Rethinking discipline and classroom management

I don’t know about you but I was raised with the philosophy of spare the rod spoil the child. I’m pretty sure i’m not the only one. This philosophy shaped how I was raised, how I worked in my classroom and how I ultimately started parenting. But then came that proverbial moment when my 1st born was old enough to misbehave and everything I thought I knew had to be reevaluated.

Now please don’t get me wrong I am not saying how I grew up was wrong but since having children I have done a lot of rethinking about what discipline and management is.

I’ve talked about our struggles with my oldest before she is not the easiest child to work with but she has talk me so much in the process. So I thought i’d share some thoughts here:

1) learning about self reg.

Before learning about self reg I saw my childs tantrums just as that tantrums. I saw acting out as acting out. Even in the classroom I was why are they doing this don’t they know better. Now, it is easier to see those moments as a cry for help. Kids (K-12) act out for a reason. They are trying to communicate to the best of their ablities that they have been wronged or are stress. It isn’t on purpose, it isn’t to make your life miserable they just need help. Now is how they are doing it correct…not really but that is after discussion.

Self reg has also taught me that there really isn’t any reason to talk rationally to a child under stress until they are calm and centered. Their brain just cannot process the information. So step one is to identify they are stressed, step two calm, step 3 then talk. It is here in this talk you can discuss actions and discipline but not until they are back to rational thinking. Step 4 is figuring out stressors before they happen.

2. Punishment/discipline and anything else you want to lump in here

I was spanked as a kid. I was spanked often as a kid. I was spanked hard as a kid. I dont say this as a badge or a confirmation that it works but as a I know that it really doesnt work. Oh I did stop the behaviour but more out of I didn’t want to brake a spoon over my butt again. I’m sure that we all can relate to this story. But you see this is all I knew so what happens as a parent is this is what we revert too. It is in our tool box but it just doesn’t work to our desired outcomes. Personally, I have found that it continues the behaviour until a) you are so frustrated with the child you loose your marbles or b) the kid runs away and hates you forever. There is a c but that is a behaviour only stops because they dont want to be hit again. In all three cases the desire outcome of punishment isn’t really met.

We punish because we don’t want our children to repeat the behaviour, right? We want them to learn? But how is the above doing that?

Now please dont get me wrong there should be consequences for bad decisions.

What I have found is once a child is able to center and think again it is easier to talk and discuss the actions. My daughter has consequences. At first it felt like this wasn’t going to work but it has. Now she has less blow ups and actually understands why she is having them. She gets the reason why discipline needs to happen.

3) if a child doesn’t want to change nothing will change them

This has been the hardest part for me to learn. When I first started teaching I said I’m the boss and kids will lisyen to me. I was strict, I laid the law down amd guess what I still do but a lot different. My kids don’t follow the rules cause I said thou shalt they follow it because they have been involved and want to. Kids want to be in class because they feel a part of it. This has been the key to my management lately. My kids still know where the line is but they made it.

Now how does this come back to school. Today I saw next to a tardy list if a child gets 15 lates they are removed from all extra curriculars and teams. Now again I get discipline and why that statement is needed but then again i question this why is the child late? Does this take into consideration of home? Maybe they hate your class? Maybe they dont like you? These are all questions to think about before a punishment can be handed down. We also have to think about one other thing. Often our school clubs, teams, free choice periods are the only thing keeping our kids in school. They are one thing they look forward too, so in taking them away what are we doing to that child?

These are just some random thoughts but for me I understand that classroom management is needed…I know kids and adults need to understand right from wrong but we also need to consider the child and ultimately the reason for the negative behaviour. Lets focus less on the behaviour and more on the reasons and ultimately stopping it from happening.

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Balance, what is that?

As you all know a teachers life is always busy. There is never a dull moment from planning, marking, researching and just plain teaching, our jobs are always on the go. This of course doesn’t even include our own personal lives which I will admit often is put on hold for our professional lives. I mean even as I write this blog I am walking laps around a track.

Lately, I have found it very hard to keep up. I try to balance everything but you always seem to drop something or get too stressed out to do anything else.

In fact, I feel guilty that I’m not on twitter as much or even writing 2 posts a month. I know I shouldn’t but you cannot help but feel the guilt.

This not only goes for us as teachers but out own students too. Students as well need to think of balance. Life is not about grades and homework but about enjoyment.

I write this post not to say hey I’m struggling or poor me but to say how do people find the time to balance it all? I wonder what strategies people have to balance their professional lives with their personal?

I am also writing this to leave some sort of affirmation that if you are struggling you are not alone. And that it is okay. I know that maybe weird coming from the guy now on lap 15 and writing a post but I think part it finding balance is to let go of the feeling we need to do everything.

So as I leave this post I would love to hear people’s strategies. I will also leave this statement: I will do my best to find the balance to be in the moment and most of all enjoy life.

An Open Door

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Have you ever thought about what makes your class or school special? Ever wondered what makes the difference that makes the difference? These have been questions that I continue to look for and reflect on all of the time.

