Sunday, April 16, 2017

Some Changes

Before Spring Break, the students in my class had kind of lost their minds.  Between some new students starting with us in mid January (which takes up a lot of my time) and new administration (who doesn't seem to have the same behavior management philosophy as the previous admin did), small behavior problems kept creeping up and the procedures I had in place were no longer working.  As it got closer to spring break (and report cards and parent teacher conferences) I didn't have the time or the energy to change the situation as I was merely crawling to the Spring Break finish line at that point.  I knew, however, that over break I needed to figure out some new procedures and gimmicks to solve some of these small behavior issues in order to make it until the end of the school year.
Both new students arrived in mid January, bringing a lot of baggage and drama with them.  It's impossible to wrap one's mind around how a seven year old can bring baggage and drama to a second grade classroom, but it happened, times two, and my class of sweet kiddos had turned into bratty teenagers before my eyes.  Fortunately for us, one of the student's family issues caused them to move again (sadly, for the third time this school year), which has helped some, but one thing we've worked on since returning to school last week is some classroom community building.  The tattling and blaming and not taking responsibility for one's actions had gotten out of control and coming together as a class to work on this was a must.  We spent the week learning about being a "Bucket Filler" and not a "Bucket Dipper", which are cute ways of reminding everyone to be kind.  We've also started a community circle each afternoon which is a time when we get a chance to share positive thoughts about each other.  It's amazing the change that has made in the room, even after just one week!
The other behavior issue I've been struggling with it the shouting out and talking during instruction.  In my relatively short (17 years) teaching career, this is a behavior that has been getting worse and worse each new school year.  Kids, by nature, are self-centered and impatient.  It's our job to teach them to wait their turn and learn how to be respectful when they aren't the center of attention.  In my observations, many kids aren't required to do that anymore at home.  Their parents cater to their child's whim, rather than the other way around.  And rather than a child be made to sit quietly and be patient, so often they are handed an electronic device to keep them busy, and quiet.  In my opinion, this has done a disservice to kids.  They no longer know how to just "be" and also do not know how to wait their turn.  In addition, with the change in curriculum to the Common Core and the need for student discourse, kids are talking all the time.  My group this year is mostly quite bright and very excited about learning.  Unfortunately, because of that, they think that they can talk out or with others anytime they feel like it.  I've struggled this year with not wanting to stifle this excitement for learning and not having multiple students shouting out at me at any given time.  After some research on some of the teacher blogs and using children's literature, I came up with a plan that I enacted last Monday morning.
The kids listened to the story My Mouth is a Volcano, which is about a boy who can not keep his thoughts to himself and interrupts everyone in his life.  Then one day some other students interrupt him when he's talking to the class, and he doesn't like it one bit.  Then we did some role playing where during discussions I interrupted whoever was speaking.  No one liked that very much, which was powerful.  The kids also did some writing on how they were going to keep their volcano mouth under control.  Lastly, I introduced "Blurt Beans".
Each student starts the day with 3 beans.  Anytime they blurt out/interrupt while someone else is talking or turn and talk to a neighbor during instruction, they have to return a bean to the blurt bean container.  At the end of the day, anyone who still has beans left (one, two, or all three) get to put them in the reward jar.  When the beans reach a certain level, they earn that reward.  It's been in place for about a week now, and so far the results have been favorable.  There are still the repeat offenders who just "can't help it", but after losing one bean (and the rest of the class being disappointed) they are able to keep things under control.  Using peer pressure for good is always quite helpful!  
I am a huge proponent of classroom management and feel that if kids aren't behaving, learning is going to be a challenge for them, as well as their classmates.  I spend a large portion of the new school year on classroom management, trying to invest in it heavily early on in order to reap the benefits of it for the rest of the year.  That usually is the case.  Sometimes though, there is a need to change things up,  As hard as it can be, I'm more than willing to give up some academic instruction time to nip poor behavior in the bud.  Everyone is always happier in the long run, especially the teacher!

13 comments:

  1. Misbehavior in school classrooms is a topic I struggle with. My old school part of me says send them to the office or give them a detention and they will change. But I also realize that times have changed a lot since I was in school and parents aren't teaching the fundamentals of behavior at home. I think I would lay a lot of that blame on the need for two incomes to support the family but I'm sure there are lots of other contributing factors.

    At the end of the day, I know I wouldn't make a good teacher if I had to deal with this list of problems!

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    1. Unfortunately, our "office" isn't doing much under the new regime, which is part of the problem...it's beginning to trickle into the room. But yes, kids only do what they are taught (for the most part). It could partially be the need for two income households, although I am the product of a two income household and I knew how to behave (both parents were teachers though ;), but I think it also has a lot to do with parents needing to be cool and their kids' best friend rather than their parent. I'm not a parent, so it's easy for me to judge, but from the sidelines I see not parenting as an issue. By and large, the kids who follow the rules at school have rules and boundaries at home. While there are some exceptions, usually those who don't, don't. :)

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  2. I love your "blurt bean" system and I'm pleased for you that it's working effectively so far!

    This is such a good post and it just reinforces how much I admire and appreciate good teachers like you. I'm sure it's hard not to become jaded for one reason or another and I'm glad there are those (like you) who truly try to make a difference.

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    1. There are a lot of reasons to become jaded. I am struggling this year with chaotic/fly by the seat of the pants admin (that's not how I operate) and there is a lot of grumbling by the staff. I have to keep telling myself to try and shake off all that other stuff, because it comes down to just making sure these kids are learning and being good citizens, regardless what's coming from the top. If I just think about that, I'm less jaded. :)
      Thank you! The blurt beans have been fun. Every day they measure how close they are to that bubble gum party, so it is motivating!

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  3. You are a great teacher! : ) I am going to tell my friends Marsha and Katie about this because they may be able to utilize your system!

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    1. Thank you! I hope they can. It's working, so far!

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  4. There's an essential fairness with kids that makes them work together fairly well. But when you have a kid that not quite so, you'd have to think the live outside the school isn't all that fair.
    Poor little kids.

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    1. Most definitely. The group I started the year with are pretty grounded and, while I have some very impulsive kids this year, their behavior is essentially good and not mean spirited. If they do wrong, they accept the consequence and that's how it is. These two new ones have a different perspective and nothing is their fault. The denial seems to be a coping skill with other things going on. It is sad and frustrating and heartbreaking all at once. There isn't enough time in my day to fix the home life problems and teach them their standards. Unfortunately, a lot of the time learning plays second fiddle to home issues, so it can feel like a losing battle.

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  5. Adding to the mix in January is difficult. It changes the whole dynamic. Ugh.

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    1. It sure does! I've always taught at fairly transient schools so changes during the year are not unusual. This year alone, I've had five new students enter and 3 students (2 of them new ones) leave. It's a revolving door some years which is very challenging.

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  6. You have my utmost respect and appreciation for what you do each day. Until my daughter became a teacher, I didn't fully comprehend the enormity of the job. Thank you!😇

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    1. Thank you! Yes it can be challenging, and some days it's beat your head against the wall challenging. It all comes down to the fact that they are little kids (even the big ones are still kids in most ways) and do truly appreciate everything we do for them. It doesn't always feel like it, but I do know that it does help.

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  7. I love the idea of the blurt beans.
    People do not give enough credit to teachers and the work and effort they put into every child. We couldn't thank you enough.

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