Winter break is over, and in the spirit of “new year, new you,” you’ve decided the second half of the school year will be a fresh start.
Typically, office referrals rise slightly during the first few weeks following winter break. After the excitement of the holiday season, your students may need a little help settling back into the routine of positive behavior and engaged learning. In many areas, the weather may be a factor in behavior, as well. Shorter daylight hours, overcast skies, and rainy or snowy days can affect student mood and motivation. It’s a long time until spring break – how do you stay on track and reduce discipline referrals in the meantime?
How Student Behavior Impacts Staff
A school culture in which students feel unsafe both physically and emotionally can create a negative student culture. In an atmosphere where bullying takes place or physical altercations are common, students are often operating in survival mode. Some schools may respond by enacting zero-tolerance policies and employing exclusionary discipline procedures. This can further fracture student trust and create a student culture that tends toward oppositional behaviors.
It’s probably no surprise that student culture affects staff culture. How students feel about expectations, their relationships with peers and staff, and disciplinary procedures are all part of student culture. Without positivity in these areas, student behavior can become problematic. Expecting teachers to maintain their enthusiasm in the face of poor student behavior can negatively impact staff morale.
Strategies to Decrease Discipline Referrals
Fortunately, you can decrease poor behavior and discipline referrals by being proactive. After all, you and your students are in this together, and you’re probably feeling the winter blahs just like they are. You can help everyone get on the same page when you:
It’s likely that you had to review behavioral expectations prior to the beginning of winter break, when anticipation and distraction were at a high point. After an extended time away from the classroom, your students may need a refresher course in behavior expectations, both schoolwide and in the classroom. Reteaching expectations can help you ease back into the cycle of teaching and learning.
Recognize Positive Behaviors
As you moved through the first half of the school year, you made adaptations in your PBIS initiative as certain behaviors became good habits. Intermittent reinforcement enables schools to retire certain behavioral expectations once students begin to master them, creating room to focus on other expectations. Positive recognition will help students get back on track behaviorally. PBIS Rewards allows you to quickly recognize students for meeting expectations without taking time away from teaching.
Continue Developing Positive Relationships With Your Students
Now that the whirlwind of the holidays is behind you, you’ll want to reconnect with your students. Positive teacher-student relationships can impact everything you do in the classroom, including academics and behavior. Build on the progress you made at the beginning of the year and continue connecting with your students.
While you might have gotten a little more relaxed about routines in the classroom before winter break, returning to the tried-and-true can help reduce negative behaviors. Now that the distractions of an impending break are behind you, routines can help reestablish classroom rhythm. Knowing what to expect in your classroom will help your students thrive.
Shake Things Up
While it might seem counterintuitive compared to the points above, sometimes getting a handle on student behavior requires some creativity. You will still want to reset your classroom by reestablishing behavior expectations, recognizing positive behaviors, reinforcing routines, and refocusing on relationships. However, combatting the post-break blues with something unexpected will help energize your class. A large-scale art or research activity, a service project, or a physical activity challenge can dovetail with lesson plans while also adding additional interest to otherwise gray winter days.
Using PBIS Rewards to Shake Off the Winter Blues
While there’s really not much you can do about the weather, you can change your classroom culture as you wait for better days to come.
As you reteach expectations and reinforce routines in the classroom, don’t forget to recognize your students for demonstrating positive behavior. They can use the points they earn to purchase items and privileges in your PBIS school store.
If you began the school year with a PBIS initiative, it shouldn’t take very long to return to pre-break levels of engagement. You may need to reestablish behavioral expectations that you faded out before the break, just to get everyone back on track. Then, using intermittent reinforcement, you can taper off and fade recognition for those behaviors once again.
PBIS Rewards can make it easier to acknowledge positive behavior as it happens, everywhere on campus. A simple scan with the mobile app or a click of a button in the web portal enables you to recognize students in the moment. It’s a powerful way to connect behavior with acknowledgment and develop positive behavioral standards. The points that students earn are automatically tracked in the system. When a student spends their points, the system automatically deducts those points from their balance. Throughout the process, the software tracks numerous data points. This data can be invaluable for teachers and administrators alike to get an accurate picture of initiative performance.
PBIS Rewards can help take your school’s PBIS initiative to the next level. We’d love to show you how! Just contact us for more information or request a demo!