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Reward or Punishment? Reward!

More times than not when talking about instruction and the classroom, the topic of behavior comes up.  There have been volumes and volumes written about managing behavior. If you are a teacher, it’s most likely you have read about many strategies and tried them. Like with so many other issues, keeping it simple is a good idea. Keeping it simple is one way of ensuring you will be able to maintain the system you put in place.  As these simple strategies become ingrained in your daily classroom, you can adjust or add based on data you collect.  First, we want to achieve mastery, and then we want to expand our repertoire.

Setting the Rules and Organization

Before sharing two simple, but effective ideas, let’s look at two important concepts. 

Setting the Rules: In the article, "Classroom Routines and Procedures" by Denise Young, the author states, “Establishing clear classroom routines and procedures is necessary for ensuring that your classroom runs smoothly. Students need to know what is expected of them in your classroom. To ensure that you have smooth transitions throughout the day, think carefully about the routines for which you must plan. Clarify them in your mind. It may be helpful to make a list of transitional times throughout the day.”

Routines include going to lunch or recess, putting books away from reading and going to math, coming back to the class after lunch or music, stopping collaborative groups to join in whole class activities. Make sure children know each routine and can recite them back to you step by step.

Organization: Specific lists of situations, as well as lists of routines and procedures to be considered, are provided in the book “Explicit Instruction” by Anita Archer and Charles Hughes.  If things don’t run as smoothly as you would like in your classroom, this book can serve as a life- saving tool.

“The everyday classroom is more than just a place where teachers come to teach and students come to learn.  It is a major tool of instruction for teachers, and it is a home away from home for students.  The classroom is ultimately a place where students can learn, but it is also where they can come to understand responsibility, become social, and learn to work together.  The classroom environment is very important to a student’s development, and therefore needs to be not only comfortable and non-threatening, but also a place suitable for learning.  Through preparation and organization, an effective classroom environment can be shaped.” (Hay-Cook)

Organization includes strategically placing furniture, learning centers, and materials in order to optimize student learning and reduce distractions.

In his article, “The Key to Classroom Organization”, Michael Linsin states that, “A sharp, well-maintained classroom sends so many wonderful and powerful messages to students—from an expectation of excellence to personal pride in their work habits. It’s a slam-dunk, surefire, easy way to improve behavior in your classroom.”

Two Strategies Any Teacher Can Use

Let’s look at two strategies, and I urge you to implement either one or both of these strategies.  Both are simple and easy to use.

Go out and get yourself a jar (a medium size mason jar works well.  You don’t want it too big, so it never gets filled or too small that it gets filled too easily) and several rolls of pennies. Explain to students that they will be earning a penny in the jar whenever they are caught doing something good. Explain that when the jar is full, the class will earn a special reward such as eating lunch in the room or extra recess.

Each time you notice a student doing something that promotes learning, put a penny in the jar.   In addition to reinforcing your classroom rules (they are posted in the classroom, right?), there are about a buzillion possibilities-

  • coming in quietly
  • getting materials out and ready
  • completing an assignment
  • putting materials away
  • working quietly
  • Paying attention
  • Raising your hand and waiting to be called on

Praise should be specific.  Couple a specific compliment with plunking a penny in the jar. For example;

  • “Jacquelyn, I appreciate the way I saw you helping your group clean up! You just earned a penny in our jar.”
  • “Mary, you came into the room quietly, thank you.”
  • “John, very good getting your materials out and getting ready for class.”
  • “Gloria, great keeping your eyes on me.”

The praise is much more powerful if only one student is praised at a time. Sometimes teachers think that is not fair if multiple students display the same good behavior. I suggest that you make a mental note and praise the others (individually) at another time.

If you have one student who is characterized by disruptive behavior, be sure to catch that student being good when you can. The chronically disruptive student(s) rarely get praise and need it WHEN they have earned it.

Students can also be reinforced for NOT participating in a disruptive or inappropriate behavior like:

  • running
  • bumping into someone
  • leaving a mess
  • speaking rudely

In this case you simply choose someone who is NOT doing it and praise them, as you put a penny in the jar. For example:

  • “Nella, I really appreciated the way you waited for your turn. You did not push or grab.”
  • “Roberto, what a great job you are doing not making a mess and keeping your area neat.”

Do NOT take pennies away once they have been earned. If you do, student motivation will wane and discouragement will ensue. Why work to earn something that will be taken away if the teacher gets mad?

It’s important for the class to win. Students that feel like winners will act like winners. It is important that you are on the lookout for good behavior, so you can recognize it and the students can win. You will also be surprised, that as you focus on the good, the climate of your classroom becomes more and more positive.

A Note or Phone Call Home

If you heard a teacher say, I’m going to call home (or send a note) what would you think? Most of us would probably think the child was in trouble and, out of frustration, the teacher was calling home. The problem is calling home or sending a note about misbehavior will rarely, if ever, help! Parents send us the best kids they have. It’s not like they keep the goods one at home and send the “naughty ones” to school.

