Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Simple Things

I'm exhausted.

I don't know if it's the pre-Spring Break timeframe, or what- but our kids have been just crazy lately. I have generally been of the opinion that repeated behavior problems mean that you (the teacher) need to do something differently. We've been having repeated issues since at least December.

So- Mrs. M and I tried to start a classroom mini-economy, where students could earn coins for doing the right thing. Initially, we wanted to keep it all positive. Later, we added fines to the mix.

This seemed to motivate students for a couple of weeks at the most, although they still really enjoy shopping at the store. Later, a student stole from another's bank. I think at this point we are mostly keeping it going because it's a good continual review of counting money.

We were already doing "team points," where students could earn points for their team. At the end of the week, the team with the most points won some kind of small prize (candy, pop, or a snack we bought). The same teams tend to win repeatedly, and the same few who can't behave tend to spoil it (when together, alone, or separated into groups). Now, teams can't shop in the store on Fridays if they don't have at least ten points.

The school-wide system is to use tickets for good behavior. We haven't done well with these, but we started to give away a ticket for every student left on green at the end of the day. We included a money bonus for days on green.

Our last attempt of change has been to add "free recess" on Friday. This is partly for our own sanity, as we have a very active group. However, we put the letters to "free recess" on the board and they can have letters taken away or they can earn them back.

This week, we have started to time when we have to wait for students to be ready to learn, and we are taking that away from recess. (This has been a particularly rough couple of days. We really don't like taking away recess, usually.)

I think part of our problem is that we have so MANY things going on. For misbehavior, students can be asked to move their circle. (If they move down twice, they have to take home a Think Sheet to be filled out and signed.) They could also lose a team point, lose a letter towards recess, lose recess time, or be fined. For behaving well, students can gain team points, gain money, earn back a letter, earn back some lost recess time, or get a ticket.

It is a lot. Sometimes I think simplicity would be better. But it sticks out in my mind that we have focused on each of these single strategies for a week or two, and none of them have shown many results.

Consistency is key, and I realize that. I realize that the combination of individual, small group, and whole class consequences could lead to a lot of inconsistency. I'm just not sure how to fix it, other than to enforce our consequences. We are also starting two students on individualized behavior plans. I think if these two improve their behavior, many of the other students' will follow. I'm hopeful, but I'm still tired.

Today we had problems with students not falling out of their seats to make others laugh. We are so tired of having to enforce consequences for the simplest things, like sitting. We are so tired of having students repeat the rules to us, or having to ask them to show us the right way, having to practice procedures repeatedly, or needing to state our expectations repeatedly for routine tasks like lining up.

Any suggestions are more than welcome. I'm sick of coming home angry and frustrated (and my fiance probably is, too). If my lead teacher and I can't get this figured out together, I don't know how I'm eventually going to deal with this kind of thing as the sole teacher in my own room.

I just want a day where we can teach. And I'm not sure what I need to change to get us there.


Renee L. said...

I really have no prize winning suggestions to give you... But I'll think on it and if I come up with any, I will definitely pass them on.
Until you find the answers though, good luck!

Amy said...

Hi there,

Sorry to cross-post--I don't have email contact information for you. But if you are still interested in sending E a birthday message, please contact me at cpmom2009 AT yahoo DOT com

Thank you so much for reading about her!