About 3 weeks ago, I chronicled how I had gone from a checks, sticks, and names discipline system to one based in logic, respect, and communication instead. Little did I know that it would hit such a nerve with so many people. So now with 33 comments, 81 re-tweets (even one by the very smart Alfie Kohn!), and more than 10,000 views, I think it is time to answer some of the questions that were posed.
- Don't you think it is just because of your great group of students that this works? This has been a popular one, especially as I discuss it with colleagues who happen to know firsthand what an amazing group of 4th graders we do have. My answer, well maybe, and yet, I do know that there are students in my room that would not have flourished as much if they had been subjected to last year's rules. These would have been my frequent fliers, often spending recess with me or the principal. Through communication, I have only had to keep a couple of students in on two occasions as we discussed behavior expectations and how to fix reoccurring problems. I know that I have 23 incredible students, but I did last year as well and the year prior. So really, since these are the students that I do have, it appears to be a mute point.
- How did you come up with this system? I didn't. In fact, many commentators pointed out that it sounded a lot like The Responsive Classroom, Love and Logic, or various other programs. I did not read any of these programs, instead I went with my own commonsense and sense of right and wrong. I wanted a respectful classroom, which also meant I had to give a lot of respect. I also knew that this would not be a one time thing of discussion, but something to revisit throughout the year whenever we had time.
- Why should I care, listen, use what you are using? That's the wonderful part about the world of blogging, you don't have to! All I am doing is chronicling my own decision to get rid of a punitive system to one guided by communication. This approach works for me, but by all means, I want people to use whatever works for them. I just want to let people know, particularly first year teachers that there are other methods than punishment to create a strong classroom. I wish I had known more about that in college.
- Will you use it next year? Absolutely! As with many changes on my journey this year, I could not imagine going back to my old ways. I do not know what my classroom will consist of next year, but I do know that I am going to have some very eager new 4th graders ready to learn so my job is to provide them with the very best experience possible. That includes a room where they feel safe, respected, and listened to, not just by me, but by their peers as well. There may be changes, but fundamentally my philosophy will only expand and gain momentum rather than completely change.