Some days, it seems like students become bears. No, I am not talking about the cutesy refreshment drinking bears. We’re talking grumpy, ready for hibernation bears. I feel like I spend more time refereeing than teaching on those days. I wonder what has happened to us? But when these days occur, I have to remind myself to go back to those essentials of accepting others, modeling positive conflict resolution, and listening.
What then, can we do to establish this classroom culture so that students will get along?
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. Allowing students to share sends the message that they are cared about them and gives everyone a little insight into their lives. For chatty or large classes, limit the number of words they could share.
2. Have a way of recognizing positive behavior in place: an I Spy mailbox, paper chain, etc. Teach your students to catch others being good. Everyone loves being recognized. And we, as teachers, have so much to juggle, we don’t always have the brain space to celebrate the excellent behavior that occurs in our classroom.
3. When students argue, make them face each other and talk it out before you step in. I teach mine to say, “When this happens…. I feel… 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 it to them. (Half the fun is not getting caught!) Students love this and it is a quick break that gets them excited.
5. Take 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 outside 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!