Just over a week ago I read a post by Nikki at Teaching In Progress. It was all about why she doesn’t use behaviour charts in her classroom and it really resonated with me.
I wanted to join her linky in support of the “alternative to behaviour charts movement” but I don’t have a system in place that’s easy to describe. In fact, it can’t even be called a system. It’s more of a philosophy, I guess.
The more I thought about it though, the more I realized that it’s that indefinable aspect of my classroom management that usually results in success. Now don’t get me wrong, I have problems just like everyone else and I haven’t always responded to them in ways that I’m terribly proud of.
And sometimes, if there’s a chronic problem and I’m at my wit’s end, I ask my principal to help out. But if I goof up, I apologize, reflect, try very hard to change my ways, and move on.
I have tried mild versions of behaviour charts. By this I mean I’ve rewarded the class as a whole with points for good behaviour. When the magic number was reached then they earned a movie or a trip to the park or whatever else they coveted.
But I NEVER liked it because no matter how hard I tried to be objective it was IMPOSSIBLE. The Meek Moose says it best (be sure to read her post on the issue). When the “good” kids slip up you let it pass; when the “bad” kids slip up you’re all over them. It was very hard for me to keep the system positive and objective. Instead, it tended to be manipulative.
Here’s what I do (or endeavour to do … remember, my management is still a work-in-progress, even after 20+ years of teaching, and I goof up lots!):
1) I try extremely hard to maintain a positive, happy vibe in the classroom. We begin every day with a handshake in morning meeting followed by a song or two.
2) We laugh and joke and goof around.
3) There’s lots of movement (no one has to sit still for too long).
4) I’m okay with them chatting during seat work as long as it’s quiet and they get their work done.
5) Someone will inevitably need a time-out, but it’s more of a “you need a quiet space right now so you can finish your work” attitude, rather than an angry one.
6) When problems arise between two kids (problems that need adult intervention) we talk about it quietly in a non-confrontational way. I encourage each child to vocalize what’s bothering them and then we figure out a way together to make things better.
7) I always stress, “It’s okay to make mistakes, as long as you try your best to fix them AND you learn from them.” I know it’s a cliche, but it’s TRUE!
Before I jump off (fall off?) my soap box I should say that one thing I’ve noticed over the years is if I’m well rested and in a happy mood then the class ALWAYS runs more smoothly, so I try to get enough sleep, eat properly and run as much as I can (that’s what keeps ME happy). And when I’m happy it’s much easier to ignore those annoying behaviours and deal with the serious ones from a grounded (instead of emotional) place.
Is every day in my classroom happy and stress-free? No way. Do I sometimes lose my temper? Yes. But the overall tone is cheerful and relaxed with no put-downs allowed.
I don’t use behaviour charts.
My classroom management isn’t perfect, but it works for me and I feel good about it.
I realize I haven’t said anything earth-shaking here, but I was so impressed with Nikki’s post that I really wanted to support her in an area that I also feel strongly about.
Have a great evening!