what worked: classroom managment

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Classroom management is something that seems to be a roller coaster ride for so many people that I have worked with. And honestly it was not always something that I would call easy. I spent years reading and studying different classroom management techniques. They all seemed so easy, yet I would finish a book with so many questions and no one to ask them too. It was very frustrating but I kept plugging away.

Then I moved to a school that was unlike anything I had ever taught in. I have always worked in Title 1 schools but this title 1 school was very different. The reputation of the building was not stellar, as a matter of fact it was known as a behavior problem school. It boasted the highest suspension of all the elementary schools, lowest test scores, and highest teacher turn over the the DISTRICT! (read that as no one EVER chose to go there and the teachers there were looked down on) I remember inservice as if it was yesterday. Our dean of discipline said "we need to do thing differently. we have to change who we are and how we love the kids or nothing is ever going to get done."

First our dean of discipline is one of the most amazing men I have ever worked with! Talk about a LOVE for the children of the school. Second those words rang in my ears for days. I just couldn't figure out what on earth I needed to do differently. I had done clip charts, flipping cards, collecting tickets. I really felt lost. I sat down on the Friday before school started in his office and cried. I told him that I was fearful of the reputation of the school and that I didn't know what he meant about doing things differently.  He sat quietly beside me and asked "why did you become a teacher?"

My answer that day is the same today... because I love working with children. I love seeing them become who they are supposed to be. I love being part of the light bulb moments. I love seeing the whole child grow. I know that many of you reading this feel the same way! That afternoon conversation started me on a path to where I am now.

My students that year tested me in ways that I never could imagine. I loved everyone of those littles and ALL of the lessons they taught me about classroom management. That year I got rid of the clip charts and the flip charts and the well everything. I tossed it all out. I started working on building positive behavior patterns through praise. YEP! If I had my way we would not have ANY visible behavior system.

Behavior in my room is taught through positive praise and reinforcement. So lets say that we are learning how to sit at the carpet. In my pocket or small bowl within hands reach would be goldfish or skittles or stickers. Once we start talking about how to sit (parked pockets, hands in lap, eyes on the speaker, legs criss cross, feet still) I would reward EVEY child that I "caught" sitting correctly. Do I hand out a bunch of goldfish or skittles or stickers? You bet your biffy I hand out a TON! And it works, too. This picture shows the kinds of stickers I use. The littlest ones are the easiest to hand out. The kids can keep them on their name tag or a sticker chart or on their bodies. The owl ones I would use at the end of a day or when a child makes their goal if they are on an alternative behavior plan.

This picture is of two students writing a sentence and then reading it to their partner. At the beginning of the year these boys would have gotten gold fish as I walked around check on the students. I might have even pointed out how nicely they are working together.

Now, imagine that you are sitting playing with your shoe strings  rather than writing and talking to your partner and the teacher hands the child sitting on your left a skittle, and then the child on the right. You are going to take 2 seconds to see how they are sitting and fix what ever you were doing wrong. And when you do... skittle time! And the whole while I am still teaching away. The beauty of this method is that I can teach and drop a skittle or goldfish in your hand AND keep teaching. Now part of my parent packet is a "food permission slip". It's just like it sounds. I ask parents to put a circle around the items that I can use as rewards OR as manipulative for lessons. This gives me the ability to reward good behavior instantly.

I can see you sitting there shaking your head saying yep but what about little Timmy? Well It does work for all the little Timmys, it might take longer. It might take more work than with ANY other child but it does work! I had 3 little Timmy's this year. yep you read that right 3! Timmy 1 would climb on tables and jump off. She would kick things off the table and run around the room. She was the HARDEST nut to crack. And it took extra work but she got there. Oh yea, she received behavior services for OCD, ODD, and possibly ADHD. Yep and Timmy 2 was not much better, only he was a runner! Oh joy of joys... Timmy 2 got mad and would leave. I would press the intercom button and notify the office. This happened once with his mother in the office. After that we used the code phrase "elvis has left the building".  Still we made progress but we did have to use some personal visual charts. And Timmy 3, bless him, he was just a typical 5 year old who had never been in school.

My school has grade level behavior plans and like many of you, I have to do things that are not necessarily my first choice. Here is the chart that we use. Students start on name green, then green smiling face, yellow straight face, and red frowning face. Honestly it takes A LOT to change a card during the first nine weeks. There are consequences for yellow and red but they are decided on by the kids. When we are talking about what a good student looks, sounds, and acts like. We read No David and discuss what should happen to David when he makes the choices that he made. That discussion leads to answering the question "what should happen when you make as not so good choice in our room?" I try not to guide this conversation too much, it's more about seeing where their "internal" monitors are set. That is, do the children understand cause and effect, and how can we set up a system where the kids have ownership to what happens when when change our cards to red.

So that is a bit about my management plan and how it's grown into what it is now. It took many years and lots of tweaking to get it to fit me and be something that my kids are successful using. It's a rare thing to catch one of my kids in the office.

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