Here’s the second set of questions… these are from a fellow dude. He’s in a teacher preparation program. The questions focus on classroom management and being a male primary school teacher… I’m curious what your feedback might be. Cheers!
7. What type of behavioral management system do you use in your classroom?
I use a Responsive Classroom model for management. At the beginning of the year (the first week or so) the class comes up with a list of rules… I guide them, but they own these rules. Once the rules are set, I introduce the ‘Rest Stop’, ‘Take a Break’ seat (call it what you like – I like these because they’re not super negative). When a child isn’t following a rule, they’re reminded of the rule and given a warning. If they continue to break the rule, they take a break in the chair. They come back when they are ready… the teacher doesn’t set a time limit or instruct when to return. When the chair is introduced EVERY child in the room takes a turn going and returning so they know a) what it feels like and b) that it isn’t a big deal. Other than that, I try to use LOTS of positive specific praise.
8. How did you come up with this system/technique?
After attending many Responsive Classroom trainings and reading MANY of their books. 🙂 I can’t take credit for creating this system. Using it effectively creates a positive fun learning environment where children feel safe.
9. How do you implement it?
I think I answered that one already. It’s a continual work in progress. We go over the rule every day at first and then usually every Monday and perhaps more times through the week if needed. Some of it depends on the makeup of your class. Good classroom management is truly an art that takes years to perfect. Only after my fourth or fifth year of teaching did I feel like I was beginning to come close to mastering it… I’m still learning and tweaking it all the time.
10. How do you let a child know when he/she breaks the rules? What are the consequences?
Children know the rules… they helped create them and know the consequences clearly. In rare cases where a major infraction takes place, the consequences are always logical. You punch somebody – after your rest stop you need to apologize and then do something to make them feel better (draw a picture, write a note, play with them at recess, etc.). Logical consequences and apology of action (more than just saying you’re sorry) help children understand a quick ‘I’m sorry’ doesn’t cut it.
11. What types of incentives do you use?
Personally (there is a lot of debate about this…) I don’t believe in incentive or reward programs. I don’t give out stickers, toys, or prizes for good behavior. Respectful, responsible, and safe behavior is an expectation in my room. That’s not to say we don’t have celebrations, but they’re usually around learning, not for behavior. That’s not to say there aren’t specific cases where a certain child needs a little more of an incentive. When needed, I do that one a child-by-child basis and in private so the rest of the class doesn’t know about it. It’s called ‘everybody gets what they need’ and not everyone needs a sticker for behavior.
12. How effective do you feel your behavioral system is in your classroom?
So far, very. The Responsive Classroom model is research based and in my experience, it works.
13. Have your ran into any issues with the stereotypes of male elementary teachers? If so, how did you handle it?
I haven’t had many negative reactions from coworkers or parents. Most people think it’s ‘cute’ or ‘adorable’ that I teach kindergarten. While the kids surely are cute and adorable, I don’t think I am or the fact that I work with them is either. It’s hard work… very hard work. I do wonder if parents are skeptical I will be caring or nurturing enough, but nobody has ever expressed this to me… I’ve been working in the same school since I began and what I’ve learned is… parents talk. If you’re good, everybody knows and if you’re bad, they know as well. I think I’ve earned a reputation as a caring and effective teacher – that supersedes my gender, as it should.
14. What is your opinion about hugs and telling your students that you love them?
If you don’t want to be hugged, don’t work with young kids. I love getting hugs, it’s their way of saying ‘You’re special, you mean something to me, thank you for being you’ – I’m not going to deny a child expressing that. I do have a rule that everyone must ask before giving a hug… including me. I also have modeled how to hug. When a child hugs me, their hands need to be above my waist… I learned that one the hard way. They don’t mean anything by it, but it’s a bit alarming when it happens. I’ve also learned (recently) there is nothing wrong with saying ‘I love you’ to a student. They tell me all the time. I always say, ‘Thank you, I love you too’ – mainly because, quite simply, I do.
15. What do you do during the first week of school?
In kindergarten, it really is like herding cats. The first few weeks we’re learning how to be in school and settling into routines. I highly recommend The First Six Weeks of School – it’s a Responsive Classroom book and a bible for many teachers in the summer as they gear up to go back.
16.What is your best advice for building a rapport with parents? (Parents are my biggest fear for when I become a teacher.)
Be yourself. Don’t be afraid to be honest. Show them you care about their child and their learning. Try to be a partner. Communicate as often as possible. I send a daily email that has proven invaluable for parents in communicating with their child about each school day. When you have a concern or bad news to report, try to find something positive to lead with… this goes a long way. Invite them into the room to volunteer or observe. Above all else, parents just want their children to enjoy school. If they do, they’ll love you as much as their children.
17. What do you think is the most effective instructional grouping method?
Whole group, small group, and one on one are all valuable for different reasons and I use them all almost equally. In kindergarten, a lot of one on one work is valuable, but obviously not always possible. I do try and do as much of it as I can squeeze in.
18. What is your opinion on tangible incentives?
I don’t like them. I’ve given a sticker of two in my time for behavior, but I try steer away from it. When we celebrate, I prefer to do it with extra recess, a special visitor reading a book, or a pajama day. I think these events mean more to kids than a sticker or toy they’re going to lose anyway.
19. How do you feel about behavioral systems such as the traffic light, colored cards, moving clips, or putting names on the chalkboard for misbehavior?
I have mixed feelings. Personally, I don’t use them, but I have in the past when I had a particularly challenging class. I think if you set up your rules, routines, and consequences early and stick to your guns, you don’t need those systems.
20. How do you manage children who are “spicy” and refuse to participate by saying “no” constantly? (FYI- I say spicy instead of “bad”. I strongly dislike that word.)
I tell kids that participation (in my class that means singing and dancing too) is part of their learning. If I can stand up and shake my behind and sing my head off, there is no good reason they can’t too. I think once you give kids permission to let go, most do. If they are really stubborn, I might pull them aside and explain my expectations again and find out if there is some other cause for them not participating (painfully shy, etc.).
That’s it! All my answers. What? I didn’t answer a specific question you had? Let me know!