AN APPLICATION OF CANTER’S BEHAVIOR MANAGEMENT CYCLE
Rob’s Case: An Application of Canter’s Behaviour Management Cycle
Mrs. Greenfields has been teaching in the primary school for the past six years. She has experienced different challenges and tough moments with the children. As in any good classroom management, she knew that children’s disruptive behaviours are most often external manifestations of a deeper problem. Mrs. Greenfields has grown wise in her teaching profession to realize that she must not easily jump into conclusions whenever she encounters misbehaving children.
Here begins Mrs. Greenfield’s journey of inquiring into the case of Rob, an 8-year-old boy who had been labelled by everyone as Rob the Menace. This third grader has constantly shown signs of aggressive and rule-breaking behaviours, such as kicking the chair of the boy seated in front of him, giving odd excuses for not turning in his homework, and blurting out insulting statements directed towards any authority in the class, just to name a few.
Mrs. Greenfields admitted that Rob was a unique challenge she encountered in her entire years with managing primary classes. Mrs. Greenfields took time out to really get to know Rob better, know more his family members, and know even his close friends. She knew that she had to gather as many information as she can about Rob to truly understand the seemingly troubled boy.
Among the proactive steps that Mrs. Greenfields took was to read up on relevant literature to find out the best practices along this line of her concern. It was then that she encountered the book of Lee Canter, “Classroom Management for Academic Success.” Mrs. Greenfields believed that that was the kind of classroom management that she needed – to help Rob improve his behaviour and achieve academic success.
After learning the three steps of the Behaviour Management Cycle of Lee Canter, Mrs. Greenfields was willing to try it out with Rob, convinced that he is an inherently good boy who simply needs guidance and direction.
Step #1: Effectively communicate explicit directions
The first thing that Mrs. Greenfields did in dealing with the Rob Case is to have a heart-to-heart talk with the boy. She prepared for this chat time with Rob knowing that she somehow had to win his trust and confidence. She was careful not to appear intimidating that would make Rob put up a defence wall in the form of stubbornness. Mrs. Greenfields had to make the conscious effort to be like a kind and understanding mother whom Rob needed to be more present in his life.
In this phase of the behaviour management cycle, Mrs. Greenfields listed down three specific actions that she wanted Rob to eliminate from his list of attention-seeking antics. She talked to Rob about these three, and discussed with him how these actions of his affected the other members of the class. Kicking the chair of the boy seated in front of him was a sign of unkindness, speaking out insulting statements to the teacher was a sign of rudeness, and giving out odd excuses for not turning in his homework was a sign of disrespect and lying. Rob was made to understand that these behaviours are not the type a boy should have if he wanted to be accepted by his classmates and if he wanted to succeed in his studies.
When Mrs. Greenfields has established that Rob had realized the negative consequences of his behaviour, it was then that they agreed on what actions to take should Rob get into his naughty moves again. At hindsight, Mrs. Greenfields believed that this first step was crucial in successfully managing Rob’s behaviour. It paid off to prepare for that important heart-to-heart chat with an 8-year-old boy.
Step #2: Use behavioural narration
Three days had passed since Mrs. Greenfields and Rob sat down for a talk. She thought it worked because she saw some improvement in Rob’s conduct in the classroom. Mrs. Greenfields then thought that she must now be in the second phase of Canter’s behavioural management cycle. This phase is about giving supportive feedback to encourage the student to continue with what he is doing. Giving rewards in the form of verbal praise or simple tokens of recognition serves as signposts for the student to follow, assuring him that he is treading the right path.
After a week of behaving well and having received good feedback from Rob’s other teachers, Mrs. Greenfields approached Rob one day and gave him a pat on the back. She praised him for his observable good behaviour and gave him a thumbs-up. Rob’s eyes brightened up, obviously cherished the new feeling of being praised by his teacher. He thanked Mrs. Greenfields and gave her a reassuring smile that he was enjoying behaving well.
As more days passed, good behaviour seemed to come to Rob more naturally. He was starting to become more pleasant with his classmates, more kind and respectful to teachers, and efforts to turn in his homework were more visible. Mrs. Greenfields reinforced Rob’s behaviour through constant verbal feedback and little rewards. She also showed him signs of trust by giving him little responsibilities in the classroom. She wanted to send the message to Rob that being trusted is actually a privilege that is earned.
Though their ideal academic grade for Rob has not been attained, Mrs. Greenfields knew that it was not too far-fetched anymore. Rob’s behaviour has significantly improved, his disposition towards his peers has changed, and his attitude towards learning in class has taken a positive turn. This is an accomplishment that Mrs. Greenfields valued a lot.
Step #3: Take corrective action
As Mrs. Greenfields learned from her readings, the third phase of Canter’s behaviour management cycle is taking corrective actions when necessary. During their meaningful chat, Mrs. Greenfields and Rob discussed and agreed upon the corrective actions they will resort to once Rob fails to comply with what they have talked about. It was clear to both of them that among the corrective actions to be taken are sending a note of information to Rob’s parents, giving him a time out from the class, and sending him to have a talk with the Principal. Though Mrs. Greenfields would rather not resort to these actions, she knew that she had to be firm in setting the rules. She knew that Rob had to see her seriousness in their endeavour of managing his behaviour. And above all, she wanted Rob to feel that they are partners in the challenge of behaviour change. Rob had to be interested in changing and really work towards it.
Thanks to the rapport that was built between them during their heart-to-heart talk, Mrs. Greenfields had to resort to a verbal warning only once. And Rob got the message straight away and never again failed to constantly and consistently work uphill towards improving his behaviour and consequently, his grades started increasing as well.
This experience of Mrs. Greenfields taught her a great lesson. Children, especially those at a tender age like Rob, are not necessarily bad as labels given them say. Oftentimes, children who exhibit disruptive behaviours lack the guidance they need to be able to manage their behaviour by themselves. Teachers need to take time out to look into the unique cases of these children and find out the root of the problem. Only then can interventions effectively work.
Mrs. Greenfields realized that had Rob been understood at an earlier stage, he would not have gone through the difficulty of hearing his peers call him Rob the Menace. The behaviour management cycle of Lee Canter helped her handle Rob. She understood him better, made him realize the consequences of his actions, and made him have the desire to change his behaviour. Young as Rob may be, it is important for him to want to improve his behaviour. Discipline, when forced from an external agent, will not last long. Real discipline must be assertive both from external authority and from within the person himself.
Teaching in the primary years is not as simple as transferring to the students what the teacher knows. Teaching is neither policing nor dictating to the children what is right and what is wrong. Real teaching, especially in the primary years, means guiding students to grow into productive, responsible, and acceptable members of society. Any dedicated and committed teacher takes his task of behaviour management seriously and professionally. Using Lee Canter’s behaviour management cycle is proven to be an effective and positive approach to address any classroom misbehaviour.
The first step entails clearly communicating explicit directions to the students. The second step is to use behavioural narration which entails give supportive feedback in order to encourage the students to go on with their efforts towards good behaviour, and the third step is to take corrective actions whenever necessary.
When these steps are implemented deliberately and with genuine concern that stems from the caring heart of the teacher, there is greater assurance that the students’ well-managed behaviour will eventually lead them to success in academics and in their community life.
Behaviour management is an essential component of a teacher’s task. But the key to its success is building the child’s intrinsic motivation to manage his own self and be truly empowered in his choice of actions.
Canter, L. (2005). Classroom management for academic success. Bloomington,IN: Solution Tree