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"Yoga helps with holding my attention, which was a serious problem with me ... I used to be on a lot of medications and stuff. Now I don't need it. I know for a fact that it's because of yoga. If I don’t do it I get less focused, tired easier, a whole list of things." — BMS student

line of yoga students bowingAEP classrooms are dynamic environments which require creative approaches to managing a wide range of needs and behaviors. School policies and procedures (P&Ps) are the basis to work from. However, how the P&Ps are implemented in martial arts and yoga classes might differ from the school's usual implementation strategies. In these PE classes, contract instructors should be the primary authority and they are the ones who will set the tone of the classes, communicate expectations to students and address their behavior. The most effective role for school site teachers or aides who are in the class is to support the instructors in enforcing the rules.

"Student misbehavior isn't just an annoying disruption — it's a secret message the student is (unwittingly) trying to convey to you. And usually that message can be boiled down to two words: reach me!" — Dr. Tom Daly, p. 93 in Martial Arts Instruction

The BMS project developed a Classroom Collaboration Action Plan (CCAP)a tool used by contract instructors and school site staff to create a plan for working together. The CCAP guides contract instructors and school staff in aligning their approaches to classroom and behavior management. It can also provide a basis for identifying areas of agreement, potential disagreement and how to successfully collaborate. Finally, it is  a way for the team of contract instructor and school staffer to determine the actual actions to be taken — what each staff person will do — when student behavior needs to be addressed.

CCAP identifies six common situations/ ehavioral issues that occur in AEP classes — some more often than others. These are:

  1. Participation in class
  2. Distractions from instruction
  3. Disruptions to emotional safety
  4. Disruptions to physical safety
  5. Other violations
  6. Illness or injury.

For each of these six situations, CCAP guides staff through the steps of:

  • identifying the pertinent school policy
  • outlining expectations around student behavior
  • specifying procedures for implementing expectations
  • guiding staff in determining special modifications or additions to the regular school P&Ps, as needed.

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Maintaining Discipline and Focus in the Classroom

two boys in martial arts holdCommunicating clear guidelines for appropriate behavior and addressing deviation from those guidelines in a consistent, firm, and respectful manner is the basis for successful behavior management in martial arts and yoga classes. It is crucial that instructors not ignore inappropriate conduct, but rather face it head-on and address students directly and constructively. The following are some general tips for contract instructors on how to create a classroom in which students maintain appropriate behavior.

How to Maintain Discipline and Focus in the Classroom

Instructor awareness

Don’t take student behavior personally. Understand that a student's poor behavior is not a personal affront, and that it indicates some underlying issues that need to be addressed.

Consequences for behavior
          

Teach proper behavior that is specific to a martial arts classroom (dojo) or yoga practice space. Most students will not start out knowing the specifics of proper, respectful behavior in such spaces.

Have students take an active role in identifying what appropriate behavior looks like. Establish a set of "ground rules" and discuss these with students. Give students the opportunity to suggest additional rules that would make them feel safe and respected. (See Sample Ground Rules.)

Obtain students' input on reasonable consequences for inappropriate behaviors, (e.g., laughing at others in class). They are more likely to comply if they have agreed with a reasonable consequence.

Inform students clearly and concretely about the consequences of inappropriate behavior. Identify behaviors that will result in their being removed from class or suspended if they disrupt class; this approach can serve as a deterrent to participating in disruptive behavior.

Instructor actions

When students are distracted, assess what is distracting them, briefly engaging them in identifying the cause, as necessary, and then lead them back to a more focused state.

Avoid public recriminations, corrections and confrontations with students. Take students aside privately to address inappropriate behavior. Disciplining students publicly shames them and pushes them resist in order to "save face," which may lead to expressing further disrespect and escalating the confrontation. Some students use inappropriate behavior as an attention-seeking strategy; addressing their behavior quietly and privately defuses their efforts to be the center of attention.

Make a point of providing positive encouragement resistant students to do their best in class. Encouragement often works better than being stern. Even students who maintain a resistant stance may show improvement if they are encouraged. In particular, follow up consequences for inappropriate behavior with positive encouragement.

Divide the class into small groups when some students misbehaving (if you have enough adults to lead each small group). Many students who behave inappropriately will increase this behavior if they do not have a big audience.

Challenge students physically and intellectually and keep them engaged in activities by introducing new ones frequently.

Martial arts and yoga instructors in the BMS program, in consultation with program assistants, identified a range of behavior interventions that we documented in the Classroom Management Tools and Interventions Matrix. Many of these strategies work simultaneously as both classroom management techniques and strategies for effective teachings, proving that high quality instruction and curriculum prevent and reduce inappropriate behaviors.

The matrix is organized so that strategies are presented in order from least intensive (preventative measures) to most intensive interventions. Strategies that prevent misbehavior include varying the pace of instruction or rewarding positive behavior. It moves through increasingly severe methods, culminating in removing the student from the class.

This matrix can be given to contract instructors (as is, or modified according to your school's policies) It is useful as a starting point from which to discuss their approaches to classroom management and for identifying the school’s expectations around classroom and behavior management.

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Physical and Emotional Safety

Physical activity carries with it the potential for injury, so it is important to prepare staff and have a plan to follow in the event of injuries. The school needs to have basic first aid supplies readily available. Site schools should already have existing policies and protocols for attending to illness and injury. If your site school does not have these, they should be developed. Then program staff should be trained in these policies and protocols and new protocols specific to the martial arts and/or yoga class should be co-developed by program staff as necessary. (See Classroom Collaboration Action Plan.)

student balancing on instructor's legsIt is also important to create emotional safety because without it, students will not perform to their optimum potential. You know there is emotional safety in the classroom when students want to come to class, when they are willing to try new things and ask questions. Emotional safety is fostered by demonstrating respect for the students and expecting respect from them in return. A policy of zero tolerance for teasing other students is also critical. (See Sample Ground Rules.)

Martial arts and yoga classes in your school may be a challenging and foreign activity for the students — they won't want to look "uncool," or silly, or feel vulnerable when doing it. Understand that many students fear being embarrassed or failing which prevents them from trying something new. Students need encouragement and positive reinforcement when they make small gains in order to build their confidence. When they get to that point, they may be willing to take greater emotional risks.

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