The first day of school is the most important day of the school year, at least when it comes to getting started on the right foot. Because of the importance placed on the first day, many teachers begin the year with a big list of rules. For some students, this can be intimidating, especially if they have experienced challenges in the classroom in the past. In fact, most students are well aware that there are consequences for poor behavior. However, you can turn the first day on its head by doing something a little different – instead of rules and consequences, begin the new school year by setting expectations.
What to Expect When Setting Expectations
Some students might not know how to react to this change of pace. If you aren’t talking about rules, does that mean there are no rules? What does undesirable behavior look like? How will you react to misbehavior?
Put your students’ minds at ease by providing them with boundaries and expectations, focused on positive behavior, instead. Setting expectations is at the heart of a PBIS framework, changing the focus on behaviors from the negative to the positive. Ideally, you will have a list of three to five expectations for behavior. Explain what each of these behaviors will look like in different situations.
Instead of presenting the rule, “don’t talk while the teacher is talking,” set the expectation of being respectful toward one another by being quiet when you or another student has the floor during a lesson.
Establishing the conduct you wish to see in your classroom is extremely important on the first day. How you teach these expectations will depend on the size of the class as well as grade level. You can’t go wrong with modeling and role-playing with most classes.
Where Setting Expectations Can Go Wrong
Even after you have taught and modeled your expectations, there is still great potential to mess it all up. One tiny little mistake on your part can put the tone of your year in jeopardy.
That mistake? Letting the little things go.
As soon as the very first day, you will find that your class will stray from the expectations that you so carefully set for them. Something as small as a whispered conversation during line-up time can become, over time, a complete disregard for class expectations. Small infractions are easy to let go, especially if the class is behaving well otherwise. However, ignoring even the smallest deviation from your expectations can spell trouble for the whole school year.
“Let it go” as a philosophy only works in an animated movie (you know the one). When you let something slip by you without redirection, you send a signal to your students that your expectations aren’t as rock-solid as you say.
Start the School Year Strong
Make no mistake, your students will test you. They will test you in large and small ways, and they will do it purposely as well as unintentionally. Whatever their motives, you will need to stop that testing in its tracks. Often, the first day will be your first opportunity to demonstrate that your expectations are important.
Routines and behavior are very important to the daily success of a class, and setting expectations will help your class run more smoothly. This is where a PBIS framework is invaluable. A successful PBIS program relies on setting expectations. Teaching these expectations and modeling the behaviors that reflect these expectations will help improve behavior. Gentle redirection when students fall short of expectations establishes trust.
Moreover, a successful PBIS program can result in…
- Reduced office discipline referrals
- Increased instructional time
- Reduced suspensions
- Reduced teacher burnout
- Improved academic performance
- Improved student communication
- Strong teacher-student relationships
The most effective PBIS program begins strong and remains consistent, from the first day of school to the last. PBIS Rewards can help with setting expectations, allowing you to recognize expected student behavior as soon as the first day.
Redirect even the smallest misconduct on the first day and set the stage for a great school year!