Dear Kid Whisperer,
I have daycare van duty at the end of the day at school, and it’s pretty much the worst way to end my day. Kids have their hands all over one another, they scream, they’re not in their lines, they push and shove to be first, and it’s just miserable. I never tolerate these behaviors in class or on recess duty (I’m a specials teacher, so I know every one of these students.) This is throwing me for a loop. It’s not just one or two students. It’s the group as a whole. Everything I’ve tried isn’t working, and it’s a stressful way to end an otherwise amazing day. -Stephanie, Miami, Florida
Kids, especially when they travel in packs, are often like the velociraptors in Jurassic Park: they are always checking the fence for weaknesses. These kids understand that you are the master of your domain in your classroom or recess, but they’ve figured out with their smart little brains that you have no consequences to back up your interventions at bus duty, so they aren’t being cooperative. They need consequences, and in your specific circumstance, these consequences will require some planning and follow through. Don’t worry though, the consequences will be serious enough to stop the behaviors so you won’t have to facilitate these practice sessions more than a few times.
As a specials teacher, I realize that you don’t have a lot of planning time, and it’s difficult to create consequences during your “free” time. If you can find time at their recess or other non-instructional time, you can do this practice at that time.
However, I have a better idea. This is how I would handle the situation if I were you.
First, I switch bus duties with another teacher. I have that teacher tell my bus students that I will no longer be taking students who are making bad choices to the daycare van. Those students get in the van and later arrive at their daycare. These students are very surprised to see me waiting for them as they disembark from their van.
Kid #1: What are you doing here? Where is our normal daycare teacher?
Kid Whisperer: Hi, everybody. Your daycare teacher is way over there getting a tan and grading papers for me while I am here with you good folks. Well, you all are really struggling with following the rules for van dismissal. I’m not going to spend any more time with people who choose to be mean, loud, or dangerous after school. Instead, I’m going to be here every day for the rest of the year to help you all practice being nice, quiet, and safe. Once you all become experts at being nice, quiet and safe, I’m going to start spending time with you waiting for the day care van again, and we won’t have to practice here at your daycare anymore. So how long do you think you will have to practice being nice, quiet, and safe before you can become experts, 25 minutes or 35 minutes?
Kids: THAT’S NOT FAIR!
Kid Whisperer: OK, 35 minutes it is. We will start practicing when everyone is standing looking forward, in line, without touching anyone, and while either being silent, whispering, or using soft voices. Good minutes will count towards your 35 minutes; bad minutes won’t. Good minutes are minutes when everyone follows the rules. I wish you all the best and I’ll be standing here to help you practice until you get to 35 minutes or until the end of the year, whichever happens first. Good luck, and I will start timing you as soon as everyone is following our rules. And… go!
From that point on they will work as a group to get to 35 minutes, at which point they will be allowed to go to daycare. Be prepared for it to take them a couple of days for them to complete this. Of course, talk to your administrator and the administrator of the daycare to talk about obstacles (legal and otherwise) to doing this effectively. Make the necessary changes to this depending on logistical issues, and insert whatever expectations you have already set and ignore the ones I used in my example. After the original training, if an individual kid starts causing problems again, you can meet him at daycare for further training.
I hope you are as excited about doing this as I was about writing it!