Classroom Management Strategies: Positive Framing

If you’re struggling right now with classroom management, it’s very likely that you’re also struggling with your mindset about your job or your students or both. Again, I’m going to have to be the one to come in with the unfortunate news: you’re going to have to change your attitude before you start to see changes in the classroom.

Sure it would be great to stop having problems in the classroom, and to improve your attitude after that, but that’s going to take some time. Your attitude, on the other hand, can be fixed before tomorrow. Henry Ford famously said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.” This quote honestly gets on my nerves. It’s the last thing I want to hear when I’m fully absorbed in my defeatist attitude, but you must admit he has a point.

Trust me, I know how hard it is. I’ve spent sleepless nights dreading the horrors that tomorrow’s classroom would likely bring me. We’ve all had the “disaster at school” dreams. Rather than counting the infinite number of ways that tomorrow could turn out badly, I finally forced myself to start using positive framing, or the practice of working things in a positive light rather than a negative one. For example, which mindset would lead to you enjoying fitness more?

Option A: I have to work out or else I’ll be fat.

Option B: I enjoy feeling healthy so I make time for exercise.

Positive framing

Yeah.. So personally, I’m a happier person when I’m using phrases more like B. Even when I’m talking to myself inside my own head, it helps to keep my mind focused on good things and keep a positive mental attitude.

To apply positive framing to the black hole that is the dreading a bad class, I developed a mantra: “I will continue to try new classroom management strategies until something works. And something will work.” In some of my darker times, I would repeat this phrase to myself over and over again in the middle of the night when I couldn’t sleep. Anything to stop my mind from inventing a million new worst case scenarios.

If we’re ever going to succeed, the first step is definitely going to be thinking that success may be possible. If you start your day with feelings of dread and defeat, it’s very likely that that’s what the day will give you. Dig deep and find a better way to approach the day.

How to Frame Your Thoughts More Positively

The way I was taught to do this is to speak only in terms of what you do want to happen. Don’t say, “Today will not be bad.” In that sentence you’re still referencing the things you do not want, specifically the “bad.” Rather, say “Today will be good.” This is the same way you state your expectations to your classroom. You don’t say “no talking.” You say “I will begin the lesson when it’s silent.” Work on this kind of framing all the time, and I promise you’ll begin to see the effects.

Rephrasing Examples

“Can’t wait to see what happens in 3rd period today. Groan.” —> “I’m confident I will find solutions for third period.”

“I’m sure Bob is going to disrupt my lesson again.” —> “If I respond differently, maybe I can make some progress with Bob today.”

“I hate 4th period.” —> “I have to be creative with my lessons in 4th period.”

“Admin isn’t going to back me up anyway.” —> “It’s important that I find ways to solve things within my own classroom.”

Conclusion

According to Albert Einstein, the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.” My entire purpose for writing this is to help you and me break out of the insanity cycle. We deserve to enjoy our jobs and our lives. Take an honest look at your situation. Are you stuck in a cycle of negative thoughts with no real attempt at finding solutions? It doesn’t matter which came first: the thoughts or the problems. To break free, we have to interrupt ourselves. Injecting some positive thinking will lay a strong foundation for success as we work on finding and testing solutions for our problems.

I know this won’t happen over night, and we shouldn’t expect immediate results. As we simultaneously learn to look on the brighter side of things as well as building our repertoire of classroom management techniques, bumps in the road will gradually lose their power to ruin entire days. Eventually, we’ll handle every classroom issue with grace and level headedness. Even the most riotous disruptions will no longer trigger anxiety and we’ll retell the story later in the staff room with a smile on our face as we have finally accepted that it’s not our fault. Kids will be kids, and we can continue to live our lives happily as we guide them towards maturity.

Laney Lee
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Published by Laney Lee

I'm an American expat in Abu Dhabi seeking new ways to support teachers. I currently teach grade 7 science, run a Teacher Pay Teachers store, and am writing a book on classroom management.

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