Q. Our fifth-grader's
teacher made the whole class hold a popsicle stick sideways in their mouths all
day, because they had been "noisy." We agree that a teacher should be able to
command student attention, but we feel that this was inappropriate and did more
to ridicule and humiliate the students instead of teach them how they should
behave. So we are angry. We met with the principal and he said it wasn't that
big of a deal and there was nothing he could do. We felt like he let us down.
Now we have no leverage with the teacher to induce her to try to stay in better
control of the class. What should we do?
Recognize that the teacher is under duress, and
probably has personal problems. If the principal doesn't volunteer any way to
come to an agreement on what is an appropriate response to student misbehavior,
you should let your feelings be known to a school board member.
Then get together with other parents and set up a
meeting with the teacher to constructively discuss this situation, instead of
just sweeping it under the rug. You may learn some things you can use to coach
your child to be better behaved, as well as how your child can learn to work
with people a lot better than this. You may also help the teacher by sharing
your observations and concerns in a courteous, professional manner, and
expressing basic parental expectations. Examples:
What are the classroom rules?
There should be a small number of clear, simple expectations for proper
behavior. Out-of-control classrooms often develop when kids are overloaded with
rules. Do the students know the rules? Could they be simplified to be more
How consistent is the
enforcement? If the same misbehavior gets a strict reaction some days and just
a smile other days, or if some kids can get away with misbehavior while others
can't, the kids will "act out" their feelings about injustice.
How well-matched is the
curriculum to the abilities of the kids? Curriculum is set to the norm for every
given grade level. Therefore, by definition, curriculum is too easy for half
the kids, whose abilities are at or above the norm. In suburban classrooms in
which curriculum is benchmarked to a statewide norm, the curriculum might
actually be too easy for 90% of the kids. That's a recipe for behavior
disasters. The more "dumbed down" the schoolwork, the more negative "noise"
there will be in a classroom. Differentiation of curriculum and teaching style may
be in order to match the kids' abilities to their activities more closely.
Does the teacher use
daily planning to minimize "dead time" during the school day? Poor teachers do
not. Result: student anxiety, lethargy and chaos.
Does the teacher focus
on "do" messages and positive reinforcement? Or does she ignore positive
behaviors and zero in on what they're doing wrong? Negativity breeds
Kids need self-control
techniques more than artificial rewards. Good teachers remember the adage,
"Kids need coaches more than they need critics."
If things don't improve, set up another meeting with
the teacher, but this time, consider including officers of your school's parent
group, a school counselor, a school board member, central-office personnel, and
Homework: Fun, practical ideas for classroom management may be
found on www.teachnet.com