Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Banging erasers

Before whiteboards, classrooms had chalkboards and chalk.  The chalk in the erasers would build up and they would need to be cleaned out by banging the erasers together.  Kids in the class usually took care of this duty.  I banged erasers together a lot!  It took me awhile to realize that I was tricked!

Sometimes I banged the erasers together instead of going to recess as a punishment and sometimes I banged the erasers together instead of going to recess as a reward.

The exact same activity was a reward and a punishment.  My reaction to the activity differed though.  When it was a reward, I loved it!  The teacher chose me out of everyone in the whole class!  I didn't mind missing recess because I was a helper!  I was recognized for something good!  My teacher liked me!

When it was a punishment, I hated it.  I did not want to miss recess.  I wanted to play!  I could barely breathe from all the chalk dust.  Not fair!  Why me?  I wasn't the only one talking at the wrong time!  Banging erasers was cruel and unusual punishment.

Same activity.  Different reason and different reaction.

When I talk to kids who have made a poor choice, I try to remember my erasers.  I ask myself, "What do I need this student to learn?" and, "How can I help them learn it?"

A group of students was running down the hall.  There were 10-12 of them.  The rest of the class was walking appropriately.  What did I want them to learn?  I wanted them to learn that a herd of kids running through the hall together is not safe.

How did I want them to learn it?

I could have given them the riot act.  I could have used my old-school principal voice (high volume and too many words.)  I could have marched them through the halls for 10 minutes and critiqued every step and misstep.  Not so good.

I looked at the situation from the opposite direction.  I asked myself, "What would I do to show off the excellent hallway walking skills of these kids?"  I would practice the skill, then trust them to do it well.

The answer became clear.  With ZERO sarcasm, I kindly asked them to practice walking in the hall for a little bit.  Probably 15 seconds.  Then I praised the action.  I got them out of their line and asked them to walk for a few more seconds.  Again, I praised their efforts and gave them a giant grin!  I asked them, "Check yourself...Who needed a quick reminder?"

Several hands went up.  Sometimes we all need a reminder.  I said, "Thanks for the quick practice session.  Head on back to your class.  I trust you."