The Life Changing Classroom Magic of Positive Framing

How to Become Everyone'sFavorite _Strict_ Teacher

Teachers, welcome to the start of August!  If you’re anything like the three of us, this is the time when your mind is racing with new ideas and your heart is inspired by all of the possibilities of the new year. You’re feverishly scanning Pinterest and looting the Target Dollar Spot as often as possible. Well, just as important as planning for your physical space, this is the time to be asking yourself, “How can I be more consistent this year?” I’ve been fortunate to spend time in many classrooms as an Instructional Coach and I have collected some ideas to support you in being more consistent.

Decide on your three non-negotiable expectations. This is definitely not an original concept, but it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of re-designing your room or teaching a new curriculum and forget about the basics. Whether you are a brand-new teacher making your expectations for the first time or a seasoned veteran hoping to reflect and improve for next time, this process is definitely worth doing.

First thing, brainstorm your biggest student behavior pet peeves. For some, that is cell phone usage. For others, it’s students talking at the wrong times. For me, it was students not using academic vocabulary and complete sentences. Note: If your school really pushes for students tucking in their shirts, but you don’t have time for that, then don’t write it down!  Of course, you’ll enforce the rules, but that particular rule probably won’t make it on the non-negotiable list.

Before we keep going, let’s talk about what “non-negotiable” means. Non-negotiable expectations are your no exceptions, die-on-the-cross expectations for your students. Picture in your mind tears running down a student’s face, weeping, pleading for you to make an exception for him or her just this one time. And then picture yourself staying firm and following through. This is what I mean by non-negotiable. It means that you have been so thoughtful in choosing these expectations that when you are faced with the most gut-wrenching, guilt-producing scenario, you will feel justified in staying strong and you will not waver.

So now, we have brainstormed all of the behaviors that get under your skin during the year. Narrow down your list to three rules that will fix those behaviors. I am going to show you an example thought process below.

Example list:

  1. No cell phones.
  2. No talking when another person is talking.
  3. No coming late to class.

What do you notice about this list?  All I see is no, no, no!  Sure, you have addressed your three biggest pet-peeves, but you have not given your students a replacement behavior. Let’s try again.

Example List Revised:

  1. Cell phones silent and out of sight.
  2. Talk during CHAMPS yellow or green only.
  3. Be on time to class every day.

If you frame your expectations in a positive way, your students will know what is expected of them. For example, I observed a teacher that had not realized the power of positive framing. He would point at one student in particular and say, “You never come prepared. It is going to hurt your grade.”  Not only did these threats not solve the problem of the student coming unprepared, it also took a jackhammer to the student/teacher relationship. The message heard by the student was “He doesn’t think I’m smart enough to do this work and he is going to punish me for it.”  Luckily, this same teacher embraced positive framing and started praising the students that did do the work instead of singling out that one unprepared student. He also set up a parent conference to try to help that one student get back on track. His entire mindset shifted from noticing all of the misbehaviors to celebrating the many successes in his class.

Positive framing reminds you as the teacher to focus on the students doing the correct behavior, instead of zeroing in on the students that are misbehaving. Doug Lemov author of Teach Like a Champion reminds us, “This eliminates those students that misbehave because they are striving to get attention. The bad behavior is almost ignored and only the good behavior is recognized so that the other students notice only the good behavior and pay less attention to the bad behavior.” You will be shocked at how firm you can be with your expectations, while also maintaining a safe and nurturing classroom culture. And you just might hear those magic words from a student, “My teacher is really strict. I love my teacher.”

Try my free resource called The Power of Positive Framing.  Click here to download it.

You deserve to make your teacher heart happy every day,


Hear more from Lauren!  Follow her @laurencoaching on Twitter

Use these worksheets to bring positive role models into your classroom and help your 5th-8th graders develop a stronger attitude of Growth Mindset!

Read about how Sarah uses role models to change student’s lives in the classroom here

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