Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Procedures & Routines

At our last meeting we had some technical difficulties and were unable to view the entire video from Dr. Harry K. Wong, entitled "Procedures and Routines." We did have a great discussion about classroom management, however.

One of Dr. Wong's ideas is that teachers should manage a classroom by teaching and rehearsing procedures & routines.  Doing so, he says, makes the idea of "discipline" almost unnecessary. Teach the expectation, rehearse it, help kids understand very clearly what it should look like, sound like, and so on. Once taught, we treat it like any other skill: if it is not demonstrated appropriately, we stop and reteach as needed. No yelling, no red-faced gnashing-of-teeth, etc., over student behavior. If the behaviors & expectations are not learned appropriately after these attempts, the student(-s) need more help than we classroom teachers are able to give them, so they must be removed from the educational environment for more one-on-one reteaching by the administrator, etc. However, we must make sure we have taught the expected behavior clearly and rehearsed it with appropriate frequency before that.

During our discussion, I mentioned that any classroom's discipline plan or set of procedures MUST include three things: Expectations, Consequences, and Rewards. These are my personal opinions and are based on 13 years of K-12 classroom experiences and things I've read and stolen along the way.

Tips for Expectations
  • Three to five Expectations. Period. They won't remember a list any longer than 5. Give them a list and you're setting both kids and yourself up for failure and a really rough year together.
  • Post Expectations in the front of the classroom, in very large print on a colorful poster that kids will want to look at and read.
  • Word Expectations in positive language (Avoid starting with "No.." and "Don't...") describing what you expect students to do or what students can do in the classroom.
  • Use Action Verbs, so kids can more easily visualize what they should Do.
  • Teach the Expectations at the beginning of the year/term. Discuss them with the students. Talk with kids about what the Expectations are and what the Expectations are not (examples & non-examples). This will save you time and headaches in the long run.
  • Make a two-column or T-Chart: Have kids come up with what the expectation "Looks Like..." and "Sounds Like..." and tell them that is what you'll be looking for and listening for during class.
  • When kids "step out of line," treat it as an unlearned skill that needs to be retaught. Avoid singling out a kid in front of peers - that could backfire on you. You as the classroom teacher should always stay in control of the situation and be very clear with students about your expectations and how kids should respond to questioning. Instead of asking "What are you doing/thinking?" ask, "What's the expectation?", "Are you following it?", and "What should you do next?", etc.
  • Team or Grade-level Expectations are extremely powerful. School-wide Expectations even more so.  However, make sure they don't work at cross-purposes or contradict one another.
  • Steal ideas from experienced teachers. Ask your principal what works and is acceptable, and what doesn't or isn't.
Tips for Consequences
  • Keep Consequences simple and progressive. For example, first infraction = warning, second = 10 minute detention, third = 20 minute detention, fourth = ejection.
    • 3-4 levels is a nice balance between reactionary and overly-tolerant. (Depending on your students age and abilities)
    • Remember: the more steps you have, the longer the misbehaving student remains in the class.
    • Build in an escape clause - something like "extreme disruptions = immediate ejection," etc.
  • Post Consequences in the front of the classroom, in very large print on a colorful poster that kids will want to look at and read. Put it right next to the Expectations poster mentioned above.
  • Be consistent and follow the plan.
  • EVERYONE GETS A CLEAN SLATE EACH TIME THEY WALK THROUGH YOUR DOOR. Kids screw up - once we accept  that we can move on. We're adults and we're professionals. We don't hold grudges. We model what we expect from our kids.
  • Team or Grade-level Consequences are extremely powerful. School-wide Consequences even more so.  However, make sure they don't work at cross-purposes or contradict one another.
  • Notes on Detentions:
    • Especially for the younger teachers: Being alone in a classroom with a student can pose certain risks. If you must be in a classroom in a 1-on-1 situation with a student, if possible do so near the entrance to the classroom with the door open an in full view of anyone who might walk by. 
    • If you assign the detention, the detention should be carried out with you. Otherwise, the detention is meaningless as a tool to reinforce your expectations.
    • Detentions should be meaningful and should be thought of as an opportunity to reteach the expectations that were not learned and resulted in the detention in the first place. During detention, talk with the student about the expectation and how their choices did not meet the expectation. Discuss what specific behaviors the student can and should exhibit in the future.
    • Copying sentences, writing essays about behavior, etc., are meaningless busy work. You'll just throw them away, and the kids will forget about them as soon as they walk out the door. What' they'll remember is that you made them do something distasteful, unpleasant and unnecessary. They'll resent it and they'll resent you, too.
    • Give kids at least 24 hours to serve the detention if after school so they can arrange a ride.
      • Duration of detention = time you must serve, too. Be reasonable.
      • Who says kids can't serve detention before school the next morning?
      • Kids HATE missing lunch. YOU MUST MAKE SURE A KID HAS A CHANCE TO EAT LUNCH, but they hate missing the opportunity to sit in a less-structured environment and talk with their peers.
      • Same goes for Recess at the earlier grade levels.
  • Steal ideas from experienced teachers. Ask your principal what works and is acceptable, and what doesn't or isn't.

