Education allows students to navigate power systems and decide how to participate as a citizen of the world (Hammond & Jackson, 2015). This learning occurs when students pay attention, feel challenged, and connect to their culture and community (Hammond & Jackson, 2015). As such, teachers must utilize effective classroom management and hold students accountable for their behavior.
Culturally responsive classroom management (CRCM) challenges teachers to reflect on their privilege, encourage the power of student voice, and recognize when traditional classroom management conflicts with students’ cultures (Weinstein, Tomlinson-Clarke, & Curran, 2004). This paper has three primary goals. First, it explains how, through CRCM, teachers create equitable classrooms using precise directions and positive narration, instead of subjective bias. Second, it describes how teachers foster positive student behavior and personal responsibility through reward and consequence systems (Weinstein et al., 2004). Finally, it illustrates how teachers must create a classroom of care for their most challenging students (Weinstein et al., 2004).
Precise Directions and Positive Narration
CRCM is essential because an equitable classroom begins with precise directions and positive narration. Precise directions give students a clear idea of the expectations during an assignment and how to be successful at it. Furthermore, they minimize the possibility of students’ misinterpretation and a teacher’s biased response. My mentor teacher delivers six precise directions at the start of each class by stating: students line up along the hallway wall; when I release you, enter the class at a level one voice; take a direct route to sit in your seat; open your computer to begin today’s catalyst; work in your seat for five minutes at a level 0 voice; if you do not follow directions, you will be told to do it again. Furthermore, any interpretable directions were discussed and presented to the class at the beginning of the year. These precise directions have set in place the beginning of the class routine and allow the students to know exactly what is needed to receive participation points (Salazar & Lerner, 2019).
Positive narration after a student has followed precise directions builds students self-confidence, reinforces behavior that is needed for learning, and allows students to know their teacher is noticing them and caring about their success. My mentor teacher delivers positive narration during times of classroom transition by, first counting down from three to get attention, then thanking each student who has arrived at voice level zero and put their eyes on him. Every time he does this, the student responds with a smile on their face, realizes the teacher has noticed them, and transition times minimize (Salazar & Lerner, 2019).
Consequence and Reward Ladder
This section presents the use of two distinct individual reward and consequence systems by Beacon Network Schools (BNS), LiveSchool and In-Class Behavioral Support. LiveSchool designates students points for exhibiting the five BNS character traits: curiosity, integrity, kindness, leadership, and perseverance. Furthermore, students lose points for being tardy, wearing an improper uniform, or not bringing their school ID to class. Students have access to LiveSchool to track their points and can use them to purchase privileges.
When a student veers from the agreed-upon norms, teachers implement In-Class Behavioral Support. First, teachers use a nonverbal cue to engage the student. Second, the teacher individually consults with the student about their behavior. Following, the teacher will send the student to the back of the room for a five-minute reflection break. After the break, the teacher must conference with the student. If the student’s behavior reignites, the teacher refers the student to the Student Center. Last, the teacher that gave the referral must have a restorative conversation with the student by the end of the day.
The reward system of LiveSchool signifies to students their positive character traits, but it appears subjective. On the other hand, the consequence systems of LiveSchool and In-Class Behavioral Support follow CRCM by creating a predictable and proactive management system (Salazar & Lerner, 2019). Students know explicitly what actions will lose them points and what behavior will elicit consequences. Most students respond well to these systems and use them as personal motivators to adapt and focus their actions on learning. However, a small percentage of students respond to them detrimentally.
Teachers must approach students with care and specific positive affirmations when working alongside the percentage who are not motivated by classroom management ladders. Weinstein et al. (2004) demonstrate that, if youth do not feel cared about, they cannot care about school. This section presents how CRCM shapes my short term and long term steps to student behavioral improvement.
The steps I use for in-the-moment improvement get delivered as stated: I approach the student and kneel next to them; I ask, “How are you doing today?” and engage in active listening; I express the quality of their voice and display no intention of removing this ability; I point out how their current behavior is negatively impacting their classmates and their community power, not the individuals they wish to defy; I end by asking the student if they understand my explanation, if they will allow their classmates and themselves to gain access to power, and if they are open to working as a team in developing effective ways to disturb the intended target in unjust systems?
In a follow-up conversation, the student and I discuss the long term benefit of formulating their voice, alongside their community, to shape systems. I ask the student if their actions achieve their intended result and if their actions ever put them in harm. I express my care for their safety and their learning. I push them to think critically about ways we can work together on their defiance, and I inform them I will create access to understand the functioning of systems of power. I ask if we can agree to me holding them accountable when their behavior is disrupting the unintended target, I inform them I will answer their pushback and questions as honestly as I can and last, I tell them I will always be there for them.
This approach utilizes four essential components of CRCM. First, it acknowledges the unjust set up of systems (Weinstein et al., 2004). Second, it supports student voice in a broader social and political context (Weinstein et al., 2004). Third, the student understands that the teacher still holds them to high expectations (Salazar & Lerner, 2019). Fourth, it creates a classroom of caring, where the student feels the teacher’s care, and classmates care about each other (Weinstein et al., 2004).
This paper has presented three CRCM teaching techniques that engage students in learning, develop them as citizens, and create an equitable and excellent classroom (Salazar & Lerner, 2019). First, precise directions and positive narration minimize teachers implicit bias. Second, reward and consequence ladders set up students to engage attentively and become personally responsible for their learning. Last, a caring classroom builds rapport with the most challenging students by acknowledging their voice and developing a sense of collectivism. Based on CRCM’s ability to create equitable classrooms, it becomes a teacher’s duty to utilize CRCM in order to be a contributor to an equitable world.