From the Trenches

Aiming for the middle ground.

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"A room without books is like a body without a soul."— Marcus Tullius Cicero

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Posts tagged "setting limits"

 1. Permissive “dances” look like this: student (S) disrupts, teacher (T) asks politely and feels annoyed, S disruption continues, T repeats and reminds, S disruption continues, T Gives warnings & 2nd chance, S disruption continues, T reasons/lectures and feels angry, S disruption continues, T yells/threatens, S disruption continues, T sends kid outside, S disruption stops.   The only teacher ACTION is in bold - all the rest are VERBAL steps. (p. 84)

2. “‘I thought I was giving them every chance to cooperate, but I can see I was giving them opportunities not to cooperate.’” (p. 85)

3. Punitive very similar but T verbals look like this: shames & feels angry, writes name on the board, argues/blames/complains & feels very angry, writes name on board/gives final warning, threatens/challenges, argues, sends kid to office, makes kid write sentences. (p. 92)

4. Mixed “dances” leave the kids really not knowing what the signals are.  

5. “The best way to stop a classroom dance is not to start one.  Teachers can avoid dances altogether by starting off with a clear verbal signal and by supporting their words with effective action.” So skip the verbal steps (except the first, where you clearly tell them to stop and explain the consequence THAT WILL STOP THE BEHAVIOR. If the disruption continues, follow through with the consequence.) (p.101)

6. For me, this requires planning. I need to know exactly what I can do for consequences, because so many options are removed due to legal issues (can’t send a kid outside, but sending them to another class is supposedly forbidden, as well).  So if I sit down with an administrator, I think I could reason out what I can do to stop misbehavior.


1. “…children’s beliefs are largely determined by what they experience with their senses.  What they see, hear, touch, and feel determines how they think things are….only our actions are concrete.  Actions, not words, define our rules.” p. 63

2. “Compliant children don’t do a lot of testing….Their underlying desire is to be compliant….To strong-willed children the word stop is a theory waiting to be tested.” p.66

3. Although strong-willed children constitute less than 15 percent of the school population, they are a powerful minority because they’re responsible for nearly 90 percent of classroom discipline problems.” p. 66

4. Explaining why the rule is in place seems to do nothing.  The child already knows that information.  What the seem to want to know is what you will do. What they hear when you explain only what you want them to do, then explain your feelings about what they’re doing (“I’m uncomfortable with you doing that because you may get hurt.”), is only that you are uncomfortable.  That doesn’t affect them. “‘You can put that away in your backpack…or I can keep it in my desk for the rest of the semester”” works much better…the student has all the information they need now to make a decision. p. 78

5. Students don’t take anything away when we explain the rules.  Then they only learn that there are 2 sets - the ones we say and the ones that we follow through on.  p. 79.

5. “‘You can put that away in your backpack…or I can keep it in my desk for the rest of the semester.’”

Ch 2: How Teachers Teach Their Rules

  • Teachers, like parents, have four approaches in creating rules and enforcing them: permissive (respectful but not firm), punitive (firm but not respectful), mixed (neither firm nor respectful), or democratic (both firm and respectful).
  • MacKenzie describes various scenarios he has seen with teachers and students, which he terms “dances”, visualized as vertical timelines with teacher behavior on the left and child behavior on the right.  Teacher behavior is often characterized as cajoling and giving students the opportunity to follow the rules, which MacKenzie says gives the students opportunities to NOT follow the rules if they don’t want to…the teacher is only going to talk and not act.
  • I was hoping I was simply permissive, but it looks like I might be mixed.  I generally am permissive in the beginning of a “dance”, but move quickly to punitive when I get frustrated that the behavior isn’t stopping.  

 Having some classroom management issues this year that I’ve never had before.  Partly, I think, because it’s a new school and I’m having trouble figuring some of where administration will help, and partly (I think) because I don’t have as much time to contact parents. 

So I’m going to go about this the way a professor showed me when I was working on my MAT: pick three to five things from each chapter that are worth remembering for YOU.  So here’s my five for Chapter One: Creating Structure that Works.

  1. In the classroom, the teacher is the main authority figure, not the parent.  You can solicit their assistance and support, but since they aren’t going to be calling you to get the kid to do their chores or not stay out past curfew, neither should you be whining about how you can’t get the kid to stay in their seat or stop cussing. (p. 5)
  2. "Support words with effective action if we want children to regard our rules seriously.  Words unsupported by action carry little weight." (p. 7)
  3. "Rules in Theory v. Rules in Practice" (pp. 8-12)
  4. Rules are not the same as expectations.
  5. Some accountability procedures in this section won’t work for me because there is no parent accountability (i.e. parent signatures are often forged with no consequence from the school) and there is no “break time” to take away.  So what could I do to replace those ideas?  I loved the “Fun Friday” activity/makeup day.  Students need that opportunity to get things done or take a break.  But would they be responsible with it?  How would I enforce that?

More to come.