Thursday, September 29, 2011

Baby Steps

On Tuesday, I wanted to take my kids outside for a break, to get all their energy run out, so they could actually learn something. I had them line up and tried to work on ordering with them (learning first, second, third, etc.), but they couldn't focus enough to stay standing through that, choosing to push each other until the all fell to the ground laughing. So, I sent them back to their seats, and they wrote instead.

Yesterday, I tried once again to take them outside, using the same method of lining them up and having them follow me in a single file line. This time, they remained standing and focused through the ordering review, and made it out of the classroom. However, as soon as we were in the open play area that's right out of our door, they broke free from the line, running and yelling. I made several attempts to get them back in line, but they wouldn't listen, so we went back in the class to do more work.

Today was marvelous. The title of a book came to mind that I remember from my library days. "Catch Your Dog Doing Something Right." Although I never read the book, the back cover explained the concept that if all you ever do is yell at your dog when they're doing something wrong, all they'll ever learn is what NOT to do, and how bad they are. But if you praise them for doing something right, they'll learn what they're supposed to do, and how good they can be. This can be applied to working with kids as well. If all you ever do is scold them, they'll alway just try to avoid being bad, rather than trying hard to be good.

Normally in class, I put a sad face on one side of the board and put kids' names underneath it when they're making me sad. The name is a warning, and then I begin putting tally marks by the name as "strikes." When they reach 3, they have to stand facing the wall with their hands up in the air. I also did that when two of my boys started wrestling. Today, I realized that all I was doing was firefighting. When something went wrong, I was stamping out fires. What I needed to do was manage. (Thank you WWR's behavior management that I've been through 5 times, and it's finally sticking.)

Today, I began with a smilie face on one side of the board, and a sad on the other. As soon as a couple of kids were paying attention and had gotten out the book as I had asked, their names went under the smily face. The rest of the kids immediately sat up straighter and got out their books. I left the room to make copies with instructions to stay seated, and they were all seated when I returned. Usually, less than half are still seated, with some wrestling or hiding in the closets or running around the room. I praised them heavily and immediately put everybody else's name on the board, and gave a tally to the two kids that already had their names there.

And so continued the rest of the day, so far. There's a little bit of competition between them for who has the most, but hopefully that will lessen as these marks become more normal, and they'll not be so worried about other people. There are 6 kids (of the 8 here today) that have earned 5 or more tallies, and there are only 5 names on the sad face side, and those were pretty minor infractions, so I'll probably erase them when I get back to the kids at the end of the day, provided the other two teachers that have them don't need to add to them.

We started out taking baby steps, making it a little further to getting to play outside, and then we made a giant leap forward.

So, a few weeks ago, I got to participate in a Bible study led by William. It was with mi familia, so it was all in Spanish. I remember sitting there and trying to take it in, but only got the gyst of the whole thing. Last night, William came over again for Bible study, and I was amazed at how much more I got. I knew when he was talking about being in the world, but not of the world, sin, same sex marriage, how different people study the Bible in different languages, and about differences in culture. Although I'm still quite a ways from understanding exactly what was said about each topic, I'm thrilled that I was able to mostly follow what was being said.

I'm taking baby steps towads understanding and speaking Spanish. I don't know that I'll ever be able to take a giant leap forward like my kids did with their behavior, but I'm satisfied to know that I am moving forward. It's a slow progress, but it's steady. Like the tortoise and the hare (which I recently taught the kids), slow and steady wins the race.

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