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Week #10: Technical Management

and Negative ID student management



Using Cues, Directions, and Procedures Effectively


1.    Create a picture in your mind that you can live with regarding technical management and then accept nothing less.


2.      Cues: Have a simple, short, audible, regular cue to gain attention (i.e., a short word, a signal, a clap, a sound).  Use the 100% rule whenever you elicit attention with your cue (i.e., you need to have all eyes, ears, and minds ready before you start).  Have an active consequence every time you lose 100% (i.e., stop and wait for a moment, or stop and then start again.)


3.      Directions: Always begin with a cue (w/100% attention), then a finish word (i.e., Go! Now! Start! etc), then a call for any questions, and then give the actual directions (i.e., “Eyes! When I say go, I need to have . . . Are there any questions? (Wait), OK, Go!”).  Use random checks to enhance accountability (i.e., “.. Are there any questions, (wait) OK, Billy what are the groups supposed to do first? (Billy’s response) Good! OK, Go!”)


4.    Transitions and Procedures

·         Create a routine for each kind of transition (“OK, Science!”)

·         Practice them (“That was really good, think we could do it faster?”), especially early in the year (i.e., line up many times a day for the first week until it looks the way you want)

·         Sequence-

·         A transition warning (“In 2 minutes we need to . . .”)

·         Cue, “OK.  Time to . . .”

·         A time goal (“This should take about 30 seconds”)

·         A consequence, if the goal was not met (“That took us about 2 minutes, it should have taken about 1, let’s take our things out and try again”). Take action, don’t lecture, shame or complain.

·         Reinforce quality procedures and transitions.  Point out why doing a good job of procedures benefits the class.  Show your sincere appreciation.


5.    Redirection during an activity

(when a few student are off task)

·         Use positive language that helps teach the desired behavior.

·         Avoid: “______ is not paying attention”

·         Instead: “We are all writing our heading right now” or “we all have our eyes up here.”

·         Take action instead of giving lectures or shaming students.

·         Avoid: “that was not a very good job of ____”

·         Instead: wait, redo, pick up materials, practice doing it over, and if it is really serious, don’t be afraid to follow through in withholding an opportunity.

·         Provide for success/learning.

·         Avoid: being disappointed in what is not happening.

·         Instead: have students practice doing the procedure until everyone feels successful and capable.

·         Shape behavior with recognition and appreciation

·         Acknowledge behavior that is close to your emerging vision.

·         Stop when things have been done well to recognize both the effort and the benefits of showing so much self-control.


6.    Beginning the Period

·         Don’t take instructional time away from class to take roll.

·         Have a system for identifying missing students that is covert and effective.

·         Use of a single designated student assistant can be useful.

·         Get the students involved immediately!


7.    Dismissals

·         Practice your routine.

·         You dismiss, not the bell.

·         Have clear expectations/boundaries for line behavior.

·         Use most “ready” group if dismissing the whole group is problematic. 

·         Try using student of the week as “dismisser.”


Technical Management Style Comparison

Teacher 2

Teacher 1

Goal – absolute consistency and efficiency

Goal – self-direction and training your way out of the leadership role.

Teacher directs activities with students very clear about what is expected

Teacher develops rituals and expectations that students internalize

The end of the year looks much like the second week – orderly and efficient

By the end of the year the teacher has shifted responsibility to the students

Students learn that procedures are approached consistently with a regular pattern and structure

Students begin to see the purpose behind procedures so that over time they act increasingly with their own internal motivations

Poor procedures require more practice and more meaningful consequences

A Poor transition calls for a discussion of why it should improve and then likely practice of what is decided is the problem

Students show attention because the consequences are clear and automatic

Students attend because they appreciate the idea of mutual respect for those speaking



Beginning the School Year and Creating Great Classroom Climate

1.     Start the year on a positive note

·         Get the students involved right away.

·         What statement does your first activity make?

·         You are setting off in some direction, it is easier to get going in a direction that you like off the bat than have to work to pull them back in shape later.

·         Make getting to know names a priority.

·         Let the students know where the ship is heading early.


2.     Creating positive expectations

·         Use the walls to help convey your messages.

·         Display student work early.  Let them know it is their space.

·         Use bulletin boards to make a statement or provide information.

·         Put up your favorite sayings/quotes/messages.

·         Use language effectively

·         Use your mantras, “in this class we . . .”

·         Make a rule that language needs to be “life giving” and not destructive.  So no put downs, no rudeness, no disrespect or self or other.

·         Use class time for put ups and recognition.

·         Make class expectations as explicit (behavioral/operational/practical) as possible.  Practice them. Use concrete specifics when discussing them. Make them a personal part of the social contract.


(Take part in class activity: Concept Attainment related to what makes a “Community”)

3.     Creating Community

·         It has to feel safe and that starts with you first (elementary expect this to take about 1-2 weeks, secondary twice as long at least).