If parents knew how to manage their kids, it would already be happening. I can just hear the frustrated parent thinking, “Well, what does that teacher expect me to do about it?” In addition to angering and alienating parents with communication about how “bad” their child is, we’re sending the child a very negative message- “You are bad”. And parents who get that message from the teacher will probably reinforce it by lecturing or punishing the child for being bad at school. If it’s true that children live up to what adults think of them, then we are actually adding to the problem rather than correcting it. Kids who think they are bad kids act bad!

So, let’s be smarter than that.  Instead of assaulting parents with the details of what their child has done wrong, let’s turn it around and make it a habit to contact at least one parent each week with a note or call about something their child has done right! Parents will come to appreciate and support you as never before! They will believe that you care about their child. And they will proudly reinforce their child for whatever you shared that they did right!

 Conclusion:

Without a doubt, the most effective behavior management tool is effective instruction. Students that are engaged and learning are less likely to act out.  So, the emphasis should always be on improving instruction.  Effective behavior management strategies are a great way to support your instruction and effectively manage behavior. The goal is to create a positive classroom environment where both teacher and student are successful and celebrate that success!

The Power of a Thank You

Years ago (back in the 80’s), working with a great group of people, we designed and established an alternative high school. The first year of operation offered many lessons, but the one that sticks out the most is the power of a thank you.

During the course of the year I walked around the building quite a bit and visited classrooms—I was not the instructional leader, but the director of the organization.  During those “walk-arounds” I got the chance to see firsthand the many things that were going on, the challenges, the successes, and the hard work.  At the end of the year, each teacher received a personal note outlining all their good work and efforts I had seen and thanking them for it.  Here is just one example, one teacher volunteered after school to work with seniors as they prepared for the SATs.

I didn’t expect any response, but several of the teachers came down to the office to thank me! They shared that they had either rarely or never received a note from an administrator unless it was a reprimand.  What an eye opener for me! Like most of us, I was raised to say “please” and “thank you.”  What became clear is that these social niceties don’t always find their way into the world of work or leadership.   Those letters were a large deposit in my “relationship account” with the staff.

n-THANK-YOU-WORK-570

Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic

 There has been tons of research and studies looking at money as a motivator. Most seem to agree, that yes, people want to make good money, but it is not big motivator.  What studies indicate is that intrinsic motivation has a greater impact than extrinsic motivation.  You can follow this link (http://intl-rop.sagepub.com/content/early/2011/10/19/0734371X11421495)  to a study entitled Intrinsic Motivation and Employee Attitudes: Role of Managerial Trustworthiness, Goal Directedness, and Extrinsic Reward Expectancy. Here is short excerpt:

“The authors analyzed real-world data from a representative sample of over 200,000 U.S. public sector employees. The results showed that employee engagement levels were three times more strongly related to intrinsic than extrinsic motives, but that both motives tend to cancel each other out…This means that employees who are intrinsically motivated are three times more engaged than employees who are extrinsically motivated (such as by money).”

You can also read Does Money Affect Motivation (https://hbr.org/2013/04/does-money-really-affect-motiv ) answering the question does money engage us:

“The most compelling answer to this question isa meta-analysis by Tim Judge and colleagues. The authors reviewed 120 years of research to synthesize the findings from 92 quantitative studies. The combined dataset included over 15,000 individuals and 115 correlation coefficients.

The results indicate that the association between salary and job satisfaction is very weak.”

 

7 Steps to a Perfect Thank You

  • Stop moving and make eye contact
  • Be specific
  • Be sincere
  • Don’t text or call—do it in person or write a note
  • Acknowledge their hard work
  • Let them know why it is important and how what they did supports your school’s vision
  • Be consistent

7 Life Lessons My Dad Taught Me!

Many years ago my dad asked me to help paint rooms in the house and at the same time he taught me a life lesson.  Of course, the answer was yes—we didn’t say no to my mom or day.  I said, “I am ready. Let’s go.”

My dad said, “The first thing is we talk to your mom about the colors she wants and what rooms she wants painted.” 

Life Lesson #1: He taught me to check with your team and to see what they need and want, just don’t go charging ahead on what you THINK they want or need.

Then we had to measure the rooms and figure out how much paint were going to need.

Life Lesson #2: Determine what resources you will need.

He had me check the basement for brushes, rollers, drop cloths and the like.

Life Lesson #3:  Identify what resources you have.)

My dad knew how much we had to spend and we went to several stores to shop for the best buy on paint.

Life Lesson #4:  Work within your budget and explore all options before making a decision.)

We finally got back to the house and again, I was all ready to go.  Again, my dad slowed me down. We had to move all the furniture out, check the walls, do some plastering and sanding and cover the floors with drop cloths. 

Life Lesson #5: Preparation is important. Preparation takes time.)

Finally, we go to the painting and, of course, I was in a rush to get it done and started in with the roller—get the most done in the shortest amount of time, right? Redirected again! He told me to take a brush and get the trim done.  It was tedious work making sure no paint got on the ceiling or floor or borders, but in the end it made the paining the room easier.