Today something sparked my thoughts even more. I was in a meeting today, with a bunch of staff, talking with our Superintendent about our wonderful school, when one of my colleagues made an interesting statement.

When I first came here I took a back seat to reflect on what makes this school special. Part of what I noticed was that everyone’s door was open….

She went on to further describe that having an open door showed her how open and comfortable we were with one another. I can go to anyone for help no matter what.

Now, I am slightly paraphrasing here but you get the understanding of this message. Even as I write this I am still struggling to find words to talk about my thoughts but I thought I would share some of these thoughts with you. You see, she hasn’t been the first person to mention that there is something special about Ray Lawson.   I have also noticed that things are different here but couldn’t figure out why. When my colleague made this statement it was a big aha for me. It never dawned on me how something as simple as an open door could help others see you were warm and there to help, it was something I just did.

 

As teachers, we want to create a culture where students are competent, curious, and capable. We also want to create a culture of love and understanding. But for that to happen it starts with us. The comment my colleague said, made me think about how I present myself to my colleagues and to my students/ parents. Do they see that what I am saying is put into practice? or do they see something different?

I never would have thought that something as small as an open door would make such a difference but it does. Here at Ray Lawson, we walk into each other’s classrooms all the time. No one ever bats an eyelash. We talk about best practices, we talk about students and we question our teaching, ALL THE TIME. Screen Shot 2017-11-01 at 6.48.57 PM

In Peel, this is one of our beliefs but how do we put this into practice? What do you do in your classroom that allows students, parents and other teachers to see you as open, flexible and responsive to their needs?  Love to hear your thoughts.

Relationships Matter…I cannot stress this enough

The last couple of weeks I have been struggling with being a parent and a teacher. There has been many things lately that I haven’t agreed with but I have tried to stay calm and understand. It has been hard to sit back and find the right words to describe what I wish would be happening more in our profession. Then this tweet came across my feed today and it allowed me to center my thoughts that I have been struggling to communicate.

I want this quote to sit for a minute.

 

I know when I first started teaching I often neglected this very important piece. I often felt that I knew my students or that I was allowing them to be a part of the learning but the more I reflect the more I think I could have done more. Stuart’s work on self reg has been revolutionary for me. Reading his book was a breath of fresh air. The greatest take away I had was:

There is no thing/ concept as a Bad Child

I now firmly believe this but it is one of the toughest things that we have to realize as an educator. If you have been reading my blogs for the past I have often talked about the importance of relationships. I also have talked a lot about Stuart’s work and my daughter Izzy.

The latest update in Izzy’s school saga is that she has been formally tested and diagnosed with an LD, and ADHD. Now this wasn’t new information for me and my wife but it explains a lot of the problems that we have been seeing. The problem is Izzy is often misinterpreted. Izzy is not an easy child to get a long with. She is often difficult and stubborn. She has melt downs and high, high anxiety around school. These problems hinder her progress and have unfortunately labeled her as one of the problem children. However, there is a reason for her behaviour and she doesn’t do these things on purpose.

Izzy finds school hard, she finds learning hard and when she finds it hard she breaks down or is in a high stress situation. Like adults high stress causes her to be in a flight or fight mode, which in turn causes her to have behaviours.

For the past two years she has had two great educators who have taken the time to learn and honour Izzy as a person. They laughed at her quirkiness and joined in her loves. When she was stressed or struggled they often saw them even before Izzy did and was able to redirect and help her through them.

Now this relationship building takes time and I know oh so well that time is a very precious thing. As educators we often struggle with meeting all of the curriculum that we have to cover. There is so many things that we have to do that is not in the scope of teaching that we a lot of times forget about the most simplistic thing.

Teaching is not about teaching but about building

Our students know that we care. They pick up on our vibes, our stresses and our comments. This is for both the good and the bad.

Like most, if not all students, my daughter thrives on teachers who take a moment to see her for who she is. When you take the time to understand why she behaves the way she does, she actually has less bad behaviour and focuses more on the good. However, when she knows you think she is a problem then she tends to lean towards that. Students are pretty much the same. Relationships are needed and the time spent on them is time well spent.

When you take the time to honour students voices, who they are and what they like, they give it back to you. So I encourage you learn the stories of your students, understand who they are as individuals, recognize that they all of potential to do amazing things. I know that we all came into teaching to do just that but I think some times we loose site of it and get bogged down in all of the politics or curriculum.

If you spend the time building relationships I promise you will not be let down. My daughter is an amazing little girl, who I know has difficulties and causes a lot of stress in the classroom. But when she knows she is loved, she will do anything for you. I’ll end with this quote from Peel’s Modern Learner.

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School should be….

To borrow a phrase from my good friend Matthew Oldridge, “School should be a place of excitement and constant wonder!” I don’t really have any way of putting it so nicely and yet school is often a place where many students dread.

