I can’t count the number of times a teacher, executive or principal has said to me, ‘I just want the student to own their behaviour’.
What they want is for the student to own up to the wrongdoing, take responsibility and be able to apologise for what they have done.
For some students, this is not an easy task!
For children and young people who live in uncertain family situations, who do not trust easily and who do not have positive role modeling for taking responsibility, this may be like asking them to fly to the moon.
Learning to take responsibility for our own actions can be a lifelong process and teachers are well placed to provide support and guidance for students. To read about the ‘responsibility myth’ see here.
Creating a positive and trusting relationship with the student is at the heart of learning this life skill. When you demonstrate what it means to take responsibility: owning up to your mistakes, apologizing for your behaviour and showing how relationships can be repaired when things go wrong, you can help students to be accountable for their own behaviour.
When you create a supportive classroom culture, free of blame, where students are supported to take risks in their learning and explicitly taught how to build and maintain relationships and where taking responsibility for behaviour is encouraged and modeled, you can help students develop this skill.
Here are 8 ways to help your students own their behaviour.
- Model responsible behaviour. Actions speak louder than words and students notice more of what we do than what we say. Demonstrate an attitude of problem solving rather than complaining when faced with a challenge, and own up to mistakes rather than blaming or making excuses. Read 9 of the best tips about fostering responsibility in the classroom here.
2. Explicitly teach responsibility. What does it mean to be responsible? Complete a Y Chart on what responsibility looks, feels and sounds like. Use role plays to demonstrate taking responsibility in a variety of different situations and scenarios. Use the word ‘responsibility’ when talking about behaviour, to raise students’ awareness. Make being responsible an appealing characteristic by linking it to positive outcomes e.g. ‘because the class was responsible and completed the work we get to go out for a game’. Find out how to develop a consistent approach in your classroom.
3. Use a restorative practices approach. Restorative practices are all about taking responsibility for your own actions by understanding how what you do affects others. When students are able to discuss their behaviour in a non-threatening, no blame context they are more likely to take responsibility.
4. Conduct small group sessions for students who find it particularly difficult to own their behaviour. In the same way you would teach a student who lacks reading skills, address student need by providing good role models, differentiated instruction, opportunity to practise the skills in a supportive environment and assistance to transfer the skills in different settings.
5. Reinforce responsibility. When students own their behaviour, give them specific praise and link it to how they feel about themselves e.g. ‘you must be proud of yourself for owning up to not completing your work. You took responsibility for your behaviour’.
6. Run class circle time and class meetings to discuss issues that affect the class. Give all students the opportunity to speak and share how other students’ behaviour affects them. This builds empathy and compassion in students by helping them understand the consequences of their actions.
7. Teach students to problem solve issues that arise in the class meetings and work collaboratively with others to put solutions into practice. Encourage an attitude of shared responsibility for the classroom environment and all students’ learning. Brainstorm lists of possible consequences for problem behaviour and negotiate with students how they will be applied.
8. Do what you say you will do. Follow through with rewards and consequences to ensure accountability for students. You are helping students understand the repercussions of their actions when you are consistent. For more on how to teach students to take responsibility see here.
What is your favourite method out of the above mentioned strategies?