Another important part of a successful classroom management program is being able to discipline with reasonable and logical consequences. I do not believe that disciplining is synonymous with punishment. Students must have structure so they can learn how to impose limits on their own behavior. Having just finished my first week with my new class of first graders, I have been busy putting my classroom management plan in action.
On day one, we discussed why we have rules (to keep us safe, to understand what behavior is expected of us) and who has to follow rules (students and adults). My students and I wrote our own class rules together.
They are as follows:
1. Be nice.
2. Keep your hands to yourself.
3. Do your best work.
4. No Talking when the teacher is talking.
5. Follow directions the first time.
Inevitably, when I ask students to share with me what rules we should have, they always come up with some extreme answers such as no biting, no spitting, no throwing chairs etc. I fake a horrified expression and tell them that I hope that never happened in their kindergarten classroom and I know it will not happen in mine. And then I go on to explain how those actions would fit under the umbrella of “being nice” to one another, which is rule number one!
Every day this past week, a few times a day, we reviewed our class rules and consequences. I did have to give out several sad sticks for rules that were broken, but I took time to explain why a sad stick was earned and we discussed what could be done differently next time. When we wrote our class rules, students also agreed to our consequences. Slowly but surely, students are beginning to understand that it is they who are choosing the consequence when they chose to break a rule. On the other hand, if they are choosing to follow the class rules that they helped to write, they are rewarded with praise and stickers galore on their incentive chart.
We did do quite a bit of role-playing about how to solve behavior problems this week. There were also many interesting behavior solving situations that came up naturally. I always take the time these first several weeks of school to begin to lay the groundwork of teaching my students how to problem solve on their own. This following course of action can be used between a teacher and student or with two or more students. After a problem arises, I ask the student to use their words to describe the problem, what caused it and how they feel about it. I model active listening and train others to do the same, restating what the upset student has said. I then ask for solutions to the problem and have the student choose one. Finally, it is agreed that the solution will be given a try to see if it worked. If not, we will offer up more solutions and try again.
Remember, if a student misbehaves they are only repeating behavior, that in the past gained them attention, gave them power or masked an inadequate feeling. In my classroom, it is my job to praise the positive and give matter of fact, non-emotional attention to the negative. The consequences have already been laid out and agreed to, there is no worth to getting angry or showing disapproval, a student must learn that they are responsible for their choices and the rewards or consequences that come with those choices. Setting up the rules and reasonable consequences takes away the opportunity for arbitrarily imposed discipline and allows your students to feel they are in a safe, fair learning environment. Teaching your students to choose between acceptable and unacceptable actions is a skill they will use for a lifetime.
"Experience is a great teacher and sometimes a pretty teacher is a great experience." Evan Esar