It has been a very interesting couple of months. I have been reading about banning cell phones in the classroom and now we are talking about fidget toys. Banning things is not a new concept. Whenever some new craze seems to come along there always seems to be problems associated with it. Whether it was Pokemon cards, bottle flipping or even be blades, it just seems that age old argument of I cannot stop it so I will just ban it comes up. But is this the best thing!
To me it isn’t about should they be in the classroom or not. I mean there are logical arguments on both sides to me it is more about unilateral decisions that we seem to make in education. I mean I get it, as teachers we are in charge, right? but is being that authoritative presence the best for our students? How do you respond to someone or something telling you this is the way it should be? (Does losing our sick days ring a bell :))
Has banning anything ever worked? or has it just created more conflict to deal with down the road? So the question shouldn’t be one side or the other but is there a better answer?
For me there is. I seem to be talking a lot about this but ever since Izzy being in school my eyes have been open to classroom management. When I first started teaching I was very much, thou shalt do what I say! I was the boss, I was in charge and I took a hard line. I still do for most safety and important matters but now I try another approach.
Dr. Ross Green Talks in his books about collaborative problem-solving. This is basically, talking to your kids about how you would solve the problem and therefore the next time it occurs you can avoid it. In his books, he often questions what is the point of punishment? For me, it is to not have that behaviour occur in the first place. Dr. Green would agree with me. So if this is the desired effect of punishment then why wouldn’t we involve the students who are directly affected by that punishment.
Classroom management seems to always be a struggle for our classrooms. We seem to have harder students every year. But I’ll tell you this, there is always a reason for those behaviours. There isn’t one student that I would say is a bad kid. They don’t wake up in the morning and say, “ummm….how will I make my teachers life a living hell?” No, there is a cause and effect for their behaviour. The problem is we as educators often don’t take the time to understand what that reason is or we often pre-think what that reason is.
Last month, I asked my students what has made the difference in their change of behaviour. They told me, “You listen!”
This has been a very powerful statement for me. I asked them what they meant by “You listen” they told me you honour our thoughts and opinions. You don’t care if it’s a pencil that we are fighting over or a real fight you listen. This has stuck with me as I ponder these debates over banning or unilaterally deciding things for our students.
Our students deserve a lot more from us. They are not just some people who come to our class but have their own personalities and opinions. We need to think more about what affects them and how it affects them in order for them to understand why we want them to do things. It isn’t that we are giving up our authority (for whatever that is) or that we are giving up control but in fact, we are building relationships and a community.
The more we involve our students in the decision making the more they feel a part of our community. The more they are a part of our community and the less classroom management we will have.
Now, collaborative problem solving is not a magic bullet. It takes work and time but what I know is that banning doesn’t work. Now, I know why we often resort to banning. We are often stressed and bothered by these small things in our classroom but banning will not help the situation. In fact, it can often cause more problems.
So as we head into our week, I hope that we can think about who our kids are and why they behave the way they do. Stop and listen to them and they will surprise you.