·         Model appropriate personal sharing. Be real yet professional.

·         Avoid sarcasm or negativity

·         Maintain dignity in the way you deal with students’ egos and persons.

·         Make some personal contact with each student.

·         Next, students have to feel safe around one another (this can take over a month in the elementary level and 2+ months for secondary).

·         Accept only “life giving language.”

·         Student need to practice taking risks (little ones at first and then progressively larger).

·         There needs to be a sense of “We”/Tribe in the class.

·         Ask yourself, what makes them a unit? Why do they need each other?

·         Help them move beyond just societal bonds to communal bonds.

·         Societal bonds = what I agree to do or not do by contract

·         Communal bonds = what we do to make the collective better

·         A tribe needs to have collective successes

·         A tribe defends its identity, its members, and its rituals.

 Dealing with Difficult Students


(See Power Struggle handout if applicable)


Consider the following case example:

You have developed a pretty solid social contract in your class by the 4th week of the year.  Most students are very clear about your expectations.  However, one student always seems to be testing you.  He/She has a compulsive need to be a clown.  He/She keeps their cooperative group from getting to work.  He/she blurts out comments and jokes during instructional time.  Some of the time the jokes and comments are just bothersome (albeit funny), but often you feel a hostile attitude behind the words.  Much of the class is annoyed at the student, but there are also a good number who are infected by his/her horseplay and join in, making it very disruptive on the whole.  And the student turns in poor quality work when they do turn in anything.  You have tried to consistently implement your level 1 interventions, but the behavior pattern has not changed.  What are you going to do so that this problem behavior is not still occurring in the spring?


If we examine this case from a paradigm of “how much of a problem is this kid for me” we will be battling this student for the rest of the year. And to make matters worse, no matter how much we explain to this student (in 19 out of 20 cases) how bad he/she is and how much they need to “straighten up and fly right,” their behavior will not change.

So what do we do? First we need to stop thinking of this student in terms of how much trouble he/she is for us. Next, we need to stop believing that telling them to change or getting angry with them will do anything but make things worse.  And we cannot just let them do what they are doing, because they probably will, and that is not just for the rest of the class, or good for our mental health, or even the student himself/herself. We need instead to see inside the student’s pattern and change that pattern. It may not be our fault that they have this pattern, but if we do not want it to be this way down the road, we need to do something purposeful, and well-conceived.  As Bluestien reminds us, “nothing changes until something changes.”


Examine the Negative Identity Cycle analysis below as we explore the situation of students such as this one together.


Changing the Negative-Identity Behavior Pattern of a Student


Students misbehave for many reasons (i.e., they are bored, repressed, displacing aggression, forgetful, or testing their power, etc.), and in the average class, most students will exhibit only occasional problematic behavior.  Most students see themselves trying to achieve success (i.e., perform successfully, win friends, achieve goals, etc.), using positive behavior (i.e., effort toward some positive goal, trying to do the right things, etc.).

            Occasionally a student will enter your class who has developed a pattern of anti-social behavior.  In these cases, if the problem is not organic (i.e., ADHD, a mental or emotional handicap), it is usually related to the student having developed a negative-identity pattern.  It could be said that for this student, it is better to be the “best worst” than a “no body” or a failure (e.g., the opposite of love is not hate but indifference). The negative-identify pattern is the result of the behavior modification cycle depicted below. 


                                                Student attempts negative behavior

1                                                                                                Others get upset

and give lots of attention

2                                      Student attempts positive behavior

Others’ language confirms

role.” Negative self-image develops

Others are not impressed

4Work is unfavorable in

comparison to others


3student chooses more

negative behavior



            The key to transforming a negative-identity cycle into a positive-identity cycle is to first, alter the system, and then second, to reconstruct it.  Let’s explore how a teacher could stop the cycle, and then replace the dysfunctional with functional behavior.

            A good starting point is the use of EXTINCTION at stage 1.  Extinction essentially refers to the removal of the reinforcement for the unwanted behavior.  The reinforcement that is motivating the student’s behavior is probably somewhat complex, but it likely includes teachers and students getting annoyed, laughing, being shocked, or giving pity after the student exhibits dysfunctional/inappropriate behavior.  Therefore, the worst thing that the teacher can do at this stage is to get upset and single the student out.  Instead, They should try to determine the reinforcing stimuli the student is attempting to achieve with their behavior and then go about removing that stimuli. However, depending on the strength of the previous behavioral reinforcement, be prepared for an extinction burst that may be significant (the student will exaggerate the behavior for a while when the reinforcement is removed).  Most efforts to change negative-identity patterns never get beyond the discomfort to the teacher and/or the class of an extinction burst.  But after the burst, the behavior will likely subside. The second equally important teacher behavior at stages 1 & 2 is to promote more positive behavior.  That means helping the student meet their basic needs especially competence and love/belonging.  In most cases, a sense of inadequacy is at the heart of this problem.

