Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Meeting the Teacher

Last week, our daughter's elementary school held the usual "Meet The Teacher" night.  There was a big presentation by the principal and then the PTO president and team.  It's a pep talk about how great the school is but also a bit of a "lecture" on being involved.  Our principal focuses on the basics- kids need sleep, breakfast, and please read to them.

Then the parents stream down the hallways into the classrooms where the kids spend their days and we get to learn about our teachers.

It's kind of a great way to get an idea of the feel of the classroom and get a sense of the teacher's style.

There is something about Teagan's 2nd grade teacher that I really, really, really like.

She isn't a bribery teacher.  She doesn't do big reward systems and overdone praise.

Don't get me wrong- there is a time and place for that and kids certainly do respond to that.  And as a parent, we've certainly used that!

But I have always liked the philosophy that being driven to make the right choices for the sake of doing the right things is best- not because you will get a cookie or pencil or sticker or whatever.

There is a behavior system in the classroom- each child has a clothespin with their name on it and everyone starts the day in the middle (Ready To Learn).  As the day progresses, you could go up to Good Day, Great Job, or even Outstanding.  Or you could go down to Think About It, Teacher's Choice (usually means losing some recess time), or Parent Contact (a note or phone call home about the issue).  Just because you hit the low side doesn't mean you stay there all day.  You may end up with a consequence that sticks no matter what but you can still turn it around and end up back in neutral or up in the positive end.  It's kind of confusing but now that we've seen it, we understand it better and can work with encouraging Teagan to achieve the upper levels.  This morning, we set a goal to not go below Ready To Learn and to get on Good Day for most of the day.

I think this teacher is going to be very good for Teagan.  I think Teagan is going to learn to use her people-pleasing drive in a different way.  This teacher isn't going to give Teagan what she's been able to get from other teachers- this teacher is going to be pleased when Teagan masters a new skill, follows rules that she has struggled with, and so on.  Teagan will please this teacher by, essentially, pleasing herself!  There isn't a system for Teagan to "play."  She can't earn stickers or fake money or points towards an end goal.  Instead, it's more about natural consequences and making the right choices simply because it is what is right and expected.

On a side note, we stopped by the art teacher's class.  You might recall that there was quite the brouhaha last year when I shared about the art teacher's "no no board."  Even after all of the discussion, I still liked the No No Board just fine- especially after talking to Teagan about it and her telling me that she didn't ever think she could draw people like real people until she tried.  This year, we stopped by the art teacher's class and the no no board is still up.  I introduced myself and told her the tale of that blog post and we chuckled about it.  Let me assure you that she is kind, fun, the kids love her, and the No No Board is nothing punitive, intimidating, or scary for the kids.  The purpose of this art class is to learn about art- technique, artists, style, color.  The lessons are set so that there is a specific art project that develops these foundations into real life artistry through painting, drawing, sculpture and more.  The kids have free art time, too, and that is when the "No No Board" is allowed and the kids can truly draw or paint or color anything they want.  There are great and positive messages about art and creativity throughout the classroom.  So in case anyone has been hanging on to any worry from last year about that No No Board... you can now be at ease.

So the school year is now in full swing.  Zach is adjusting well to Kindergarten and it looks like Teagan is going to have a great 2nd grade year!



AmyK said...

H's teacher did that exact same behavior system last year. I liked the fact that even if a kid dips below the "Ready To Learn" starting point, they still have the power to turn their choices around and "level up" so to speak.
But overall, personally I didn't care for it very much. I thought it seemed time consuming and I wondered how much that system interrupted teaching time for kids to clip up or down. There were also some days that H would come home frustrated because she had stayed on "Ready To Learn" all day and never even had the chance to clip up because the teacher had her hands and time full with other kids who were up and down the chart all day. Each day she brought home a paper showing where she had ended that day and I had to sign it. It seems like the kids who were consistently doing the right thing were overlooked a lot of the time because the teacher was too busy keeping up with the regular clip movers.
I was very thankful that this year's behavior system is bare bones. Every kid starts out with a popsicle stick with his/her name on it in a cup. They get one warning and after that their popsicle stick is pulled out and they lose recess time (well except at her school the kids who "lose" recess time really walk instead of play so that they are still getting outdoor physical activity). After that if there is still problems a note or phone call home is what will happen. And overall it seems like this year's classroom is more focused on what they're learning as opposed to last year's where I felt the classroom was focused on how they're behaving.

Collette B said...

That is the same behavior system that my school uses as well!

Garret said...

I don't have children or go to school. I forgot what I was going to say.

Alison said...

Garret just got moved down to "think about it." Sorry I was late moving his clip, I was trying to explain something to six other students.

I can see Amy's point--I was thinking the moving of all those clips would be time consuming, or might become kind of rote, with all the other pressures on a teacher's time. But it depends on the teacher and how she implements it.

I don't remember having such reward/behavior systems in school. Not saying we didn't, but if they were there, they didn't leave much of an impression on me!

Garret said...

I'd like a point or something for commenting.