being a teacher, discipline, punishment, rewards

Why I Oughta….

“If you don’t hand this in tomorrow, I am taking away two recceses…”
“If you don’t quiet down and focus, I will give you extra homework…”
“If you don’t start doing your work, you will not go on the field trip….”

These statements all came from me my first 2 years of teaching.  Always threatening to reach compliance, always promising the kids doom and gloom if they didn’t do exactly as I said.  I thought I had control.  I was wrong, what I had instead, was compliance.  I didn’t have buy in or engagement.  I didn’t have kids that were excited about the learning, I didn’t have kids that couldn’t wait to come to school. 

So what changed?  I did.  I realized that the classroom I wanted to be a part of couldn’t be one of threats. It couldn’t be one where students felt they had to do something because the teacher said it and not because they found it interesting or worthwhile.  I couldn’t have a classroom where the kids just went through the motions, worked within the system and just survived school.  I didn’t want them to just survive, I wanted them to thrive. So I decided no more” if you don’t do this then this bad thing will happen.”  No more “Why I oughta’s” out of me.  No more fooling myself into believing that the kids automatically should respect me, I had to earn it from them.

So that next year I had the kids set the rules, they already knew them after all.  We didn’t write them down or post them on our walls.  We discussed and moved on.  We changed the rules when we needed to.  When a child didn’t finish their homework, which there was very little of anyway, they had to tell me in the morning and take responsibility.  If they told me they had left it at home, I believed it.  The kids would choose how to get their work done, they could stay in for recess if they needed help otherwise they knew it was expected the next day.  I was honest with the kids, I sometimes forgot to do stuff as well or life got in the way.  My kids didn’t become less compliant by me removing the threats, they started to work harder because the work was worth their time.  They knew that if I asked them to do something it was because I had deemed the work worthy of their time. 

It wasn’t perfect, but guess what; nothing ever is.  But is is me and it is us and it works.  Those kids, I respect them and I have earned their respect.  I have set a healthy example for them that hopefully they can use outside of school.  Don’t just demand but build a relationship, how them that you respect them as learners and as human beings.  Show them they are worth it.