Some days, it seems like students become bears.
No, I am not talking about the cutesy refreshment drinking polar bears. We’re talking approach with caution, grumpy, ready for hibernation bears. On those days, I spend more time refereeing than teaching.
I wonder what has happened to my class?
When these days occur, I remind myself to specifically teach and model the essentials of a caring classroom culture: acceptance of selves and others, emphatic listening, and positive conflict resolution.
What then can we do to establish this culture so that students will no longer be grouchy and figuratively furry?
1. Start your week or morning off by allowing the students to share something positive they did over the weekend or the night before. Be sure to remind students what active, respectful listening looks like in your room. Allowing students to share about their lives does has MANY positive effects. Besides telling them that they are cared for and important, gives everyone a little insight into their lives. (Helpful hint: For chatty or large classes, limit the number of words they could share.)
2. Recognize positive behavior: an I Spy mailbox, paper chain, etc. Teach your students to "catch" others being good. Everyone loves being recognized. And we, as teachers, with so much to juggle, don’t always have the brain space to celebrate the excellent behavior that occurs in our classroom. Let's your students do the work for you!
3. Become an observer of student disagreements. When students argue, make them face each other and talk it out before you ever say a word. I teach mine this structure, “When this happens…. I feel… And I wish that…” This eliminates most of the accusatory statements, but still allows a student to communicate how they feel.
4. Have a heart attack. Not a literal one. Have students draw a heart on a notecard. Write something nice to a teacher, a student you know needs a pick me up, or a school official. Try to sneak the hearts to them as a class. (Half the fun is not getting caught!) Students love this and it is a quick break that gets them excited.
5. Give them a break. Take your kids outside for 5 minutes and go cloud watching. Let them imagine what the playground would be like with no gravity. Or, sit on the ground and think of what you would do if you were an ant. Sometimes, students just don’t get along because they are feeling so much pressure. Let them share ideas without the pressure of being right or wrong.
6. Read, read, read. Yes, even you Math teacher. Find books, quotes, Pinterest pins, poems, memes, newspaper cartoons. Whatever you can get your hands on that models the behaviors you want to see.
Here are some book ideas to get you started!
Nerdy Birdy by Aaron Reynolds
Bronterina by James Howe
Strictly No Elephants by Lisa Mantchev
Hector and Hummingbird by Nicolas John Frith
Now go forth and change your grizzly bears into teddy bears!