Friday, July 29, 2011
Sometimes, we fail. It's a part of life. But what we don't always do is share our failures with our chiquitines. Today, I learned to share them with mine.
When managing student behavior, it is essential to remain consistent--enforce a consequence every single time a rule is broken, and consistently follow your classroom management plan to the letter. Unfortunately, neither of those things is easy.
The other day, two students kept playing at recess after I blew the whistle, and we all had to wait for them to stop and come join us in line. When we got inside, I told them both that they had lost their recess for the next day. The moment I said it, the boy immediately turned and looked at the consequence chart. I was busted.
Not coming when called equates to not following directions (Rule #5 in our classroom) and the consequence is turning your colored card. It was actually my little girl's second violation of the day, so her consequence should have been a time-out (orange card), not losing her recess (red card).
I was feeling pretty bummed about breaking my own rules (who does that, right? right...), and I went home trying to figure out what to do about it. If I admit that I was wrong, will my students still respect me? How do I tell them? Should I tell them in front of the class? Will they just forget about it? All of these thoughts went around and around in my head. What I decided to do was this: I would address the issue in front of the class, admit that I was wrong, and enforce the correct consequence instead. Scary thought...how would they respond?
Not surprisingly, the next day, my students remembered what I had said about the two students losing their recess. I told them, in front of everyone, that I was aware that I had said that, and that that was wrong. I told them that I have to follow the classroom rules just like everyone else, and I should have told them to turn their cards, not just skipped straight to losing recess. So instead, they would experience the consequence that corresponded with their card color. The students all said okay, and we continued on with our day, them with a continued sense of consistency and the knowledge that their teacher is human, and me with my conscience and credibility intact.
Key to classroom management: keeping yourself in a general state of zen.
I recently read a post on Smart Classroom Management dealing with difficult students. I've had some VERY difficult students in the past few years and I wish that I could say I always handled their challenging behaviors with grace, dignity and calm authority--but I would be lying. Staying mentally and emotionally disengaged when a child's whose behaviors and fits are driving you batty is extremely challenging.
During the past school year, I realized that I didn't feel in control of my classroom. I felt like I wasn't commanding the kind of respect that I wanted. Michael Linsin says that you can tell your students don't really respect you if they are constantly making "suggestions" on how you ought to run things, and I felt like this happened a lot, especially toward the end of the year. Yikes.
This summer, I learned that respect does not have to be harshly or loudly demanded. In fact, those two things will actually decrease your students' respect for you. Instead, be calm, clear and authoritative.
I have one particular student who I've sometimes felt has made it his first grade career to challenge everything I instruct him to do. Some days, it's been quite the headache.
Not so anymore. Now, if he makes a "suggestion" or attempts to find 8 alternatives to doing what I tell him, I simply remind him that in this case, the decision is mine, and his job is to follow instructions. I don't raise my voice, I don't get upset, I just calmly look him in the eye and remind him to go do his job. Calmness for me, consistency for him. Good deal.
There is a very good reason pen and paper were invented, and I'm guessing keeping track of information is at the top of the list.
This past year I switched from teaching second grade to first, and the transition was rough. First graders in September are VERY different than second graders in August. Needless to say, I've spent a lot of time recently studying classroom management. My new favorite blog is www.smartclassroommanagement.com, written by Michael Linsin. He's also the author of the book Dream Class, which I just bought and am very excited to read.
Last year, I found managing my classroom pretty challenging, and part of the reason was I'd try to keep track of warnings mentally instead of writing them down. I'd constantly forget how many warnings I'd given a student (they are only supposed to get one), so then the kids would count the warnings themselves, and then no one would be sure how many it was, I'd end up giving them 2 or 3 (or none, if whatever they did was particularly annoying and I thought they already had one) and it ended up being quite disruptive.
This year, I just added a warning as the first consequence on my color chart. Problem solved! Now warnings keep track of themselves, and I can focus on teaching. It's much better than marking tape on my wrist (ouch!), or carrying around a clipboard (and forgetting where I set it down), or writing students' names on my whiteboard (which distracts the whole class), or any of the other methods I've tried (that I also can't remember).
Creating effective systems that work for you is one of the most important aspects of teaching, and I'm so glad that I finally figured this one out. Phew...
Do not rely on your memory as a classroom management tool. Unless, of course, you're an elephant.
They say you should journal about your first few years of teaching, and I totally failed at doing that. However, sometimes, there are moments that are just too cute, too funny, or too awesome not to share. So this blog is the place where I'll post stories full of love, life, laughter and lots of learning.
Stop by often, and please don't hesitate to comment!