This morning I participated in #satchatwc on Twitter, discussing classroom management, what works, what is best for the bitties, how it was in the past, and how it needs to evolve. I know that what I am striving for is best for my bitties, but it is difficult to hold firm to that when I’m told the opposite. The thing is: with Kinders it takes time to get everything going. They’re little and completely new to school, after all.
Here are my beliefs, related to classroom management:
- I believe that students need movement, in and out of the classroom. Especially the Kindergarten ones. They are young and built to be active. We as teachers need to use that to our benefit, not expect them to sit still and get mad at them when they don’t. I am working to keep my lessons mini enough for them to handle and that takes practicing procedures enough that they can focus for that time, knowing that they’ll get to be active afterwards.
That also means they need regular recess.
- I believe that students need to talk. We can’t expect them to shut up and listen all day every day and we shouldn’t want them to. We can learn so much about who they are, how they learn, how they are developing socially, and where they are in their learning by listening to them. When they grow up, they’re going to be expected to have educated conversations. They’re going to need to work together, as leaders and as followers.
Yes, there will be plenty of moments when students get off task, talk about things that are irrelevant to the topic, and don’t do their work. They’re not going to be productive 100% of the time. Don’t we do that as grown ups? (They’re not robots; it is ok from time to time!) Shouldn’t they learn from experience how to self monitor, manage their own time, and build self control? (And learning means making mistakes; let’s give them the safe environment to make those mistakes and grow from it!)
- I believe we need to empower our students to manage their own behavior, instead of doing it for them. We aren’t going to follow them around their entire lives. We aren’t even with them 100% of the time right now as their teachers. They should not be behaving for me. I want them to make good choices for themselves and their futures. That means learning intrinsic motivation, self control, and to see the value and pride of succeeding. That means experiencing the effects of bad choices, for example wasting all of their time and having to rush to catch up (or not catching up and feeling the disappointment of not meeting goals).
Clip charts have them working for me (and when I was forced to do it last year, my students lost all respect for me and just learned to game the system). PBIS, reward programs, and treasure chests get them asking “what do I get for it?” instead of teaching them the value of what we want them to do. Many of the common management systems focus on the short term, falling in line now, simply because it is asked of them. They focus on controlling students.
I don’t want to control my bitties. I want them to understand that they have the power to make their choices and feel pride that they can make the right ones. I want them to feel the weight of that so that they don’t put their own actions on other people, so that they’re willing to stand up for their choices. I want them to leave my classroom and not be at the mercy of the next teacher’s strengths and weaknesses on if they do their work. I want them to go into the world with motivation, skills, and strategies to thrive.
My class will not be perfectly behaved for a while. That isn’t because my management is weak. I don’t need a chart. I don’t need a short term quick fix. Growing these ideals in my bitties will take time, practice, and failure, but they will get there. Some of them already are getting there, but not all students are the same. I’m working on the long term.
My classroom is active. My bitties move, talk, and get to make choices. Please excuse the mess. The children are learning.