The way I run (don’t like this verb or “manage” very much but can’t think of a better one tonight) my classroom is based on the New Tech mantra of “Trust, Respect, and Responsibility.” It is also based on relationships. I feel like there are often too many rules trying to “control” students.
Some teachers use pseudo-responsibility where they set up a rule knowing students will break it justifying the teacher to take away privileges. “I will let you chew gum as long as you are responsible.” One week later there is gum on the floor and no one can chew gum for the rest of the year. Later the teacher brags about how students were given responsibility and abused it and lost privileges. I think the teacher planned this from the get go and students were set up. This does not build trust.
|Photo by me
The other day some students in my class were eating marshmallows by throwing them into the air and trying to catch them: challenging, entertaining, and a major distraction. I went over and asked them what our agreement for food in the classroom was. “We can eat it as long as it is not a distraction” they replied. Then one student argued it was not a distraction. I told them it was for me and another student quickly put them away and it was done.
There was no argument, punishment, or consequence. I treated them as adults and pointed out the problem and they quickly solved it and got back to work. I also maintained a good relationship because I was not out to “get them in trouble.” By focusing on the behavior and not banning food I put real responsibility on them and did not turn the situation into a power struggle.
Too many times in schools we want to ban things (hats, hoodies, gum, food, rubberbands, Facebook, Youtube, etc) but students will always come up with a new distraction. If instead we focused on re-directing their behavior students would see us as allies instead of adversaries over often trivial things that in themselves have nothing to do with learning.
I was lied to by a student today. She wanted to use the bathroom and did not have her planner. Our school policy is three passes per student per marking period by signing their planner. She did not have her planner so she gave me someone else’s planner. There was no name in this planner but I knew it was not hers. I asked her to tell me the truth and admit it was not hers. She lied again and said that it was. I signed and let her go.
While she was gone I found the name page that she had torn out by her desk. When she returned I confronted her about it. I said the name and she realized I had found that page.
So what to do? I could write her up to the office for lying and she might get suspended. I could give her some punishment that I made up. I could get mad and yell at her.
Instead I talked to her. I shamed her. I find shame can be a powerful force with students. I told her she had broken my trust and that from now I could no longer believe her. I told her this was the consequence of her lie-broken trust between us. I would now have to doubt her words to me. She asked if she could gain it back and I said yes, but it would take time. She said she would never lie to me again and meant it. I did one of those what else should you say things and “forced” her to admit what she did and say sorry.
A few minutes later she wrote an apology note to me on the board saying she was truly sorry for the whole class to see. (they had seen and heard the whole exchange already). This was when I knew I had made the right choice. Punishment from the office is never as effective as using relationships. I believe she truly understands the real consequences of lying and will think twice before doing it again. I believe she will never lie to me again and my relationship is stronger with her than before. In my mind she has already re-gained my trust but I will not let her know that yet. I want her to still earn back that trust.
This won’t be on any tests she takes, but in my mind she learned today.