At stage 2, the most powerful reinforcement is going to come from peers.  It will not be easy, but the teachers needs to create an expectation that “in this class, we only encourage each other to act in ways that are positive for ourselves and for the class as a whole.”  This can be accomplished through the teacher’s encouraging language, modeling, and class meetings.  Recall the social learning model, consistency is critical in this effort.

At stage 3, it is critical that the student has explicit/written goals that they are working toward.  These goals should define behaviors that are within the student’s control that they want to exhibit each day (i.e., effort toward getting work done, appropriate behavior, treating others well, positive self-talk, etc.). The student needs to know them well and commit to them.  This is where the practice of SHAPING will be very critical.  The teacher needs to reinforce (i.e., recognize, note in assessments, reward, etc.) attempts by the student to achieve their goals of positive behavior even if they are not entirely successful.  If the teacher reinforces behavior that is close to that desired, the student will be able to build up to full goal achievement.  If the student experience failure and/or a lack of support toward his/her goals at any point they will no doubt revert to their trusty negative ID cycle behavior. And it should be emphasized that throughout the process the teacher needs to maintain a high degree of trust with the student. Broken trust can instantly derail the progress made.

At stage 4, and through out the cycle, it is essential that the teacher be absolutely intolerant of any labeling by peers or the student themselves that promotes a negative-identity (i.e., “In this class, there are no ‘bad kids’, ‘fools,’ ‘dumb kids’ ‘losers, ’failures,’ and especially no helpless victims.”). The student needs to trust their positive-identity. And it is not that big of a shift psychologically from being the “best worst” to the best at something useful.


Use of Reality Therapy


When examining students with problems that involve negative identity, anti-social and “mistaken goal” behavior (i.e., level II problems), it may be helpful to consider promoting more self-responsible thinking in the student. One good model for doing so comes from the work of William Glasser. His work in the area of “Reality Therapy” offers a useful set of steps to encourage helping students to make a commitment to more positive behavior. As opposed to models that assume change will come from increasing the level of consequences to the unwanted behavior, this model assumes that the solution comes from making the student responsible for changing their own behavior.


1.     Establish involvement with the student

The student needs to know that the teacher cares, can be trusted, and has their best interest in mind.  When a teacher takes an interest in a student, there is a greater opportunity to communicate intimately/authentically when the time comes. 


2.     Focus on the behavior

Determine what the problem is.  Help the student assess their own condition. Ask questions such as, “what do you think the problem is?” or “what happened?” But be careful not to fix blame or accuse.


3.     The student must accept responsibility for the behavior

Without assigning blame or shame, the teacher helps the student accept responsibility for their actions.  Do not accept excuses.  “Can you accept the responsibility for the choices that you made?”


4.     The student should evaluate the behavior

Ask the student if the behavior was helpful or hurtful? “What did it produce?”  Help the student analyze the situation. “What do you think just happened?”  “What will result if that interaction keeps happening?” “What will help you get what you want and be good for the rest of us?”


5.     Develop a plan

Collaboratively come up with a plan of action that can also act as a contract.  Have the student write it as much as is possible. 


6.     The student must make a commitment to following the plan

The student must show persistent effort toward their goal.  The behavior change will only occur to the degree that the student makes an internal commitment to it.  Keep the locus of control on the student.


7.     Follow up and follow through

If the plan is not working, it should be altered, and/or if the student does not meet their obligations the consequences written into the plan should be implemented.


Excuse and Responsibility Psychology


What excuses do

·         Shift causal attribution away from self (it is not my fault)

·         Protect self-image (I am not the kind of person who would . . .)


Excuses that don’t work (they make others feel angry and less respecting)

·         Internal (I could not find it)

·         Controllable (I ran out of time)

·         Intentional (I did not feel like going)


Excuses that work (they make people feel like they want to give you a break)

·         External (My mother wouldn’t let me leave the house).

·         Uncontrollable (an earthquake knocked out the power).

·         Unintentional (I got on the wrong bus by mistake).


Why people are motivated to make excuses

·         Impression management

·         Want to impress someone significant

·         Gap between real and ideal or imagined self


·         The situation calls for it

·         The teacher/parent acts as the judge of good and bad excuses

·         An excuse could improve the outcome.

·         Self-image is put in jeopardy by threat


Fostering Responsibility to decrease excuse making

·         Teach cause and effect - help students learn that actions have consequences and we can grow from our both successes and failures.

·         Be consistent with your management and how you deliver consequences.

·         Build-up self-esteem (competence, belonging, and especially internal LOC).

·         Eliminate the need for students to make excuses – don’t ask for them.

·         Eliminate the use of all blame. Blame is external and past oriented.  Responsibility is based on an internal LOC and future oriented.

·         Do not accept any “victim language.” Eliminate all learned helplessness.

·         Do not be the judge of good or bad excuses.