The Power of Positive Reinforcement

I am a reflective sort, seriously, I am. Like when I had my son I wanted to start again at 12 weeks so I could do a better job. Typical teacher the Midwives told me.... But being a substitute or casual teacher has really had me reflecting lately. What is my behaviour management strategy? Why do I leave (most days) feeling calm and cool? Was teaching always like this for me? The quick answer is OF COURSE NO! But I do feel after more than a decade teaching, and teaching different year levels in different schools and different countries, that I have learnt a thing or two about behaviour management.

Do I have a quick fix for that student who stresses you out everyday, no sorry. Or that student who hurts someone at recess everyday, no, sorry I don't - but I do have some wisdom to share that has made my day to day teaching a better experience. So today I going to share how I use the power of positive reinforcement in my classroom.

As a disclaimer first, I am in no way an expert on behaviour management, I simply love teaching, try to teach as much as I can with minimal interruptions and reflect on my teaching on a daily basis.

  • Instead of picking out the one child lounging around on the floor and asking them to sit properly, pick the one child sitting nicely and say "Oo, I love how ___ is sitting". With every comment you will get a few more students sitting properly and before you know it the majority of the class. So much easier and less stressful for you! Constantly praise students who are showing desirable behaviour. Do it consistently at the start of the year and it will pay off. 
  • Positive reinforcement does not have to mean teachers are spending money. You don't need a treasure box or to give away chocolate bars. You could reward positive behaviour through giving points (or fake money) with a goal to reach for free play or a certificate to go home. Use it regularly and use it consistently. Reward children whenever they are displaying appropriate behaviour. If you take it seriously, the kids will too. We even have "crazy point days" where I give heaps of points. The kids love it and it works. 
  • Before sending the children off to work, discuss what sort of workers you will see. eg. voice level, where sitting, what doing. Then reward students immediately with praise or points who are doing the right thing. Give the points, it costs you nothing and if they deserve it, reward them!
  • If children are getting too loud when working, instead of yelling at the students, switch your thinking. Say "5 minute of silent working time for 5 points for everyone on the table", then at the end of the 5 minutes (or 6 or 7 if you aren't watching the clock closely 😜) remember to reward the table. If you forget once, the children will remember and not take it seriously next time. Be consistent and follow through. 
  • Play "Who can stay quietest the longest" and offer points or first out to recess/lunch. 

In the end, be consistent and follow through with the students. Don't offer points or rewards (free time, first out to recess) and not follow through on it. The students will remember. Use positive reinforcement and praise and use it regularly and share the love. The students will thank you, the parents will love it and you will save your voice and be less stressed!

Good luck!

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