Expectation Corrections (Ep. 177)

Classroom management is pivotal to having a successful classroom, but teachers don’t always realize its importance when it comes to teaching art. In today’s episode, Nic talks about her struggles as students return to in-person learning. Listen as she discusses resetting rules, re-establishing routines, and expectation corrections. Full Episode Transcript Below.

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Nic: Classroom management is one of those things that is absolutely pivotal to having a successful classroom. We don’t know that when we enter the classroom. We know that we’re going to teach kids art. It’s our passion. We love it. We love children. We know that we’re going to make a difference, but we may not understand the importance of classroom management in order to make all of that happen.

On top of this, when you are trying to get a black and white how do you do this answer, there’s a million right answers. Classroom management has to both match the population that you’re working with as well as the person you are. This is Everyday Art Room. And I’m your host, Nic Hahn.

Today, we’re going to just talk about how to start your classroom off right at the very start of the year. Wait a minute. It’s February, and this might sound like I’m telling you this information at the wrong time of the year, but I’m not. It’s extremely intentional. See, I know that our friends in Australia or different parts of the world are actually starting their new school year right now. So this is for you, but this is also for all of my American friends because I know that you have been in and out of school. Every single day’s a new day, a new week with new rules. The reason I know this is because this is my life too. And when we are in and out of our classroom over and over and over, we need to treat that coming back in person as the first day of school, or so I have learned the last couple of weeks.

See, for Minnesota in the last two weeks, we invited our kindergarten first grade and second grade back into the classroom. The rest of our third, fourth and fifth graders are still learning online. February 1st marked the day that third, fourth, and fifth grade returned to the classroom. I learned from my younger students coming back, that it is critical to treat this as the first day of school. Now students have been able to come in and I’ve said, “Go to your seats,” and they remember where they are. That’s awesome. I don’t have to cover that. I don’t have to give a seating chart.

But beyond that, they kind of forgot everything. They forgot the content right now. They forgot just how to behave in school, how to interact with people. With any classroom at any time of the year, being a good student is going to be critical to learning things beyond that. So of course we’re talking about following directions and then teachers then want to create this amazing relationship between them and the students, make them feel safe in their environment.

And in order to do that, there has to be some classroom management. They have to be able to come into the classroom and know, “Here are the expectations. Here are my parameters. This is what I can expect when I walk into this classroom. And I know I’m going to see that face up in the front of the room.” Once you have established that, kids are finally able to learn.

So with my fourth and fifth, especially my fifth grade right now, when they came back into the classroom, I had heard from other my other colleagues. So music would see a group prior to me and I’d see a group prior to them. And then we’d have a quick discussion. How did it go? How did it go in your classroom? And the discussion was similar in both of our areas. Ooh, we got to hit that classroom management again.

At this point of the year, we are halfway through the school year or a little bit past that. And my fifth graders are closer to sixth graders. They’re not elementary students mentally anymore. We have the silly sixth-grade boy thing going on. We have the chatty little girl thing going on. These are clearly middle schoolers in the elementary setting. I know because I taught middle school for many years. So instead of just rocking forward as I would for my elementary students, I decided to change my classroom management for them to something I had used in the middle school previously. This tool that I used was so successful that after developing it in my classroom, and I believe I’m going to put myself out there and say it was through the Art of Education class, probably classroom management, that helped focus my attention to the importance of classroom management and developing what I’m going to call an expectation correction.

So taking that class allowed me to work on my classroom and create a really amazing document, at least something that worked well for me to use in my classroom. It was so successful that my husband, who was also working in the middle school in the Tech Ed department or the shop department, also took and started using these expectation corrections. And his colleague was like, “I want some of that.” So he grabbed them and then our Health department and our Foreign Language and all of the Allieds, we call them in the middle school or the specialist or the electives, whatever you want to call them, we all started using these expectation corrections.

Okay. So let’s talk about what this is. An expectation correction is a piece of paper that I developed. It’s a fourth sheet of paper. So it’s a small piece of paper that has this at the top. It says first name, last name, date, teacher. So for me, I have students coming to me in classrooms, but in the middle school I had hour, instead of, so they had to write the hour that they had me, the section that they’re in. Then beyond that, it says four words: productive, respectful, responsible, and safety. We’ll get back to that in just a moment.

Beyond that, it says, “Please explain what you were doing.” It gives a little space for writing a sentence or two, and then the final thing at the bottom of the expectation question and says, “Next morning in this class period, you will be going down to…” At the elementary level, we call this the reflection room. It can be called whatever, detention. It can be called the office. Whatever it is in your school, it’s the place that takes them out of the environment that they’re in and to kind of work on behavior, maybe contacting parents, that sort of thing.

