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. It’s a wast of time and harms relationships to argue over trivial things that have nothing to do with learning.
Agreed! I would add that, at least in my experience, this type of environment causes the student to naturally focus on their own behavior rather than “getting away with it” or “seeing if the teacher will notice”. A much more valuable thought process!