I am teaching a class for Kindergarten through Second Graders that entails reading a classic Fairy Tale, then using acting,movement, and art to bring it to life. Last time, we read ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarves’ and one of my kiddos said,
“MIss Jess! You are Snow White!”
“I am? Why is that?”
“Because you are beautiful and really pale!”
What an observant child. I am definitely 50 percent of that statement.
Another favorite moment came during attendance. Yesterday’s task was..‘when you hear your name, raise your hand and tell me your most favorite food!’ A few said the usual things, Ice Cream! Candy! Tacos! Watermelon! Spaghetti! And then I also heard:
What a reminder of my demographic.I asked this same question to my kids (same age) in a much less um…………wealthy areaand answers were things like: I like chips! I’m guessing there aren’t a lot of Prawn crackers rolling around that household.
Anyways, in ritsy area school, I can tell that these are kids that are ALWAYS encouraged to express themselves. Don’t get me wrong, they are sweet and imaginative and I adore them but they don’t seem to have quite the same fear of authority that other kids possess. That’s fine until those moments come when I need to be the disciplinarian and they don’t seem to listen.
I like to use the ‘Living Pictures’ program that I learned in a teaching workshop with Sean Layne from the Kennedy Center when establishing rules. I make them ‘agree’ to do several things at the beginning of every class: We agree to control our body! We agree to control our voice! We agree to use our imagination! (I have little moves that go with each) I like this because then when someone hits, or yells I don’t have to say Stop that! I can say, ‘Is everyone controlling their body?” and they have to self-regulate and think about their actions. I also stress that they always have the option to make strong or weak choices with their behavior so that they can feel ownership and pride in their good behavior and also know that they aren’t bad kids, they just maybe didn’t make the best choice should behavior go askew. In those instances when they make weak choices, I don’t put them immediately in ‘time out’ I put them in what is called ‘the observation deck’ where they can observe the good choices made by their classmates and take some time to reflect on the actions that made them leave the group. Then when they’re ready to make stronger choices they must say what they will do differently and they are hugged and welcomed back to the group.
Ideally. This didn’t quite happen in my last class. Five minutes in, I was smacked by one student whom I then sent to the observation deck. I had everyone repeat the ‘contract’ to reinforce the idea of body-control and I asked the group how they thought it makes someone feel to be hit. The student that was then sent to the observation deck never raised his hand to rejoin the group and when asked a repeated question such as ‘does it feel nice to be hit?’ he responded in a sulky, ‘Yes‘. A few times through the rest of class, he asked ‘can I draw/ dance/ play?‘ And then pouted and didn’t respond when I asked, ‘how will you change your behavior?’ When I was waiting for quiet at one point, he loudly yelled ‘blah blah blah’ over the kids who were raising their hands to speak. I tried to then send him to a different chair for a time out after three chances in the observation deck and he didn’t even move.
I feel awful because I know that he recently moved from a different state and I’m sure that’s hard on a young child.
I feel awful because he didn’t get to participate during the entire class.
And I feel awful because I feel like I’ve failed as a teacher.
I feel like normally, when kids leave the group they are inspired to make stronger choices because it’s much more fun to dance and draw than to sit out. I have the feeling that this student is desperate for attention and was trying to get it by acting out, and was twice as mad when I ignored him. I didn’t want to slow the pace of the class by spending extra time on his bad behavior. I have found that these things tend to sort themselves out. I can tell that he’s incredibly smart and knows right from wrong, understands rules, and has probably learnt somewhere that it feels better to be seen and heard even for negative reasons than to be one of the group that is dancing and acting all together.I don’t know where the balance lies between maintaining the pace of the class and making sure that every child has a good experience. Also, what do I do when everyone else is quiet and one keeps yelling ‘blah blah blah’?
If you have suggestions, please speak up. No need to raise your hand or anything. Please help me with all of this blah blah blah.