My Soapbox Moment

There have been many moments in my career as a teacher when I have been sitting across the table from a parent when I wanted to yell and scream that they are doing a disservice to their children. I've sat across from too many parents who think that being a friend to their child is of the upmost importance and have quickly forgotten that they are the ones that are responsible for raising responsible and respectful citizens that will contribute to society.

There have been many days in my career when I wanted to take those children home with me and prove that a different approach is necessary.

About a week ago, I was asked the simple question, "What forms of positive reinforcement do you use in your classroom?" This question was asked by a panel of judges and I answered as honestly as I could - and I probably ruffled a few feathers in the process - and I will probably do so with this post. However, I will proceed.

I do NOT believe in rewarding children with material possessions. There are many situations for students or children to earn material possessions, but these are not attached to behavior. If it was, my students or my own personal children would be simply performance monkeys. It doesn't take long for children to understand that if they behave, they will receive something in return. What happened to the days where children behaved because the parents EXPECTED them to behave. What happens when students or children do not "want" anything and therefore choose not to perform? They immediately revert to the negative behavior. I've heard children verbalize that there was nothing they "wanted" so they felt like they didn't have to behave. Aghast!! What has the parenting/teaching world become.

I work my fanny off each day to reinforce the positive behaviors that show up in my classroom. This is done by making a big deal in front of others when a child has made a wise decision, positive notes to parents, high fives, etc. My students learn early on that the personal satisfaction of doing something right is in itself a reward.

The other thing that makes me sick to my stomach is the empty threat! There was a time when I was growing up that the fear of the consequences my parents would issue kept me from making stupid decisions - and many times this wasn't a spanking, but a privilege taken away. There have been too many parents who have threatened their children in my presence with grounding, restriction, loss of privilges, etc, but in the end, the threat is short-lived and the child ended up winning the battle. If students see this behavior too many times, they will lose respect for their parents or teacher, and will quickly determine if they wait things out, the authority figure will cave. What then are we teaching kids?

The school that I teach at is a Love and Logic school. If you haven't had the opportunity to read the Love and Logic series, there is one for schools and parents. The beauty of this method is the responsibilty of the behavior is completely on the child. This even comes down to the child choosing or having a part in the solution to problems and their own consequences - as long as they are consequences that the authority can withstand. Many in this audience will disagree with giving children a choice in their consequence, but I see it in action every day and it works! My students are able to make decisions about their behavior that many adults are not capable of. They are able to determine appropriate consequences and able to utilize problem solving skills that will influence their futures.

This method saves me time because students are able to solve their own problems, and I am not doing all of the talking. It is amazing! Each day, I am able to leave my classroom and know without a doubt that the students in my room are making progress toward those responsible, respectful and contributing members of society - a society that I would be proud to be a part.