I want to share a personal story. As many of you know my daughter has had her fair share of difficult times at school.  I have often blogged about her difficulties and what they have taught me. But nothing pains me more when I hear her tell me she hates school and doesn’t want to go back. It has been very interesting to see her natural development around this concept of school and where her divergence went towards that famous, “I hate school” line. When Izzy was young and in preschool she absolutely loved it. I mean this was a girl who ended up being potty trained because she wanted to go to school so badly. During preschool, she couldn’t get enough. She would wake up early and eagerly wait for her time to go to school. Even the very first day of JK you could see her face beaming with excitement. But unfortunately, that was where everything seemed to change.

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It broke my heart, as a parent and as an educator, to see my happy child go from the above pictures to this.

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Now, I know that my daughter is not the easiest child to get along with. She has her many downfalls and is full of energy. In JK, she got into a lot of fights and a lot of discussions with her teacher about how we could help.  She struggled with the academics and what the teachers wanted her to do. We now understand that learning is very hard for her. She has a low working memory and ADHD. It’s not an excuse but it does explain why school is hard. It also explains why she sometimes seems like she gets it and then all of a sudden doesn’t.

But what changed?

When you ask Izzy, why she doesn’t like school she can’t really pin point it but when you explore further it is often because she has to follow certain rules or when she interprets something as fun and told to stop she doesn’t want to. Or according to her, is viewed as a “problem child”. She often tells me that her teachers don’t like her or that she feels like they pick on her.

As a teacher, I understand that places have rules and in the “real world” there are things we must follow but at the same time shouldn’t the purpose of school, especially in younger grades, be a place to foster the excitement of learning? Shouldn’t we foster growth and natural wonder and curiosity?

School for a long time has been a place meant to conform our young ones to the “way of the world”. It was made to have workers who could work the lines. But the world has changed and yet school hasn’t. We no longer need to have kids be little robots that do exactly the same thing. Is it important that we have students doing exactly what we want them to do or is it more important that students see themselves in the learning and want to be a part of it. In the bigger picture of the world, is it vital that students walk in a straight and orderly line down the hallways or do we teach the students the value of not disrupting others thinking but just being quiet. Do we stop the learning of our students because the bell has rung or we must move on the the next period/ curriculum expectation or do we foster the love of learning by allowing our children to naturally explore.

As a parent, my goal for my kids is that they love to learn. I am glad that school fosters academics but I also know that will come with time. Nurturing that natural wonder will allow students to want to learn and I think as educators we have a big role to play.

So I ask you, is your classroom a place of natural wonder and curiosity? Or is it a place that students dread to come?

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Silent Gallery Walks

On the second edition of the Mathpod, Cathy Fosnot mentioned that she does all of her gallery walks silent. I was struck by this idea as I have only done gallery walks in full conversations. Now I have been doing Gallery Walks for some time now and the idea has never crossed my mind.

To me a Gallery Walk was a place to engage in meaningful and critical math talk. I have done them in many different ways:

  1. Partners walk around and talk strategies
  2. Group Gallery Walks: Students find another partner group and talk to them
  3. Stay and Go: one member stays while one member goes
  4. Walk around and sign your name or place questions

But I have never been more impressed than with the silent gallery walk. Here is what I did:

  1. I set the rule that there will be no talking. Not one word. This was probably the hardest part but my kids seemed to handle it.
  2. I asked them to reflect on the strategies that they saw. They had to do two things, write a questions about the math or sign the bottom to say they understood and could share the strategy with the class.
  3. After students went back to their strategy and read the questions in order to further improve their presentation.

At first, I wasn’t too sure if this would have any impact on the learning but as I said it was amazing. I got the most rich and in depth questions I have ever seen on students work. Also, I have done this before with talking but it always seems that students are off task or done right away. This time my students kept the engagement for a full 15 minutes while walking around looking at strategies.

So if you have a chance try a silent gallery walk, you may be surprised.

 

My Journey with going Gradeless continues

As many of you know I have been on a three year journey to throw out Grades in my classroom.  Recently, I was able to be a part of a great PD day with the fabulous Starr Sackstien. I have written some posts about how much she has influenced me and my journey and meeting her in real life didn’t disappoint.

Being in year three of going gradeless I still felt like I was missing something in the process.  I mean I already was having students read the curriculum, write their own learning goals and success criteria and finish up with a quarterly letter to their parents but the process still felt like I was missing a piece of the puzzle.

In listening to Starr talk she mentioned the idea of tracking feedback with her students. It was at the moment that a little light bulb went off. Tracking, so simple yet so easy to forget and do.

So this year I have decided to make a simple google doc. The doc had a chart that included the date, title of assignment, what I said to the students and what they think it meant. I also included a met box with a link to a piece of evidence. This small piece of work has made a big difference in my students reflection process. Now they are able to look back and set better goals as they see which piece of feedback they haven’t been able to meet. This makes goal setting a whole lot easier.

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I just thought I would share this with everyone as it was really helpful for me. If you have any other suggestions about assessment love to hear from you.