The student remains there for an agreed-upon time: 10, 15, or 30 minutes.  The student completes his/her assignments or processes his/her thoughts with that teacher and then returns to the original class.  In that manner, there is a reduction in behavioral infractions.”

  • Dr. Rory Stapleton, Principal
    Phoebus High School

Proactive and preventive practices that provide structure as well as engaging opportunities for all are crucial for reducing minor infractions and maximizing instructional time. We hope you have enjoyed the Link Lines series highlighting some of these practices as well as the successes shared here. We look forward to hearing more of your success stories in the future.

References

Responsive Classrooms. (2016, June 7). Morning meeting. Retrieved from https://www.responsiveclassroom.org/what-is-morning-meeting/

Responsive Classrooms. (2005, February 1). Buddy teachers. Retrieved from https://www.responsiveclassroom.org/buddy-teachers/

 

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