Whew! This week has been tough! The kids knew that Thanksgiving Break was right around the corner, and they were pumped up, let me tell you. This time of year can be draining, and the temptation to lighten up in the discipline department because of exhaustion, or just pressure to address the next Common Core standard, can derail even the best of classrooms. Here are 2 tips I use to get me through the entire year. I hope you find them to be helpful.
1) Be Relentlessly Consistent: The teacher down the hall recently retired. Sad. She is, not was, a model teacher. She is, not was, the very essence of what a great teacher is all about! She has been incredibly inspirational, and I have learned many things from her. But the most important lesson that I have learned from her is to "Be Consistent." If I have appropriately explained my expectations about any part of our day, and my students do not fulfill those expectations, then we review the expectations orally, and then spend time practicing them again. I do this without fail each and every time. All. Year. Long.
Sometimes, I have to admit it is a real drag to be "Relentlessly Consistent." Like when it's lunch time, and I'm starving, and the kids decide to go berserk during line-up. I just want to leave quickly, and drop them off at the cafeteria, so bad! But, I don't. I send them back to their seats. We review our class expectations for lining up. Then, we spend time practicing. I cruelly call attention to the other second grade classes who are walking past our classroom on their way to lunch. You get the gist. If any of you have done the Daily Five, you probably can relate to this method of "perfect practice." In our class we say, "Perfect practice. Every time. All the time." It really does work. Yes, yes, I know it's controlling, and very Type A. I have already accepted that "the shoe fits," in this case. But, I also tell my students, "I will only control you until you are able to control yourselves."
I should clarify that the expectation is not that my students will attain "perfection" or be "perfect" - That would be unfair, and too much to ask of anyone. But, I do expect my students to practice everything the way it was taught. When they slip up, and they do, I gently guide them back to the routines and procedures that make learning possible.
(P.S. The retired teacher mentioned above, now volunteers in my classroom once a week, and makes comments about how much she loves being in my classroom, and how on-task my students are. I could just about fly over the moon after hearing those words from her.)
2) Devise systems to keep students focused, motivated, and safe. A couple of my favorite classroom management tricks are:
Musical transitions: LOVE! If you have not visited Rick Morris' website, New Management, go now. He has tons of classroom management tips, including music that he uses to transition students from one activity to another. My students' favorite is the tune for "Mario Bros." It is 50 seconds long. Each student knows 1) I will only give instructions one time, and 2) they must be in their place, with the proper materials, ready to learn, by the end of that tune. If not, my students change their behavior cards (clips), and pay back any wasted time during their recess (where we will model and practice quick transitions, organize materials, whatever the obstacle may be) Transitions in my room are usually very efficient and smooth, and this tool has helped me move towards my goal of reducing unnecessary "teacher talk."
Behavior Cards: These cards are a critical part of of my day-to-day management. They are fun, differentiated, and extremely effective! The basic idea? Students get a card that has 5, 10, or 20 boxes. Now, it is personal, and must be appropriate for each child. When students are on task - they earn stamps or "punches" in their cards. When their card is full, they receive some type of reward.