“I don’t have time for behavior.”

This is a phrase I heard often as a behavior specialist. Behavioral issues can take up a lot of instructional time, and the truth of the matter is that classroom management systems take time to implement. So, at times, it feels like we’re stuck, right?

That doesn’t feel right to me. Teachers are some of the most dedicated people I know. So what they are really saying when they say they don’t have time? Two things:

First, they can’t imagine spending more time on behavior when they already spend so much time on it in the first place. Teachers can lose instructional time each day due to disruptive behavior,however, if they are already spending the time, the trick should be deciding how to use that time more effectively.

Teachers have a choice to make: We can keep doing the same old thing and get the same results or try something new. Helping teachers to see the logic in this can improve their willingness to implement a new behavior program.

Second, behavior management strategies and interventions can be intimidating for many teachers because they may not understand them very well. The National Council on Teacher Quality (2014) reported that teachers identified classroom management as “the top problem” they deal with; however 40% of new teachers did not feel prepared to address classroom management problems. If teachers don’t have an understanding of behavioral management principles, it shouldn’t be surprising that they would be hesitant to put time and effort into them. Increasing a teacher’s understanding of classroom management principles can help them decide to invest in classroom management.

Now that we have some answers for the “I don’t have time for behavior” block. Now what?

The next trick is to keep the teacher invested in the intervention or management program long enough for them to experience success. Here are my top 5 ways to help teachers to continue to invest in a behavior management program:

  1. Data, Graph, Repeat:Teachers often need help identifying observable measurable variables that they can take quickly. Doing “one more thing” can be a deterrent. We need to help them come up with simple ways to track progress. If teachers can see proof of improvement they are more likely to keep going. (The simpler the better…)
  2. Be a Wingman/Woman: Make sure teachers don’t feel alone. If they are brave enough to start the program, we should be there for them. Send an email, a text, or pop in to see how things are going. Bringing them a simple token of appreciation such as a favorite treat or soda can go a long way.
  3. Model It! Get your best Zoolander going. Blue steel… (Do yourself a favor and watch this one). Remember, many teachers have never seen a behavior program run correctly. Most teachers simply copy what they saw while student teaching. Take the time to model the intervention or behavior program so that they can see it done correctly. A little investment up front can pay off big in the long run.

  4. Plan B, C, D, & E:Even the best interventions sometimes don’t work the way we planned right off the bat. Help teachers recognize this and let them know we have multiple options and adjustments at our disposal. How long should we go before adjusting? How about 10 days…we can do anything for ten days right? And this is a great opportunity to model using data to inform behavior planning.
  5. Got Optimism?: Remember the lessons we learned from V. Mark Durand during A.S.P.E.N. training? Helping teachers be positive about the intervention will increase the effectiveness of the intervention.Optimism leads to a greater sense of self-efficacy, mastery experiences, and a more resilient teacher who develops great classroom management skills! (Goddard, Hoy, & Hoy 2000; Protheroe, 2008; Stead & Durand 2013).


(Dr. Brian King is a program specialist in Jordan School District and contributor to this blog because we love his brain. Thank you, Dr. King!)