Life Lesson #6: Take your time and do it right the first time rather than rushing forward and making mistakes that have to be corrected.

At the end of the day, we went in to check the work, make sure it was done right and pat ourselves on the back.

Life Lesson #7:   Check your work and celebrate your achievement!)

You get the point

Change takes preparation and time. It can’t be rushed.  You won’t see results right away and you need to know and accept that up front. It helps t set realistic goals and expectations.  Although it is not a direct correlation, see the chart below that illustrates the trajectory of an implementation. There is usually some dip in the beginning as people learn and try new concepts, followed by a jump in performance and then a leveling off. As you can see from the chart, it can take five or more years before real growth happens. Patience and commitment are needed, along with frequent monitoring.

Five Year Implementation Chart

 

Summary:

  1. Check with your team and see what they need and want
  2. Determine what resources you will need
  3. Identify what resources you have
  4. Work within your budget and explore all options before making a decision
  5. Preparation is important. Preparation takes time
  6. Take your time and do it right the first time
  7. Check your work and celebrate your achievement

Friday Reflection: Courage

People have different definitions of courage and that is because there are different kinds of courage. 

There was a post the other day that seemed pretty innocuous to me.  There was a picture of three men, a manager and two of his team members, all in business attire.   They were sitting together in a row on what looked like a plane.  The manager wrote that he always required his team to be dressed in business attire, even on transcontinental flights.  The reason? They represented the company and you never know who you will be sitting next to.

Reading through the comments it was surprising to see so many negative comments aimed not only at the idea but at the person that posted the picture. There were over 5000 “thumbs up”, but also about 4500 “thumbs down.” Even more surprising was so much of the thumbs down response were attacks or personal, not just disagreeing.

It is important for leaders to cultivate a culture where ALL opinions can be expressed safely without fear of being ridiculed or belittled.  It is not only important because no one should be fearful to express themselves, it is also important because you never know where your next good idea will come.  It could come from that person that is always verbal and unafraid to express themselves or it could come from that quiet, shy team member.  Fear squashes creativity.

There is the courage that runs into burning buildings and there is the courage that means you are willing to stand alone with your opinions. There is the courage that shows itself in battle and there is the courage that doesn’t look for approval, but acts on their values.

Here are some things you can do to promote courage:

  • Define courage for your team—this seems silly maybe, but part of leadership is education. People define courage differently. Let people know how you define it and explore how they define it. Reach a common understanding. Then use that definition daily.
  • Set expectations for courageous behavior in your organization. Some of the rules we see in classroom work really great—show respect for others, listen when others are talking, be safe, be kind, be honest, etc.
  • Model that behavior
  • Celebrate when you see it and overtly reinforce it.

The good news is courage is contagious, so practice it and spread it!

After But, it is all downhill!

“That is a great idea, but….”

“I agree with you a 100%, but….”

“I really liked what you did, but…”

“He/she is really a great, but…”

How many times have we heard those words or how many times have we said them to others?   We all know what comes after the “but,” and it is usually negative. That “but” sucks all the positive out of the first part of what we are saying.  It says:

“I don’t really think it is a great idea.”

“I don’t agree with you a 100%.”

“I don’t really like what you did.”

“They are really not that great.”

It is what people can hear and remember and often this is not our intention (except for those passive aggressive people).

The root of this kind of communication may come from behavioral research that says something along the lines of suggesting we provide 5 positives to every negative and this is a good practice.  The issue is the “but.”  

Three Strategies You can Use

ONE: Keep the positives. It is a great way to reinforce the behaviors we want to see.  How do we decide on what behaviors we want to reinforce? Briefly, those behaviors should be identified and shared as part of the vision you have created with your staff (topic for another blog post).

TWO: Drop “but” from your vocabulary! Look for other words like however or better yet, turn the “but” into a question. The following questions can help build relationships, actively involve both you and the other person in the process and let the other person know their thoughts are valued.

  • What was your thinking behind what you just did?
  • What were you trying to accomplish?
  • Can you tell me more?
  • What other ways do you think you could approach this issue?
  • How do you think you can improve this process?
  • Can I share some ideas with you that you might find effective and useful?

Three: Ask for feedback and then, reflect.  I always ask people if the feedback made sense to them.  Was it relevant to their needs? Could I have made it clearer? Feedback is not always easy to hear and sometimes I can get defensive, so that is why I, you, need to set time aside for reflection. I resist the temptation to respond immediately, other than thank you.  Take time to reflect on what I should take and use.  I go back to the person and am specific in thanking them for what was useful and helpful.  In addition to reinforcing the relationship, it models how they should look at and use feedback.

Conclusion:

One of the objectives of feedback is to help foster change either toward a specific goal or for general improvement.  When we don’t provide feedback in a supportive and positive way, neither is accomplished.  An adaptation of a Mahatma Gandhi quote: Whenever we give feedback, give it with kindness and be truthful-with the intent to help, otherwise the message and the messenger will be ignored. 

 

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