Okay. So let’s go back to the forwards. That is that’s productivity, responsibility, respect, and safety. With the Art of Education’s class, classroom management, one of the things that we had to just really focus on is developing and simplifying the rules of the classroom. These four words were the rules of my classroom. So as I’m presenting this to my middle schoolers, I’m breaking that down.

Productive, what does that mean? I have a slide that I show them about productive, and I have to recreate this for my elementary, but I’m going to have that actual word with the definition for my classroom underneath it so that they will know what that word means or remember what that word means. In my classroom, productive means you’re working. When you’re asked to work, you are doing the job that you’re asked to be doing. Your hand is moving majority of the time. You might be having conversation as long as you’re able to balance that work conversation technique and you’re focused. You’re doing your job in our, we call it studio time when it comes to our concepts or the grading that we do. We call this studio time. So productive. Are you being productive?

Then we talk about respect. And basically I have three big ones under that. Respect yourself, respect others, and respect the materials. We break this down even more as I’m introducing, and this can be either introducing from my voice to their ears, or it can be, what do you think it means to have respect? What does it mean to respect others? Well, that’s an easy one. Kids often can say, “Saying kind words, being nice, not talking bad to others.” They can come up with that. When I say the second one, what does it look like to respect yourself to be kind to yourself?” That’s usually where I get crickets.

What do you mean be kind to myself? Well, it means just this. If students say things like “I’m a terrible artist, I can’t do this,” and they verbalize those words, especially verbalizing them, their brain is going to start believing that they’re not an artist. If their words do a mind set or like a shift to the positive and they start saying things like, “This is hard. This is going to take me a lot of practice” or “Ooh, not exactly what I thought it would look like, but I’m okay with that. I can move on or I can keep working on it,” when I tell them and give those words and changes, my hope is that their brain will start actually believing that. I might be an artist or I’m a developing artist. Being kind to yourself is super important in my classroom. You can’t make fun of others and you can’t make fun of yourself.

And then in the art classroom, of course we say be kind, be respectful to the materials that you’re using. Well, this is important too. In the art classroom, we use a ton of materials and we’re using new processes, new materials. We might be drawing one day and the next day we’re printmaking. Students need to know the safety of all the tools that they’re using, but they also need to be respectful because other students are using them as well.

So a classic one that I give is when you have any eraser of mine, please don’t poke it. Don’t put your pencil in it, right? Because that eraser is going to be used by someone else in the future. Please, please don’t poke the erasers. Why is this such a thing? Buy your own eraser to poke, but they only want to poke my erasers, I’m telling you.

And then we move on to responsibility. So again, I’m talking with them about what responsibility looks like. When you come in and your setting up your workspace, what is a responsible workspace look like? Does it clutter up someone else’s area next to me? Now we want to keep it nice and contained. When I’m saying it’s time to manage your time, it’s time to clean up, are you being responsible to look around, look on the ground, pick up your area, pick up your space in a timely manner? Are you listening to listening to me when I’m asking you to do so? We talk about responsibility. What does it look like in my classroom? And then last we talk about safety.

And in the middle school, I give them a huge story about how I cut my finger on the paper cutter. If you want to hear more about that particular story, I have a previous recording. It’s a little gory, so I’m not going to get into this, but I actually cut my finger on a big giant paper cutter once upon a time. So in the middle school, I take a long time to tell them that story, because if I have learned anything, kids really enjoy a story, one from a book, but they even like a better story if you’re telling a story about yourself from the past, and if it’s very entertaining in the way that you’re telling it. That story involves blood and gore as well as romance.

So in the middle school, that’s kind of the direction that I would take it. But I only had an hour with this fifth grade. So instead I talked about safety, using your scissors correctly, cutting away from your body, not cutting towards other people, being kind that way. But also safety means even more. When you walk into this classroom, I want to make sure that your peers feel safe, that your peers know that this is a safe environment, that they can count on walking in here and not having to worry about getting picked on for their art or even who they are. There’s nothing, no bullying that can be allowed in a classroom. You have to have to maintain a safe environment for yourself and for your students.

After going through these four different rules, having them posted, showing a slide show, whatever your style is, I talk about the next part, which is called, please explain what you are doing. Okay. So this slip is explained as a way to help communicate between me and you, this fifth-grade student. I want to make sure that you know when you’re not doing the expectations I’m hoping for in this classroom. The first time I always give you a verbal warning. So I’m going to tell you with my words, “Hey, can you bring it back down again? You’re having a lot of conversation. You’re not being very productive.” I start using those four words on a regular basis so that students start understanding what does productivity look like for me?

The second option, and this is maybe very quiet in the way that I do this, but if I notice, let’s say that same scenario again, I asked you to concentrate on your work, you’re not being productive and you continue to talk, I will just hand you an expectation correction. So this can be very quiet between me and another student. If it’s in front of the other classmates, student is acting out on the carpet, kind of trying to draw all the attention and they’re winning, and the students are watching them instead of me when I have instruction to give, I might hand that expectation correction to them straight out right in front of the class. This lets both the student know that I’m unhappy with the behavior, but it also tells the rest of the school, the rest of the class, “Hey, I mean business. If you’re not doing your job, you need to take a break.”

