Research shows that there are three early warning indicators used to identify a child at risk of dropping out: attendance, behavior and course performance in math and English. At Markham Middle School, one of the biggest challenges to student success is bad behavior, so the OneWest team places particular emphasis on mentoring and role modeling for our students.

When my teammate, Mariana De La Garza, first stepped into her classroom, she found a challenging environment. Several students were out of their seats and talking loudly with seemingly little respect for authority and making it difficult for the rest of the class to learn. Mariana was a worried about how she was going to help get this class under control. However, that didn’t deter her from creating an action plan to help create an environment for success for herself and partner teacher.

I asked her to share her approach with us:

Reward Positive Behavior. When you catch a student doing a good deed in the classroom, reward them with positive reinforcement, “Students enjoy praise,” she said, “And once they are shown respect and positivity, they start to reciprocate.”

Create a contract. Once mutual respect is developed, create a contract. “Hold them accountable!” Mariana adds. She had her students create a written agreement which included:

  • The student’s own description of what model behavior in the classroom should be;
  • A reflection on the impact their behavior can have on their education;
  • Their own rules and consequences if they break those rules;
  • Once a student created a contract, both Mariana and the student would sign it.

Continued incentives and rewards. As students abide by the contract, continue to incentivize them with rewards, all the while showing them that the biggest reward is the increase in their self-confidence.

Follow up. The final and most important step is the follow-up. Consistency is the key to working with our students, so Mariana makes sure to meet with them regularly on a one-on-one basis to see what’s working, what’s not working, and how the student can continue to improve. These conversations go a long way in solidifying positive habits.

After a few weeks, the rowdy behavior died down and students began to get into a positive groove. Now, her approach is the model of successful behavior management for the rest of our team! As we implement this system school-wide, we are very excited to see how our students’ behavior will improve by the end of the year.

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