A huge factor of both teacher and administrator job dissatisfaction— we would even say the bane of our existences— is challenging student behaviors. According to the Primary Sources: 2012 report, more than half of teachers wish they could spend less time disciplining students throughout the day. Time spent disciplining students takes away from the primary reasons many of us went into teaching: to help kids learn and grow.

While we know behaviors are problematic, many educators continue to try the same tactics they have always tried, expecting it to work with an ever-changing student population. As Albert Einstein famously stated, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” Once we recognize that students need coaching around behaviors and not ‘carrot and stick’ systems, we can truly see results. Restorative practices, on the other hand, help students develop the necessary compassion and empathy for others that is needed to truly grow. We are not born with emotional intelligence. Empathetic students are less likely to engage in problem behaviors and are more likely to be leaders.

At school, children have different experiences based on temperament. Research has found, for example, children with low self-control to exhibit poorer work habits than children with higher self-control (Rimm-Kaufman, Curby, Grimm, Nathanson, & Brock, 2009). As a result of these factors, research by Duckworth and Seligman (2005) found self-discipline to be a better predictor of academic performance than IQ.

The relationship between academic and behavior problems is a long recognized phenomenon (Alexander, Entwisle, & Horsey, 1997; Hinshaw, 1992). In their meta-analysis, Maguin and Loeber (1996) found that poor academic performance appears to be related to frequency, persistence, and seriousness of delinquent activity. A more recent study (Joffe & Black, 2012) revealed that those with low academic performance had significantly greater social, emotional, and behavioral difficulties. Educators can clearly see this in their schools and classrooms, yet we continually try to add more rigor to academic instruction without always trying to work on the barriers that many of our students have to reaching academic success.

While many kids need help with their social and emotional skills, one of the worst things we can do for a child is lower our expectations because we feel bad or sorry for them. Instead, have high expectations for them and give them the additional supports and scaffolds needed to get there. High expectations are needed for ALL. Be who kids need you to be, which can be different for each child. We can complain about what parents didn't instill in them, or we can change their trajectory.

BehaviorFlip helps measure behavioral, social-emotional skills, and more to give real-time coaching and interventions. Oftentimes, we do not have data on the kids that need help with these skills the most. The only data we tend to have is academic data, but not the ‘why’ behind it. We, as educators, need to focus on coaching, culture, and data to help students grow socially, emotionally, and behaviorally--opening doorways and removing barriers for academic growth and college and career readiness.

For more strategies and resources on how to create lasting change in your school and/or classroom, please check out our new book, HACKING SCHOOL DISCIPLINE: 9 Ways to Create a Culture of Empathy & Responsibility Using Restorative Justice. Also, be sure to check out our revolutionary behavior management system, BehaviorFlip, that combines the best of restorative practices, PBIS, & MTSS to help build a culture of empathy, responsibility, & growth mindset!

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