On the first day of school (and of course, throughout the year), I constantly point out that every choice made has a consequence. The consequence could either be positive or negative—it all depends on the choice. With this being said, I explain to my students they are fully responsible for EVERY choice they decide to make.
At the end of the school year, we get to spend 30 minutes with our students assigned to us for the upcoming school year. During this time, I would do a couple of Getting to Know You activities and I would also give my future students a little survey. On this survey, I would ask my students how would they like to be praised for making good choices. The list would include: a phone call home, a note home, a certificate, a shout-out on the video announcements, and other (students could write what they would like). However, I realized that I did not give the students a chance to tell me what would be an appropriate consequence if they did not make a good choice. I believe students are an important part in the decision-making process, but I did not really practice it in this aspect. Therefore, I made some significant changes during my third year of teaching with my behavioral management and it has worked wonderfully!
My first two years of teaching, I used the card system for behavior management. The basic structure of this system was that all students would begin every day on the green card. Every time they did not make a positive choice (behaviorally and not turning in/completing homework), they would be required to flip their card. Each time they flipped their card, there was a consequence attached—lose 5 minutes of recess, lose entire recess, contact parent(s), meeting with the principal. Students also had to fill out their portion of the binder (I had a binder separated by student numbers that included a reflection sheet for each student). I believed this was a great management system because my students knew exactly what the consequence would be for each infraction. This system was in place for every single one of my students. Each student received the same consequence no matter what. However, I wasn’t really helping my students become responsible for their action. You see–there is a reason for their action that is specific to them.
During the summer after my second year of teaching, I read most of Teaching with Love and Logic: Taking Control of the Classroom by Jim Fay and David Funk. I probably should admit that before I began reading this, I felt as though I had everything under control. Now granted, I did have everything under control, but it was not benefiting my students and essentially they did not have control over their own actions. Therefore, I decided to make my behavioral management policy more individualized. This was a little difficult for me at first, but it was easy in the long run (and most effective). I continued to explain, model, and review my expectations, but the consequences were now directly linked to the misbehavior. If a student didn’t bring their materials to class, they just had to go through the class without it. Why stop my instruction to either find the materials they could “borrow” and why waste the other students’ time by reprimanding that one particular student. I just learned to let that student deal with it. I would advise every teacher to read Love and Logic—it definitely shapes your thoughts about choice and consequences. I have also learned to take the time to really try to understand why a student decided to make a certain choice. This happens in a private conversation and sometimes results in me asking what they feel as though their consequence should be. Majority of the time, they decide on a consequence that is directly linked to their behavior and it also makes them more thoughtful and aware.
For my students with ongoing behavior concerns, I get our school counselor involved. Usually, she will develop a checklist for the student. I’m not a huge fan of the checklist, but it’s temporary (2 weeks to a month) and it focuses on ONE behavior at a time. We make sure that the student is responsible for their management of their checklist.
Please don’t misunderstand me, I definitely believe there are POSITIVE CONSEQUENCES. I make it a point to praise my students every chance I get!!! I will celebrate them in front of the class, send a quick email to my principal asking him to either stop by my room and celebrate or to send a shout-out over our video announcements, send an email to their parents at that very moment, have the student call their parents and explain the reason to celebrate, etc. I will do just about anything to let my students know and feel that I am proud of them and that I recognize all of their hard work and positive energy.