Are classroom disruptions, kids not listening, friends bickering, and an unsettled environment driving you nuts? This was how I felt at the beginning of some school years until I made some changes to create harmony and a respectful, caring environment the norm.
I remember one year, prior to school happening, we had a professional development day that caused me to rethink how I approached my class. During the keynote address, we were challenged with "Focus on what is going right in the world". We were encouraged to find what was positive and good and change our focus to that instead of letting the negative drive our day.
That makes lots of sense, and it's probably something everyone wants to do, but the reality is, when negative things are happening around us, we can easily get derailed and begin focusing on that instead.
I made a conscious effort that year to change my approach and it helped me to get through some very challenging years with surprising success.
One thing I did was find ways for kids to save face after negative situations and give them opportunities to start fresh. I decided to work on ways to help kids remain in the classroom and not be sent out for misbehaviors. This was definitely challenging at times, and I admit, I wasn't always able to do so. I did have to maintain the safety of all my students, so there were times when I had no other choice.
I started to focus on behaviors in the classroom that I wanted others to emulate. This was the start of my positive freckles.
I had some small happy face stickers that I would put on the faces or hands of kids that I noticed doing things that I wanted others to do. It was fun to see how the kids reacted as they headed out to recess with freckles and how others in the class wanted to have the same.
I also started handing out student tickets for work habits and other behaviors that I noticed during seat work time. These were collected in a container and at the end of each week I would draw names for prizes. (I collected small toys and trinkets for them to choose from.)
I made sure that those who were struggling to behave positively were recognized as sometimes it is easy to overlook them for the ones who are always doing what is expected. It is important to make sure that they feel they have a chance or they will give up.
The school started up a Gotcha program where tickets were handed out around the school for behaviors noticed by different staff members. Recognition was given to the students and some were rewarded with special treats at assemblies. This tied in nicely with the student tickets I was using in my classroom.
There are several different variations of recognizing positive behaviors that have been used in classrooms. Another one that is quite popular is the warm fuzzy jar. This jar collects notes or objects and is used to acknowledge class behaviors and ultimately earn a class reward. The cool thing about this idea is the class can decide together what to work towards as a reward and the students can support each other so that they can earn the reward as a team.
Sometimes there may be a student who requires more support to move in a positive direction. This will look different for each child, but ultimately, it will require a cheering section (classmates and teacher) and consistency. Giving attention for positive behaviors usually will help to overcome the need for getting attention by negative behaviors. It may take a long time and you may not see immediate results, but I believe that if we help kids develop positive self esteem they will behave more positively.
Parents can also use some of these ideas to help with behaviors at home. Tensions rise as kids unwind after a long day at school and parents come home tired after a day at work. It is easy to have patience with other people, but it takes way more effort and patience to handle your own kids without frustration.
Try using the warm fuzzy jar or some other type of recognition for positive behaviors and see how it goes.
I set up these warm fuzzy jars for my grandchildren when they were feeling overwhelmed from moving to another city, getting ready to start a new school, and missing their friends and cousins. With all the stress and emotions, listening and being respectful and kind to each other was slipping and everyone was getting frustrated.
Things calmed down quickly when they had something visual to focus on and tensions lessened. This didn't end some of the behaviors, but it did create more positive interactions and the negative behaviors were less frequent.
In this case, each child decorated a jar and had colored pompoms to collect. A family jar was also created. When everyone was working together and the parents decided it merited a pompom they added one to this jar. The goal of reaching a certain number of pompoms for a special family treat was the incentive.
Note: The other day I called them and they were excited to tell me they had more pompoms in their jars. They also helped with these pictures so you could see it in action.
I encourage you to "focus on what is going right" and use whatever tools or ideas work for you to create harmony and a respectful, caring environment in your classroom or at home. Everyone will benefit from working together in a positive environment and this will enhance learning as well.
About Me Charlene Sequeira
I am a wife, mother of 4, grandmother of 9, and a retired primary and music teacher. I love working with kids and continue to volunteer at school and teach ukulele.