Tips for Rewards/Incentives
  • Post Rewards or Incentives in the front of the classroom, in very large print on a colorful poster that kids will want to look at and read. Put it right next to the Expectations and Consequences posters mentioned above.
  • Think of both short-term and long-term Rewards/Incentives for kids to work toward.
  • Make Rewards/Incentives achievable for each and every student in your classroom.
  • Ask students what they want to work for, and work their ideas into the plan. Ownership means a lot.
  • Rewards don't have to cost a lot of money. Maybe kids want an extra recess or free-reading time. Let them listen to a classroom radio during seat-work - They choose the station but you choose the volume, etc. Food doesn't have to be the reward, but popcorn parties with a video can be pulled off for a couple bucks... literally:
    • Many video stores will rent videos to teachers for classroom activities for free or for a very small fee. Some may let you keep the video for as long as you want. Make sure it is age-appropriate, though!
    • You can get a huge bag of already-popped popcorn from concessions suppliers for a very small amount of money. You might have to pick it up the night before or the morning of the Reward/Incentive to make sure it's fresh, but that's a lot easier than using a microwave or hot-air-popper. They will often throw in individual paper sacks for you, too. Ask if they make deliveries; you might be able to sweet-talk them into dropping it off for you on their next run!
  • Steal ideas from experienced teachers. Ask your principal what works and is acceptable, and what doesn't or isn't.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Welcome Back!

For those of you visiting this blog for the first time, WELCOME!

This space is used for Galesburg CUSD #205 and KWSED teachers who are new to their respective assignments. This is an area where we can:
  • Celebrate your accomplishments in the art and science of educating our children,
  • Share suggestions, advice and concerns, (remember: this is a public forum!)
  • Catch up on events from recent meetings of the New Teacher Learning Team
New Teacher Learning Team
Our first meeting of this year was held Wednesday, August 31. This was the end of a hot day, and the A/C in the meeting room seemed to be appreciated by all. We were joined by Diane VanHootegem, Director for Human Services, and Joel Estes, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum & Instruction. A few concerns were expressed and addressed:
  • National Common Core State Standards: Don't feel bad if you're freaking-out - this can freak-out even the most experienced teachers! NCCSS will become "the law of the land" in 2014-15, regardless of whether teachers are ready for it or not. Galesburg is probably ahead of most Districts as far as raising awareness of this change and helping teachers get prepared for it. However, there will still be growing pains among both new and experienced teachers alike. The professional development activities that District #205 has planned over the next few months and years are designed to help ease this transition as much as possible.
  • Mentoring Plan: We have a State-approved Mentoring Plan on file with the Illinois State Board of Education. Participating in this plan is (1) a contractual requirement during your first two years of employment, and (2) the quickest way for new teachers to earn their Standard Certificate. Here's how to participate:
    • Meetings: Meet with your Mentor regularly (guideline: around 35 hours during your first year, around 15 hours during your second year - most of you will log more hours than this, though - and that's okay!),
    • Observations: Your Mentor should observe you in your classroom duties to help you improve on whatever areas you (or your principal) think would be best to help kids. There should be specific Planning and Reflecting Conferences held before and after each Observation, respectively.
    • Logs: Note the date, duration, and topic(-s) discussed at each meeting with your Mentor. You can also use this as a diary or journal to reflect on your activities and growth as a professional educator if you wish, but the brass-tacks of logging the meetings is required to show your participation in the Mentoring Plan.
      • Also record the dates & durations of the Observations by your Mentor!
    • See Other Teachers In Action: You also have the opportunity to observe other District teachers during a class period up to once each semester.
    • New Teacher Learning Team: While these meetings are an optional part of the Mentoring Plan, those who participate report that it is very valuable to their first year or two in the District. We will reimburse you for your time in these meetings (at regular committee stipend rate in December and in May), but the value in sharing and learning during these meetings is immeasurable! 
  • Know Your Students: We also discussed some ways to creatively deal with student behaviors - or lack thereof - during the hot days of August (and September... and sometimes October... etc...). The conversations sort of revolved around the importance of getting to know your students and considering all the other factors that might be at work that have very little to do with your work with curriculum and instruction - but are vitally important to the kids and their success. Building appropriate student/teacher relationships, taking into account the myriad personal issues kids bring with them every day, and working together to help everyone adapt to "the way school is done" is just as important as doing the job itself. That's true in school as well as life!
After this discussion we watched the first video in Dr. Harry Wong's series, entitled "The Effective Educator." We will discuss this and many other things at our next meeting, September 14 @ GHS. Hope to see you all there!