Friday, September 08, 2000

Oh, behave

My kids started a new school on Wednesday, and already it’s turning out to be a no-nonsense place. Day one, a sheet came home in backpacks with a Classroom Discipline Plan. Each of the kids’ teachers had filled it out with her own personal classroom rules and the consequence for breaches thereof. We were to read the rules over with the kids, then sign to indicate we all understood.

For my daughter’s mainstream third-grade class, the rules are:

1. Follow directions the first time they are given.
2. Keep hands, feet and objects to yourself.
3. Walk quietly in the building.
4. Return homework, test envelope and notices.
5. Only one person in the class or in a working group may talk at a time.

I think there are plenty of adults who could benefit from that last rule. Consequences in the classroom “if a student chooses to break a rule” are:

1st time: Name recorded in book = warning.
2nd time: Name x = student completes a problem-solving worksheet.
3rd time: Name xx = note to parents.
4th time: Name xxx = after-school detention.
5th time: Name xxxx = student sent to another class for 30 minutes.

Now, these all seem reasonable, but that last one--is it a punishment for the kid, or for the other teacher. “Hey, I can’t to anything with this child, he’s already got detention, YOU deal with him for half an hour.” Seems odd for an ultimate consequence, unless the other teacher is Cruella DeVil. But no matter; my girl is good, and she’ll never make an appearance in that book.

My son, on the other hand... Well, he’s in a self-contained special-ed class, and his expectations are appropriately somewhat lower. Here are the rules for his group:

1. Stay in your seat.
2. Your eyes are watching the teacher.
3. Your ears are listening to the teacher.
4. Take turns and share.
5. Keep your hands to yourself.

And now, the consequences, though with my impulsive guy, it’s hard to say he’s always choosing to break a rule:

1st time: Verbal correction.
2nd time: Teacher-student talk.
3rd time: Thinking chair.
4th time: Loss of free time.
5th time: Note to parent.

Now, my first reaction was: Wow, he can screw up five times before I have to hear about it! But then--now, is that five times for each thing? Because he’s guaranteed to break each of those rules at least once a day. If it’s cumulative for each one, then maybe... But does it accumulate all day? If he does it four times in the first hour, and then is good all day, then does it one time before he leaves, is that really so bad? And if he’s not able to stay in his seat, will he be able to stay in the thinking chair? And if he’s not listening to the teacher, will he listen for a teacher-student talk? And... And...

Well, it’s good to have a plan, anyway. Good to have rules spelled out. Good to let the parental units know up front. Good to have positive consequences for good behavior planned out, too. For my son’s class, there’s verbal praise, stickers, and notes home (love those notes). For my daughter’s, it’s special activities, extra computer time, and stickers. Wonder what sort of rewards they offer for parents who reinforce the rules and don’t whiningly defend their out-of-control children? Hey, we need incentives, too.

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