Or moving pins, or giving conduct checks, sad faces, stars, whatever you want to call it.
I’m through with it, and I have ten years of reasons to share with all of you cringing teachers right now! I know what you’re thinking. Her class is probably a circus. It’s a zoo. She’s crazy. She must be tired.
And the truth is, after ten years, yes I am tired.
I’m tired of trying to keep up with “who did what” at the end of the day. I’m tired of feeling frustrated when the one kid keeps losing all of his cards and doesn’t even care that he pulled them all. I’m tired of sending the same girl to timeout every day, only to have her sit there and stew and plan her revenge on me.
I’m tired of sending the same notes home to the same parents, recounting all the wrongs of the day that their child dared to commit.
So this year I decided to stop doing it. Why it took me ten years to come to this decision, I don’t know. I think for the first years of teaching I did it because every teacher I knew, no matter what school they were at, had some type of system for consequence that involved card pulling, moving stars, moving pins, moving clips, changing colors, or getting “checked”. After a few years, I started seeing some holes in my system (like the ones I mentioned above) but I kept the system because I am a creature of habit. I find comfort in the norm, in the routine. And I had my routine down pat so I didn’t want to change it!
However, this year after the kids went home on the first day of school, and I was reclining in a sea of unopened school supplies, notes from parents, and a few stray plastic straw wrappers from juice boxes (those things are like ninjas–they stick to everything and resist brooms at all cost!), I realized that I had forgotten to go over “moving stars” that day, which was my system for consequences. I’ll do it tomorrow, I thought.
The next day, I didn’t go over moving stars. I didn’t bring it up the third or fourth day either. Once or twice, my mouth started to form the words “You need to move your star…” but then I replaced the words with the desired behavior. Instead of “You need to move your star for rolling around on the rug (after I’ve said to sit up HOW MANY times?!?)” I said “You need to look at your friends, notice how they are sitting, and be like them, or you’ll need to practice later.”
And guess what? I haven’t missed moving stars or pulling cards for one day! Not once!
As for time out, I had already been phasing that out anyway. I am a strong believer in the saying Practice Makes Perfect. In my class, instead of sitting in time out, we simply practice the desired behavior. If a student is running in the hall, then the student practices walking in the hall instead of sitting in a corner looking around. What if you can’t be in the hall watching your student practice? Then have him or her practice walking on a line in your room, or when you’re out at recess. I usually “practice” for about 2 minutes at first. That’s usually all the time it takes for most students.
Do you have a student that can’t keep her hands to herself on the rug while you’re reading? Then have her practice sitting with her hands in her lap when everyone else goes to stations for about one minute. Is a student being rude to his friends? Then have him stand beside you and watch his friends who are communicating nicely for a few minutes. Point out which friends are saying nice words. What about the kid who thinks the lunchroom is a party zone? Practice. Get a clean tray and utensils from your lovely lunchroom ladies, take it back to the room with you, and have the child practice sitting on bottom, feet on floor, facing the tray. Coach them while they practice. Tell them they are doing a good job practicing and that this is how they will act at lunch tomorrow.
The reality is that most kindergarteners don’t “misbehave” because they are out to get their teacher. Their actions are because they are five years old. They run in the hall because they’re five and the hall is a wide track to them, beckoning them to sprint through. They don’t stop to think This could hurt someone. They need us to teach them, and sometimes they need to practice so they’ll remember. They stand up and twist around in the lunchroom because it does resemble a wild party zone at times, and they’ve never seen anything like it. I’ve never seen anything like that place. Many of them have never eaten from a tray, had to sit there even when they’re finished, and had to do it all in about fifteen minutes. They need us to teach them. They need practice. And they need time to get better at it. They need our patience.
So what is my new system? Well, we have one rule in my class:
Be Nice: Nice Hands, Nice Feet, Nice Words
This takes care of it all. Nice hands keep to themselves and don’t hurt others. Nice hands raise in the air when you have to say something. Nice hands stay off the wall in the hallway. Nice feet only walk in the halls. Nice feet keep to themselves. Nice feet go to help a friend who is hurt. Nice words are kind. Nice words are quiet in the school. Nice words are silent when the teacher says she has an important announcement. We can all be nice.
If a student forgets to have nice hands, nice feet, or nice words, they practice for a few minutes.
If a student has to practice several things at school, I write a quick note to mom and dad telling them that their child is starting to make progress in their practice areas and I suggest ways they could practice at home. I don’t have to keep up with who did what, how many times they moved their star, or how many cards they pulled. Children don’t have to look over at the cards and see their dirty, much handled cards in the midst of the pristine, never touched cards of other children who’ve not had to pull cards. Children who practice start to actually see that they are improving and they believe that they are capable of being nice at school.
In my ten years of teaching, there have been some occasions when I had to take children to the principal’s office. I try to wait as long as I can to do this. I’ve always felt like the moment I take a child to the principal, the child now realizes that I can’t “handle” them myself, and I’m giving some of my authority away. However, there are some instances when the learning and safety of others is in jeopardy, and I feel like I need to remove the child from the situation. These times have been few and far between.
Since I’ve gotten rid of time out and card pulling, I have enjoyed my days at school so much more. And I don’t know if it’s just in my mind, but I really think that my five year old friends are truly enjoying themselves, even if they have to practice!:) After all, isn’t kindergarten about learning to come to school?
I’d love to know what you think! What do you think about practicing vs. time out? Feel free to talk about your classroom management plans in the comments section, as long as you remember to Be Nice!;)
*Note: I wrote this three years ago! I’ve been ” practicing” instead of pulling cards and issuing time out for three years.
I wouldn’t go back for anything! 😉
Some teachers have told me after a few months that they get discouraged because kids are still having to practice, and haven’t they practiced enough?
My response: Some of your kindergarten friends will need practice until the last day of school. Learning to be at school is a HUGE part of kindergarten. There are some students who will need to practice new behaviors for a long time.
I practiced playing the piano for ten years, and honestly, I still need practice. I always will.
Athletes practice all the time to get better and better at their craft. Years.
So why do we think kids should have perfection in behavior after a week?
Practice takes time. And effort from the student and the teacher! The only change that I’d make to the above article from three years ago is that instead of saying Practice Makes Perfect, I now say Practice Makes Progress. And it’s such an honor to be a part of a child’s progress in learning and in life.