BUT I wanted to read a book by one of the presenters at the ITeachK conference in Vegas: You Can't Teach a Class You Can't Manage by Donna Whyte.
The focus of the book is not on controlling our students and making them do what we want, but on teaching children to be respectful, responsible people with integrity. Whyte makes note of the idealist view she had as a new teacher and how quickly that bubble was burst when the first week of school wasn't as wonderful as she had hoped. (Can I get an "Amen"? You know you've been there.) In her quest to create the perfect classroom, several lightbulb moments occurred.
How does that happen? By being empathetic:
Meet them where they are. When we meet our students on the first day of school, we usually have no idea what their background is (especially here in kindergarten) or what their parents have instilled in them at home. We must accept them for who they are, meet them where they are at, and help them get where they need to be. This is a norm for academics. Behavior should be no different.
No one can "make" someone do something. But hopefully, through relationships, empathy, and careful planning, we can lead children to become better versions of themselves, people who can distinguish between appropriate and inappropriate behavior, and choose to do the right thing.
I hear this ALL THE TIME from teachers and parents alike. In our class, we are having an ongoing discussion about integrity (yes, in kindergarten). I believe it is never too early to learn to do the right thing.
Too often we think of discipline as imposing our will on someone else. We expect children to do what we want them to do so that it makes our lives easier. But self-discipline isn't driven by outside sources.
The child has to WANT to do the right thing in order for it to happen. We can pour our hearts and souls into our children, but if they don't want to do it, it won't happen. We need to teach the child WHAT and WHY behaviors are okay and not okay and the child must learn the value of appropriate behavior in order for it to become internalized.
Isn't that the whole point of education? To teach our children how to be independent? We want them to be independent thinkers, to think creatively and intelligently, to monitor their own progress and behavior, to do the right thing even when no one is looking, and to be that outstanding citizen every teacher dreams of teaching. Will every child meet this expectation? Reality says no. But the teacher in me says that that is the expectation for every child in my class. Children need high expectations, positive examples, and lots and lots of practice.
Things we've found that don't work:
"Or else!" rarely works. And if you have any typical children in your class, then you'd know someone always wants to know what the "or else" entails. And I don't know about you, but a fear factor is not how I want to run my class. I don't ever want my students to be in fear of a threat, by me or anyone else. Consequences are a natural part of learning, but threats are not.
I got rid of my color system my first semester of teaching. It's always the same kids and those kids seemed completely unaffected by the color system: an obvious fail...
Public humiliation is never okay. My 3rd grade teacher embarrassed me in front of the entire class and I will never forget it. I hope I never make a child feel the way she made me feel.
And Whyte made a point of stating that removing the student from the room and taking a break from each other to cool down is different that using office time as a punishment. Have I had students go to the office? Absolutely. Did it solve anything long term? Nope. It served as a punishment, sometimes from me and sometimes from administration, but it has NEVER addressed the root of the problem.
On the other end of the spectrum is bribery. You know what I'm talking about: treasure boxes, stickers, stamps. Not a "Way to go!" reward, but a "If you do this, you'll get one of these."
Have I done whole class rewards? Of course. Just this winter, the class was working for a special treat at the class Holiday Party. All but a handful of kids were doing what they were supposed to do all the time. But those others...the ones the color chart systems do not work for...they made it challenging... Eventually they had their own system to earn their reward, and it was completely independent from the rest of the class. Did I want them to earn the reward? Of course! I'm no Grinch. But was I going to reward them for making it difficult on everyone else? Absolutely not.
I fear this too everyday. "You did your work, here's a sticker." Grrrr. You're SUPPOSED to do your work. You're SUPPOSED to keep your hands to yourself. You're SUPPOSED to not lick the walls, your friend, or the table. But here's a sticker...Thanks.
So where do we begin? How do we get these magical, self-disciplined, independent kiddos that we all dream of?
And don't forget to start with a firm foundation:
We will continue all week with an in depth focus on each one of the four cornerstones. Look for the next post on Saturday as we talk about Cornerstone #1: Self-Control.