Under the approach I mentioned in Part 1 of this post, rather than administer rewards and punishments to control student behavior, I need to bring my kids together, much as a basketball coach does during a time-out. I need to call attention to what I see happening, explain why I believe that behavior to be problematic or counterproductive, and refer my students to our Class Mission Statement, a set of ideas that the kids themselves wrote at the beginning of the year detailing who we are, what we want to become, and the principles and goals that distinguish us as a unique group of people with a unique set of priorities.
This way, ideas guide us and hold us together, not carrots and sticks. So, on that day when things began to break down, I called my kids up to the rug in the front of the room and opened a discussion. I talked about respect, kindness, teamwork, discipline, and other key ideas that we talk about all the time. We discuss these ideas every Friday morning when we review our mission statement, we talk about them Tuesday and Thursday mornings during our Quote of the Day activity, and we talk about them throughout the week as the need and opportunity arises.
When our difficulties continued throughout the day, I continued to call everyone together and refer to these larger ideas. Our day still wasn’t one of our best, but things did improve, and I was pleased with my response to the things that were happening.
When difficult moments occur, I’ve learned that I can use them as learning opportunities, not as occasions to lose my temper and escalate the controlling use of carrots and sticks. Stephen Covey, author of some wonderful books including The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, also mentions the bonding power that mission statements offer.
My approach is absolutely more difficult to employ than traditional management approaches because it takes more time, more effort, more patience, and more problem solving. The results, however, are far more effective, far more lasting, far more empowering, and far more satisfying. Children want to be part of the solution to any problem that may be occurring. We just need to open the door and invite them to participate in the problem-solving process.
Okay, this is a good one for discussion– Which theory do you use to motivate classroom behavior? Intrinsic or extrinsic motivators? Benefits, drawbacks, examples, practical insight?