The BIG Question: Student Behavior

Student behavior is a complicated topic. There are many ideas on what works, what doesn’t, and every student (and teacher!) is different.

Research has proven, though, that when parents are engaged in school, students have better attendance and less behavioral problems. Kids who are in school every day and engaging positively with other kids and teachers learn more, and everyone is happier. Period.

What’s an easy way to improve student behavior? I’m going to share a practice now that you may have already heard of - but if you haven’t, or if you haven’t used in a while you’re going to love.

Have you heard of the “3:1 Magic Ratio”? It’s a practice drawn from research on teacher, student, and parent interactions guaranteed to increase the quality of teachers’ relationships with families and improve their engagement with their child’s school.

Implementing the 3:1 Magic Ratio is simple... For every “negative” interaction teachers have with families, (calling home for a problem with student behavior, missing homework, etc.) we should aim for 3 positive interactions to match.

No teacher enjoys making tough phone calls home, but they are often necessary and crucial to supporting children with behavior or attendance issues. The 3:1 Magic Ratio proves that positive communication is just as important when you want to make a change.

The 3:1 Magic Ratio is an industry standard and the place to start out (my daughter even uses it in her classes), but here’s why you’ll want to expand it.

The actual “magic ratio” I share with the teachers and schools I work with is 10:1. That means 10 positive pieces of communication to every 1 “negative” or accountability-related message home.

I don’t say 10:1 to overwhelm you or to set the bar so high it’s impossible to reach. I know many of us educators face time constraints already… BUT, know this:

Our brain is built as a survival mechanism, and we are made to really remember negative situations to avoid in the future. That means that even 1 “negative” event carries much more weight in our memories than 3 or 4 positive events combined!

Training our brain to think of and communicate 10 positive messages helps us, helps our parents, and helps our students grow a more positive mindset. In our current climate of negative news it’s hard to escape the bad news cyclone, but as people-shapers it’s up to us to cause a shift in our classroom environment.

Why? The shifts we cause in our classroom create an opportunity to engage with parents about shifts at home - and this amplifies everything we care about accomplishing with students.

Start with the 3:1 Magic Ratio. See the magic it creates in your parent & student relationships.

Then, aim for 10 positive messages for every 1 “negative” message.

I know how difficult it can be to find the time for positive “groundwork” communication, so...

Below is a really fabulous PDF resource you and your teachers can print to send home with students to increase the “magic ratio” in their classrooms. Check it out, use it, and forward it along!


So, in the comments below, tell me: what are your favorite go-to resources to send positive messages home? We're learning nerds, and your insights could help another teacher or educator in their search to improve relationships with parents and student behavior.

Kids deserve a village that’s strong, engaged, and on the same page. We want to provide your school with tools to make this happen.

Committed to your success,
Dr. Joni