So I do use both methods, and that might not fit into your style. And that’s okay. That’s why I said there are a million different ways to do this, a million different ways to find a good balance between your personality and classroom management. This is just mine.

Once I hand that expectation correction to the student, they have been trained or asked or whatever you want to call it to go outside the classroom. So I have a space outside that I’m developing for this middle school group, or I’m sorry, this budding middle-school group, this fifth-grade group that has a couple of clipboards with pens on them, attached with a string. And then I have the same words, the productivity, the respect, the responsibility, the safety with a few words underneath each of them, what they mean. So a student is required to go outside and actually reflect on what the problem was. They’re going to take that clipboard, use the pen. They’re going to write about issue. Their ticket back inside the classroom is to hand this to me.

Now, many times I will look at the expectation correction and I’ll go, “Absolutely. Productivity was the problem. You were talking. Let’s change that. Thanks. I can’t wait to see what you’re making in art class.” So it gives us two seconds to have this communication of yep, you knew what you were doing and now we need to change it. I’m excited to have you in my class.

Or this has happened as well. I’ve gotten responses of, “I wasn’t even doing anything. I was helping my friend.” Okay. So now we have a new conversation to have. When that expectation correction is turned into my hand, I can quickly say, “What do you mean you were helping a friend? Tell me more about that.” So I can inquire with that student. Tell me what you were doing. What were you asked to do? How did this fit in? How did I see this wrong? How are you seeing this wrong? We can have this conversation together. If it is deemed that yes, indeed, the student was simply helping a friend, I will say, “Thank you for explaining that. Fold up the expectation correction and rip it up.” So it’s a way for us to have this communication and to give that space to the student to actually explain their point of view. Majority of the time students are finding ownership and what their behavior was.

I hold onto these slips. When you have 150 students coming through your door in a day, it can be very hard to remember who did what, when. So these expectation corrections helped me out to organize. Oh yeah, right. I did have to talk to A, B and C when they were in my classroom. It comes to conference time. I can just pull out my piece of paper that has the expectation corrections in it. And I can say, “Yep. I did have to talk to your child this many times this trimester,” or I can do that in an email, however, I’m communicating to parents or the classroom teacher. So these are so, so helpful.

They also help me when I move on to the next step. So now a student continues to talk at their table. They are just having a bad day. And frankly, they just want to get out of my classroom. Maybe this happens to you once in awhile. So I’ll walk over to the student and I’ll say, “Hey, I’ve given you a verbal warning. You filled out an expectation correction. You’re still doing the behavior. I’m going to ask you to go down to the office. I’m going to ask you to go to the reflection room.” So that is the final straw. Three warnings, you’re out. They leave the classroom.

Now this can be probably the hardest thing for some individuals to do, some teachers to do for their students, because you want these children in your classroom. You know their background. You know such and such child is dealing with whatever at home. You get that. And because we are compassionate people, we don’t want to punish them for outside events possibly. But here’s the deal, guys. You also have 25, 35, 40 other kids in your class that need to learn as well. So by giving that student the permission to leave the classroom will allow you to put your focus back into other students in your classroom. It doesn’t mean that you’re rejecting that child. It means tomorrow you try it again. Today, it’s not working.

So it is okay to ask your students to have this consequence of a verbal one is absolutely perfect to start out with. But having this written expectation correction is extremely important for my classroom because it creates this open dialogue between me and the student. It’s a piece of documentation that allows me to stay organized. And it just allows students to be where they need to be. If they need to be in my classroom for the day, they can change their behavior. If they really just need to get out, I can push my button one more time. And that is the button to exit the classroom.

When I’m giving these expectation corrections, when I’m giving the examples that I just explained to you, my voice is calm. My voice is loving. My eyes, because I’m masked up the whole time, are telling them, “Hey, we make these mistakes. It’s okay. I’ll see you next time.” So this is one method that I like to use in my classroom. It was really, really successful in my middle school setting. And in my elementary setting, I’ve explained it to a couple of my other colleagues. And I think we’ll end up probably all using these for fifth grade to be consistent. They really liked them as well. This is just one method. Like I said, you have to find what works for you and your classroom.

Throughout this podcast, I also mentioned that the Art of Education has courses on classroom management. They have articles on classroom management. If this was not the method for you that you want to implement into your classroom, but you’re struggling with classroom management, turn to the Art of Education University. We have plenty of ideas from many different personalities, from many different personalities. That is the important thing about the Art of Education University. We have over a hundred employees right now. So there is going to be someone who aligns with your thought, your theory, your population of students that you’re working with, research what we have for you. You’re going to find something that will benefit your classroom.

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.