Another routine is classroom management. I have posted about my classroom expectations before, but what I haven't talked about is how I get to making these work.
Now let me start this by saying there may be tons of people that disagree with me on this. I think the general consensus is that you should be firm in the beginning of the year and ease up as the year goes on. I generally don't really do this. I definitely start out the year letting them know what the expectations are, but I'm pretty lenient with them for a little while.
The reason for this is that I like to see what the kids will do before I start coming down on them for things. It all comes down to picking my battles. Before I can do that, I need to see what I'm working with. I don't want to start out the year picking every single battle just to prove that I'm in charge.
In no way does this mean my room is chaos for the first couple weeks. I certainly don't ignore bad behavior, I just don't make a huge deal out of it. I make sure to say something to the kid and then make a mental note of it for myself. What this has done for me, is let me know which are the big things I need to focus on. So as I start the third week now, I know which battles I am choosing.
One of them is cell phones. I don't know if it is because my experience is with younger kids, but I have never seen kids that are on their phones SO much. Now for the first week or so I have been very lenient with it. I certainly don't allow them to be on their phones, but I have just been giving out verbal warnings. At this point, however, the phones are going to start to be taken away. I will start Monday by letting them all know this. I don't like arguments so I am just very clear that it will be happening. I will tell them that I'm not doing it just because it's a rule, but because it is a specific issue that we are having in our class.
The other battle I'm choosing is cursing. This is one that I don't have all that much experience with since I'm used to younger kids. Sure my middle school kids cursed every now and then, but it was rare and almost always an unintentional.
My classroom is very informal and there is a lot of group work and collaboration going on so there is a lot of conversation going on, which I'm ok with for the most part. But what I have been noticing over the past week is that a few kids have a particularly bad habit of cursing. They do it without thinking though, and when I say something (or just give them "the look") they immediately apologize. They aren't cursing at anyone or even using it an angry way, it's just unfortunately the way they are used to speaking. They are really nice kids, but they also need to understand that's not an acceptable way to speak in a classroom. They talk like that with their friends and some may even be used to talking like that at home. This makes it even harder to stop because it's not an issue like just taking away a phone, it's an issue of actually breaking a habit which is really tough.
On Friday, I put my new plan into effect. On this shelf I have a little glass jar with my little x-face picture on it, a jar with 50 marbles, and a little notepad.
Every time someone curses, they put their name on the list and put a marble into the glass jar. Each time they curse, they must repeat the process (if their name is already on the list, they will just add a tally mark). When all 50 marbles are in the jar, everyone that has their name on the list will earn a detention. The masking tape is showing roughly where all 50 marbles come up to just to give them an idea as it's filling up.
Everyone's first question was, "What if I just curse a whole bunch of times just to get detention for everyone on the list?" and I told them that any cursing that is on purpose or directed at someone else will be written up individually. So of course if a kid curses me or another kid out I'm going to do more than have them put a marble in a jar. This is designed for those times where it's not quite on purpose. I'm pretty sure they knew this, but they are kids and always need to ask the "what if" question.
Here's why I chose to do it:
- It address the real issue, which is breaking a habit. Every time a kid curses they have to get up out of their seat and go do something. Having them get up will make them more aware of what they are doing, break up what they were doing, and allow them to refocus. I've been reading things on how to break habits and I've seen this suggestion often. In all honestly, the point of this system is not the punishment, it's to make the kids more aware of what they are doing.
- Other kids will begin to hold each other accountable. Once a kid's name is on the list they are at risk of getting in trouble so they are going to have a problem if there's another kid that keeps cursing. It creates an environment where everyone is vested in the rules, not just me.
- It doesn't punish everyone, just the kids that curse. I'm not ok with punishing the whole class for something that only a few kids did, and this addresses that. The only kids in danger are the ones that acted inappropriately.