This post is based on behaviour management in the senior classes. I have never been truly tested in this regard. I have been very lucky. The senior classes will try test you however, you just need to show them who’s in charge! There’s such conflicting advice out there, some say don’t smile for the first week, others say don’t get to know the children, others say be strict, others say befriend them. It all depends on the class. I usually go into a new class with a view to being friendly and inviting. I like to get to know the children, I don’t believe in this teacher/ student separation of powers lark. Of course I am strict when I need to be, but ONLY when it is necessary. I find children respond better to you when you make an effort to get to know them, and when they like you. This has always been my way but who knows, in the future I may need to take a more hardline approach. I hope not. It’s so important to respect children and what they have to say, they sit and listen to the teacher talking all day, but yet sometimes they don’t get to have their say.
There’s such a fine line when dealing with discipline in the classroom, I am sure there are classes whereby if you give them an inch they take a mile! Usually you know the minute you step through the classroom door what approach you need to take, and I suppose one needs to alter and change their teaching style depending on each class.
This naturally leads to the topical issue of positive reinforcement. Some are for, some are against. I am all for it. I have a prize box full of cheap toys which I used on teaching practice, I use it in camps, grinds, etc. I know children shouldn’t necessarily be rewarded for doing the work they are meant to be doing; but for those who really struggle, and who complete the work anyway, then yes, they deserve a spinning top or a yo-yo, it’s hardly going to put you out of pocket! Again, for permanent teachers, this would have to be a rare treat, because the novelty would wear off if the children were to get rewards too often. I am a great believer in rewards based on time. For example, if you achieve 20 stars you get 20 minutes free time, on the computer, to read a book, bring the class outside for 20 minutes, a homework pass, anything like that. The senior classes would prefer one of the above rather than a prize I’d imagine. I remember my own school days, and sometimes the days just seemed so long and boring. I would have given my right arm for a root around a prize box! I am again, not saying children should be rewarded for simply showing up at school but very often, teachers don’t know what’s happening at home, or why a child looks pale or tired or upset. So really, anything that makes the school day a bit easier and a but more fun for children should be applauded.
When I had the senior classes for TP, I used a raffle ticket and a point system by way of encouraging positive behaviour. I bought a raffle ticket book in the e2 shop. If a child wrote a really well written story, if a child was kind and helped another child , spoke a lot of Irish and so on, he/she would receive a raffle ticket. There was no limit to the amount of raffle tickets you could receive, so some would have ten at the end of the week, greatly increasing their chances of winning the raffle! This worked really well, and the excitement was something else on raffle day!
I also used a points system, like in Hogwarts. I had 4th, 5th and 6th so each class was competing with each other. Whichever class had the most points at the end of my time in the school got a prize. So that was my long term strategy, and the raffle was the short term strategy. I think hard work and being kind to others should be rewarded. Some children are motivated intrinsically, but others need extrinsic motivation and that’s okay. Oh and another thing, you are never to old for stickers! I got one last week during my music lesson and I was so pleased! So always have a sticker book handy. If you have the misfortune of having a difficult and ill-mannered class on TP, then speak to the class teacher, she/he should know best how to manage them. Also threaten a note home to the parents, that may be effective. I can’t really offer much advice on this topic as I have never been faced with a really difficult class.
What do you think? I’d love to hear you opinions on reward systems and motivational strategies!