Countering the Spring Struggle

Cross Country Education
March 11, 2022 01:08 AM (GMT-04:00)
Educator Resources

As spring begins to blossom, the season that brings us May flowers also delivers a downpour of unwanted classroom behaviors. If you find the months of January, February, and March to be amongst the most difficult behaviorally, then you are not alone. Based on an extensive research study done at the University of Oregon, elementary, middle, and high schools, all see an increase in office discipline referrals between the months of January and March1. But as an educator, what can you do to calm this Spring storm we call the second semester?

First, we recommend starting with a hard reset by revisiting norms and expectations. Coming back to norms and expectations now can save you and your students from what we are referring to as the Spring Struggle. The middle of the school year might be the most academically demanding, so the causes for stress are certainly understandable. Nevertheless, taking the time to reiterate how a successful class acts, looks, and sounds can make the remainder of the school year more impactful, efficient, and enjoyable for everyone involved.

Tips & Strategies

  • Norms should be COLLABORATIVE, as students need to have a say in how the classroom culture is built
  • DISPLAY norms, expectations, or rules in the classroom, as a non-verbal reference
  • MODEL and/or have students model expected behaviors
  • Be CONSISTENT yet UNDERSTANDING, so that getting to know your students allows you to show empathy without lowering expectations

Second, we advocate for using positivity to help your classroom culture bloom. Consistently praising the positive has been found to increase student’s on-task behavior.² We recommend using positive praise that is authentic, specific, appropriate, and immediate. Ideally, your ratio of positive statements to corrective statements should be around 4:1.

Types of Statements:

  • Positive Statements 
    • “I love how you found a way to work with a new group.”
    • “Wonderful job transitioning quietly to our next activity.”
    • “Thank you for sharing your charger with your classmate.”
  • Corrective Statements 
    • “Please find a new group of students to work with.”
    • “Walk silently in the hallway.”
    • “Bring your charger from home, so this doesn’t happen again.”  

While the differences of these statements aren’t drastic, it’s clear that the positive statements promote the value of collaboration, and more importantly, highlight the expectations and behaviors that you want all students to exhibit.

Third, we suggest taking the time to build positive relationships with your students, so that you can better understand them. This can help your student’s overall wellbeing and allow you to find the root cause of a behavior. All behavior is a form of communication. Uncovering what your students are attempting to communicate, and why, can be a powerful tool to mitigate unwanted behaviors. Research suggests that “the qualities of the teacher-student relationship predict children's successful school adjustment. Having a relationship with a teacher characterized by warmth, trust, and low degrees of conflict was associated with positive school outcomes.”³ Furthermore, positive relationship building not only has an impact on the behavioral health of your classroom, but it has also been shown to help students grow academically.

Finally, “in recent years, a number of teacher professional development programs have shown a positive impact on teacher-student relationships.”⁴ In an effort to help your students flourish, we have shared some resources below and encourage you to follow Cross Country Education on social media to find out more about our virtual trainings, designed for educators.




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