Using the power of observation, curiosity and a simple saying to create positive change in class culture.
As we work on creating a class culture, remember the power of words. Jim Faye in Love and Logic parenting talks about having a saying to use at home with your kids. This works just as well in the classroom. Have a phrase ready to say when students misbehave or fail to meet expectations. ”That was an unfortunate choice.” “Hmmm. Not a good decision.” Come up with something that fits you and your personality and fits most situations. Practice saying it in a calm, even tone until it comes out easily. Also, you’ll want to be able to remember and have it place the responsibility firmly on the student without any emotion getting in the way. Just state the facts. Think about and practice how you will look at the student sadly as you say it.
Next, say "I’m going to have think what I'm going to do about that. I’ll get back to you later." Write the incident down on your clipboard or notebook and move on. Set aside time to deal with these later. Do not show any emotion as you go about this. Handle consequences with each student privately later. Before school, I set a timer on my phone to remind me to deal with these at the time I scheduled in my plan book. (If there aren't any, yay!)
Make a list of possible consequences to be seen by you only- you can add to it any time. Be creative. Put it in the back of your plan book or file in your desk where it's easily handy. Remember not all kids care about they same things, so setting consequences beforehand or in the heat of the moment doesn’t work. What is appropriate for one situation or student is not always appropriate for another.
Now, approach the next school day with curiosity and the heart of a scientist. Manage your class as you usually do while you gather data on a clipboard or in a notebook. Record all the behaviors in your classroom for one day. Keep a running list going for one day of all the behaviors- yours and your students- in the classroom, lunchroom, etc. You can add anything you forgot at the end of the day or at breaks. No judgments, no personal feelings, just data. Every time you feel yourself getting stressed or upset, stop and think. “Curiosity is my mindset.” “What’s the data here?” Do not explain to students what you are doing. Just record as much as you can whenever you have a second.
Get 2 different color pens or makers.
Take your list of what you want your class behavior to be and your list of what is happening currently.
On the bulleted list of daily function, character traits and deal breakers match up the reality with the appropriate item or items. Remember that you will have both positive and negative items to add to any given section. No worries. Write your behaviors in one color and student behaviors in the other color.
Now, start with your class routines. Make a plan to model and practice class routines daily for the next 5 school days- all over again. If the problems persist, check yourself. Are you doing something that is telling your class not everyone has to abide by the same standard? Are your “good” students given a “pass” sometimes because they are usually ok or are your “problem” students allowed to partially meet expectations because you got tired or wanted to “reward” them for "progress"? Or, is the old system not working? Do you need to do something differently? Make notes, we'll use them next week.
Be honest with yourself, but don’t beat yourself up. We will use this information next week. So, be curious each day and use your observation skills to ferret out what is really happening.
Next week, we'll start thinking about how to create a culture and some creative solutions to some common problems.
Here's an example: Bathroom runs out of control? This was a friend’s creative solution.
Create a sheet with your class roster on it twice- once on the top of the page (AM) and once on the bottom of the page (PM). Laminate it. Post it on the wall at the front of the classroom near the passes or wherever it makes sense to you. Students can give you a high five and cross their name off with a dry erase as they head to the bathroom. Each student is allowed a max of 2 bathroom trips a day during class time, one before lunch and one after (unless there is a real reason for more- students can whisper it to you if they need to.) They cannot go during teaching times unless it is a rare emergency.
“Regular Emergencies” are a different animal altogether. I like to offer to have their parent come to school for a day to “help” them since I’m so “worried” they are clearly having a “medical” problem. No student has ever taken me up on this, but I am always fully prepared to do it. Just the idea of it usually solves the problem.
Week 1: Creating a Classroom Culture: Classroom Management vs. Creating a Culture
Week 3: Creating a Classroom Culture: Creating a Strong Classroom Culture
Week 4: Creating a Classroom Culture: Wrapping It Up