- Building positive class culture
- Consistency, fairness, and firmness in classroom management
- Building routines
I'm so, so bad at this, guys. If I want to board the excuses train I could tell you that our population isn't super academically motivated, and most of them haven't learned manners at home, and kids these days are just too into their phones blah blah blah
But those things are true for all of us at times. And this is a blooper reel, not a highlight reel, so here's how I've failed. (under the cut)
- It's obvious who my favorites are (so I'm told).
- I'm inconsistent.
- I'm conflict-averse.
- If I get 50% of the class on board I don't want to lose them by stopping to try and pull back the other 50%.
- I'm not a good planner so there's a lot of downtime.
- I haven't set clear expectations for behavior.
- I haven't set, explained, and rehearsed routines.
- I also tend to be sarcastic, which doesn't help.
So those failures have led to a classroom environment where students feel I play favorites-- and thus play "least favorites" too. That's true. I wish I could qualify it. I can't. I need to fix that. If you know a way to do that overnight, let me know.
It's also an environment where they talk over me or have side conversations while I'm trying to storyask or whatever, and where kids snipe at one another, and where I let kids bully me into playing games instead of doing something more useful for input. I haven't done a storyask in most of my classes for over a month because getting participation from more than 2 or 3 kids is like pulling teeth. It's emotionally exhausting, and so we're doing a lot of vocab lists and then games using that vocab. That's not good CI.
I've tried a bunch of different "management systems." I tried the "communication" standard on my original SBG syllabus- see the last post. That whole thing imploded, so no good there.
I tried DEA, but it's hard to keep track of infractions and however I did it, it came off as punitive. Partly also I didn't emphasize it enough day in, day out. The kids had no real sense of how behavior affected their grades, so when progress reports rolled around, they were angry. Some of my students also felt it was unfair for their grades to be affected by their behavior: if they get the material and do the work, why should they be punished? I tried explaining that it's about how their behavior affects others, too, but that was evidently not convincing.
I tried doing another thing with a behavior rubric which clearly stated what behaviors were required for full credit, and having them rate themselves on it as well as my own rating. Again, they felt it was unfair for their behavior to bring grades down so long as their own work was correct.
And unfortunately, I kind of agree with them. Grades are set up to be individual. They are meant to be something a specific student can pick up and take with them and plug in at different schools or for college admissions. They're supposed to evaluate individual student work, not student personality. Grades are for robots. Behavior is a different thing. Grading behavior only makes any sense because most of our students are only extrinsically motivated, if they're motivated at all, so we have to work through punishment or reward to get them to budge one way or another. I find reward systems largely counterproductive (been there, done that) and distracting, so why does using punishments make any more sense? It doesn't, not really.
So what will I do instead? I don't know really. I think what I want to do is build a class culture where engagement is desirable in itself, but that's a tall order. For now, I do know three things I definitely want to do and which I know I CAN do.
- Get 'reps' on the rules: every time, every time, a rule is broken, repeat the rule. Do this either by pointing to a class rules list and smiling, or by repeating the rule verbally and smiling. As for what rules? I think I might try Lance's three: Look, Listen, Ask, plus one more once I think of a single-word phrase for "Keep it positive." I can't let things go, Elsa's advice aside. I have to rep the rules every time I see a phone, or hear a side convo, etc. even though it's exhausting.
- Practice Love & Logic: I really, really like how these guys think. It is definitely designed for younger kids, but the general principles are gold. I really recommend reading at least this summary, if not the actual Teaching with Love & Logic book (which I also recommend). It really works- repeating yourself, enforceable statements, choices, etc. It feels very weird to use it and see the kids responding, but by god it works.
- Maintain eye contact with the student when addressing the problem. It makes a really big difference. We are after all social animals, and eye contact is powerful.
I'd also really like regular routines, including bellwork, but I'm not sure I'm personally capable of maintaining routines. I just want there to always be a clear expectation of what kids should be doing at any given time: Finished your comprehension check early? Work on X. Done drawing a comic retell? Work on X. That type of thing. Any thoughts?
I could use any advice y'all have on any or all of the above. Thanks :)