Dear Kid Whisperer,
I am a first-year 2nd grade teacher and I have a class that is totally out of control. Fighting, throwing desks, climbing on furniture, etc. I have just started reading your blog, so I know that I need to have consequences, but my room is so crazy, it’s hard to know how or where to start. It is so bad that my principal has begun the process of building evidence with which to fire me. Please help. –Mary Jo, Columbus, Ohio
Dear Mary Jo,
It is hard to know where to start because you were never taught any classroom management skills in college. I think that you should sue whatever college of education you went to for not preparing you to manage behaviors. You paid a lot of money to a university that failed to prepare you and everyone else with whom you graduated to use behavior management skills. Shame on them.
I can give you two pieces of advice. Keep studying my blog (see website below) and make sure that kids who are exhibiting negative behaviors that cause major problems for others SUFFER MIGHTILY for exhibiting those behaviors.
For years I volunteered to teach the kids whom most people thought were incorrigible, insane, and in need of medication. Indeed, there is a multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical-psychiatric industry that is dependent upon people believing the ludicrous idea that if you just get down on one knee and talk to kids about their feelings, they will become well-behaved, and if they don’t become well-behaved, they need to be drugged and/or hospitalized. Chances are, some of the people who believe this nonsense were many of your college professors.
Here’s some of what you were never taught in college: HOW to consequence really negative behaviors:
1) Apologize sincerely to students for not holding them accountable with consequences and tricking them into thinking that they can behave this way.
2) Talk with the parents of these children, apologizing for the same failures, letting them know that from now on, you will be holding your students accountable because you care too much for your students to allow them to think that unruly and/or criminal behavior will be tolerated by the world.
3) Use severe consequences, delivered with empathy, that teach the students that if they cause a problem, they will have to solve that problem.
The more serious, logical, and severe the consequences, the quicker you will get functional humans in that classroom. These behaviors will become considerably worse before they get better. Consequences should be delayed and given to kids when things are going well, usually after instruction is over. Consequences can include, but are by no means limited to:
1) Cleaning up overturned desks and messes that were created. In order to more fully improve the school that they inured, they can also clean up all of the messes in the rest of the school after everyone has gone home.
2) If two students struggle with not fighting, they can practice not fighting by sitting next to each other for 2 hours after school while you get work done in the classroom.
3) If students take your energy from you by exhibiting consistently negative behaviors, they can clean every inch of your classroom so that you don’t have to.
If the student is unwilling to complete these tasks, he can stare at the unfinished tasks every day after school for the rest of his years at that school until he is willing to solve the problem that he caused.
It’s time to start holding kids accountable. Their lives are at stake.