Thursday, August 15, 2013

Taming The Wild with Blog Hoppin'

So today is Day 4 of Teacher Week over at Blog Hoppin' and the topic today is all about Taming the Wild.

Otherwise known as how a teacher manages to make 24 little squirming bodies sit still, listen and pay attention long enough to teach anything!

There are so many different behaviour management systems out there. Over my career I have probably tried all of them at one time or another.


Names on the board.


Moving names up or down on a chart.

You name it. I have probably tried it.

What do all of these systems tend to have in common?

Extrinsic motivation (or, as some teachers like to call it, bribery!) Not that there is anything inherently wrong in extrinsic motivation (no matter how many specialists try to convince us that intrinsic is best). Show me one grown up who has not done something to get a reward later or who hasn't told themselves that they deserve a reward for doing something difficult. Worked out to be able to eat that pizza. Had a glass of wine to celebrate the end of a bad day. Bought a present to pick themselves up. You get the idea. We all do it.

Why? Because it works! But I do find that these type of systems tend to have a very short life span. I have seen these types of systems be very successful with certain students (or classes) for short periods of time but never over the long term. AND these types of systems take up A LOT of teacher time to make them work. Maybe they only work in the short term because I get so gosh darn tired of doing the system!

So while I do use these on a short term basis every once in awhile, the traditional behaviour management really isn't my "go to" way of dealing with managing behaviour in the classroom.

So, what do I use most of the time?

Get ready because it is going to blow your mind!

Time, patience and love.

Yep. That's it.

First, I make sure to be aware of  how I am feeling. After 19 years in the classroom I am well aware that I set the tone. If I am stressed out, grumpy, sick, etc. then poor behaviour inevitably follows. I can bet on it. Every. single. time. It is my job to model how I want them to behave. Even when it is really hard to do!!!!

Second, I teach the class calming strategies to get their bodies and minds ready to learn. I bought the book  Conscious Discipline. a number of years ago and have been slowly using more and more of it in my teaching. I got the different calming strategies from it. There is an AWESOME blog called Heather's Heart where the teacher uses tons of Conscious Discipline principles. I want to be Heather when I grow up!

Combined with the Conscious Discipline program, I use  the A.LE.R.T. program to help students learn expectations. I like the simple language and being able to just tell kids that they need to be in Green Zone.

I create an area in my room each year that is the Quiet Zone or Safe Place. Here I keep some cuddle buddies (stuffed animals), books, etc. This year I am adding a wave bottle and some lotion. Not all kids like to use this area. Some just find a quiet spot (like one of our community bean bags) when they need one.

So how does it work?

Well, I spend tons and tons of time explaining, demonstrating and practicing positive behaviour choices in the classroom. Then, after they have all learned the expectations inside and out I start giving them three chances to correct poor behaviour choices (I use a silent signal of raising my fingers). If they get to strike three, they are asked to leave  the group and come back to the group when they are calm and ready to learn. What I am aiming for is self regulation. And most kids don't end up needing to leave the group. They just need a reminder (or two!!) about making better choices.

That's it.

Sound simple? Well, it kind of is.

It is all about the front loading and teaching. The time spent in the beginning of the year teaching the calming strategies and behaviour expectations is worth its weight in gold, and silver, and diamonds, and...!

I find that most students want to behave. They want to learn and make good choices. But sometimes they have a bad day. Sometimes I have a bad day, too. That's life. So, no Time Outs. Just time to calm themselves and get ready for learning. And, yes, I have been known to tell the class I need to get back to Green Zone, walk to the Safe Place, do some deep breathing or another calming strategy and then come back to teach again. I am a firm believer in practicing what I preach!

Now wait! I know what you are going to say next!

What about THOSE kids? You know, the ones who NEVER seem to follow the rules, who seem to be always disruptive and who seem to be in our class for the sole purpose of driving the teacher CRAZY?!?!

I know that we all have them. Every year there are one or two tough cases that seem to require an extraordinary amount of teacher time (and too often that is negative teacher time!)

I have a secret weapon for these tough cases.

Are you ready?

DOUBLE THE LOVE!!! Yep, good old fashioned, love and lots of it!!!!!

I had a student like this last year. There were days when it felt like he was going to drive me crazy!!!!! Some days it was all I could do to maintain my sanity. I had to keep reminding myself that none of his behaviour choices had anything to do with me. They had to do with him. His fears, his needs, his insecurities. (This is NOT easy to do some days!!!!)

And so I gave him love. And lots of it!  One of the tricks I used was to give him a big hug every time I felt like saying his name in anger or frustration. There was one day when I think I hugged him about 40 times in a 5 hour period!!!! By the end of the year, we had built up a bond. He no longer made poor behaviour choices (most of the time) and his learning was coming along (now that his behaviour didn't interfere with it!). On the last day of classes, he gave me a hug that practically cracked a rib! The sweet feeling of success!!!!

So, there you go. My management plan in a very long nutshell!

Ms. Hughes

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