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After months of interrupted learning, inconsistent peer-to-peer interactions, and collective trauma, many students are — understandably — struggling to cope. Since reopening their doors in the fall, many schools across the nation have reported an uptick in anxiety, depression, and disruptive student behaviors. In fact, over two-thirds (68%) of teachers surveyed by TpT say their students’ behavior in the classroom is either slightly worse or much worse this school year. 

All of this just underscores how much support students need right now. As schools look to make changes to support their students, teachers are ready to offer solutions. In the State of Education Report, TpT surveyed thousands of educators to understand their top concerns and how to address them — including how school leaders can improve behavior and provide more schoolwide support for students. Here are a few recommendations from the report that school leaders can think about as they put their own plans in place.

Providing schoolwide positive behavior support allows educators to create a predictable, safe, and positive environment where students can learn, grow, and flourish. Check out these best practices from TpT’s State of Education Report — recommended by teachers — to support positive student behavior.

1. Integrate social-emotional learning in lessons.

While social-emotional learning (SEL) was a well-known practice before the pandemic, its implementation wasn’t considered integral to everyday instruction. But now, as educators and students grapple with the mental health consequences brought on by the pandemic, it’s turning into a cornerstone of the curriculum.

However, as school leaders look to prioritize SEL programs as a part of their curriculum, one question keeps popping up: How can educators incorporate SEL with an already a full to-do list? Some teachers are starting the day with a community circle. Many are creating calming spaces in their classrooms while utilizing check-ins, read a-louds, collaborative exercises, and journaling. Teachers, counselors, and social workers are also explicitly teaching students vocabulary to identify feelings and regulate their emotions. 

FURTHER READING: Strategies for Integrating SEL Activities into the Classroom

2. Encourage more family-school interaction. 

While communicating with parents can feel daunting on top of everything else that’s on educators’ plates, these partnerships are invaluable in supporting positive student behavior. In fact, studies show that parental involvement can not only lead to higher grades, but also decreased behavioral problems in the classroom. 

As a first step, schools can work to create welcoming environments, establish strong communication systems, and provide clear information on student progress with plans that families can then reinforce at home. Frequent, two-way communication allows school leaders and educators alike to share updates, while also giving families the opportunity to surface unmet needs or problems and co-create solutions. 

Engaging families in a culturally responsive way is also key – especially with those who experience poverty, are historically underserved, or are linguistically diverse. Consider how you might intentionally remove barriers to family engagement, like providing translators, childcare, and meals at school events.

FURTHER READING: Checklist for Checking In: Ways to Connect with Caregivers

3. Establish routines and clearly communicate them.

In addition to directly supporting social-emotional development and engaging families, teachers also highlighted a root cause of disruptive student behaviors: interrupted learning. Research shows that students thrive with fewer interruptions in their daily routine, but learning throughout the pandemic was unfortunately everything but predictable.

Establishing routine and clear expectations can create a sense of stability and predictability that will ultimately support positive student behavior. Consider how to get the whole school on the same page by establishing a continuum of strategies that can be implemented across the board. For example, one component of every class could be that teachers hold a morning meeting. With this in place, now everyone has a similar baseline for classroom management. Commonly-shared techniques are the foundation by which everyone in the school can set behavior expectations, reinforce positive behaviors, and discourage rule-breaking behavior.

While school-wide systems of behavioral support vary depending on the needs and circumstances of the school, these best practices can serve as a starting point to help all students re-learn positive classroom behavior and adjust back to in-person instruction. For more actionable takeaways around supporting positive student behavior — and other top concerns — download the full State of Education Report by TpT.

More than two-thirds of teachers with TpT School Access subscriptions agree that it helps them spend more time focused on supporting their students. Learn more.

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