I’m a positive person and I like to use praise and reward in my room. I spend the first month of school teaching procedures and praising children for good behavior. I encourage my students to be responsible and independent. I have a balanced schedule that includes quiet “thinking” times for independent work and “talking” times when it is okay to share ideas with their peers. I let my students get up from their seats to get tissues, replace broken pencils, look at charts, etc. There are also center times when they are all over the room. We have discussion circles and we play games and sing songs. I know they are young children and I appreciate their enthusiasm.
I said all that to preface the statement that I am also a strict granny when it comes to expecting good behavior from my students. My mother was the kindest, most soft hearted person in the world, but if a child put their hand near a fire she wasn’t afraid to slap it! I’ve never hit a student, and I’ve only had a few spanked by the administration, but I’m not opposed to corporal punishment. Nor do I believe that kind words and stickers can mold the behavior of every child. I don’t care what some teachers say on their blogs about “praise, praise, praise”. It doesn’t work every time for every child! Let’s get real for a moment.
Today’s classroom, even a kindergarten classroom, is likely to contain children with emotional problems, fetal alcohol syndrome, drug related brain damage, and a variety of learning disabilities, in addition to very poor habits developed in their environment. Those children you see on Dr. Phil, who have autism, attention deficit disorder, and attention deficit with hyperactivity, are in some teacher’s classroom, with eighteen to twenty other students. I’ve had students who bite, throw things, knock over chairs, curse, scream, eat glue, stick their head in the toilet, lick their shoes, strangle other students, break pencils, etc. I could make a list that might frighten some of you! I had a bully child in my classroom once and I asked him why he constantly hurt other students. He looked me directly in the eye and said, “Because I can.” A few kind words and a sticker doesn’t fix that.
I’ve also had some very dangerous parents. Parents aren’t sweet and kind and wonderful just because their children are young enough to be in kindergarten. Some of my best students have had parents that gave me nightmares- addicts, drug dealers, pimps, thieves, rapists, murderers. I’ve actually refrained from sending anything remotely negative home with some students for fear the child would be beaten.
So set aside all your Disney expectations about kindergarten discipline and let me tell you what works in my room- rewards and consequences. If you behave in my room you get praise and stickers and treats and a new book. If you don’t behave you have to apologize and miss center time or recess and write “I will follow the rules” ten times and you might even get spanked by the principal. Here’s how it works:
- My students are given an attendance card on the first day of school. It is placed in a pocket chart each morning so I can immediately see who is absent. But it also serves another purpose. At the bottom of the chart are pockets labeled 5, 10, 15, and X. They represent time out and X=“Mrs. Maurer gets to choose the punishment”.
- My students get reminders and warnings about their behavior, especially for simple disruptive things like talking or humming or tapping their pencils, etc. But if they continue to choose the behavior, they move their card to the time out pocket. When my students are in timeout they don’t just sit. They must write “I will follow the rules”, or “I’m sorry I…” during their time. Serious problems are dealt with through the principal’s office. I state the problem on a “pink slip”- hurting another student, destroying property, etc., and they give the parents punishment options.
- At the end of each day each student brings me their attendance card and gets a sticker (I also give extras during the day for outstanding work or behavior). Each time a student gets a row of five stickers, regardless of the time or day, they get to pick a treat from my treasure box. It contains pencils, erasers, necklaces, plastic animals, etc. NO CANDY. When their card is filled (about ten rows) they get a new card and a new book (sticker, coloring, watercolor, story- their pick). I buy the books for a dollar at the discount store.
I’ve read the arguments that this is “public humiliation”. EVERYTHING in kindergarten is public!! The student’s bad behavior was public, their disruption of everyone else’s learning was public, and their consequences should be too- to discourage others from doing the same!
I could go on, but I’m out of time this morning. I’m off to school to see who is naughty and nice today! J