If you have not gotten a chance to read my blog about my #oneword for 2016, check out Enjoy the Moment.
“Because I won’t get in trouble.” Six words that have stuck with me since 10AM.
Behavior management in an elementary school is like peanut butter & jelly. The two just go together. When educating students between the ages of 5-11 there needs to be a consistent management system in place for students to learn from, teachers to references, parents to follow through with and most importantly, to outline expectations for each of the students. At a minimum, a common language between students and staff. But…at the end of the day, it is never about a program or system. It is about people. In this case, it is about the relationships established between educators and students and what fills the moments in between.
I had just wrapped up a meeting with a team of teachers this morning as I walked down the hallway and saw it. I saw the way a student and a teacher were walking back into the grade level as if something had just happened and by the body language I was seeing, it was not a good thing. The student I am referencing just happened to be a topic of conversation with the grade level I had just left. I had let the team of teachers know I would be making an increased effort to connect with this student, multiple times a day…just checking in. Wouldn’t you know it, as soon as I shared my plan, I would have an opportunity to begin connecting, immediately.
Like most things do, when you are having discussions involving behavior, a small deal becomes a big deal, relatively quick and involves more than just the one or two students you are speaking with. This was the case today. As I worked through the conversations, with both small groups of students and with individuals, I was reminded that our work is not done. Then I heard this statement, “Because I won’t get in trouble.” It was like a punch to the gut.
After talking with a couple of our students and getting to the bottom of what occurred, why it occurred and sharing why it should not occur again, I asked the students what they would do differently if they were in the same position again tomorrow. They answered…it was a great answer. Then I asked them why.
Their response: “Because I won’t get in trouble.”
I want students to make the choices they make because it is the right thing to do. Not because they “won’t get in trouble.” I tell our students it is not about the decisions you make when the teacher is around. If you make a poor choice with a teacher around, you get a reminder of the expectations. It is about the decisions you make when no one is watching. It is what defines you. It is your character. It is who you are as a person.
I am not sure why, but we dedicate ourselves (generally) to teaching math, science, reading…all the core content areas, but I wonder…why don’t we specifically teach behavior? Sure, we seize opportunities as teachable moments, but do we consistently teach behavior? Do we just expect students to walk in the door knowing how to add and subtract or multiply fractions? Of course not. We teach that. Why do we expect them to walk in the door knowing how to meet our behavior expectations without teaching them? I can think of all the easy answers, but I cannot think of a good one.
I look forward to the moments this student and I will have over the next several days & weeks, celebrating success and learning from the moments that are not our best.
My goal…the student’s character is built and we make better decisions when no one is watching because it is the right thing to do.