Today was my first day back at work. We had one of those "Teacher Training" days and I always find the time we spend together as a staff to be both exciting and motivating. In the morning we had a brief meeting, and then, in teams, we hopped into our cars and went on our first grade home visits. Each incoming first grader is visited by a team of teachers, given a small packet containing a book to read, information about school and upcoming events, and a few other items that would interest a child of that age. After that we had lunch and then spent the remaining afternoon with a refresher course on the Teaching with Love and Logic principles.
When I was first introduced to the Love and Logic principles, I was immediately attracted to its simplicity and sensible approach to classroom management. Although there is much that could be said about Love and Logic philosophy, I believe they are encapsulated in the four following principles.
1. Build Relationships: The most powerful thing a teacher can do to effectively manage his or her classroom is to build a meaningful relationship with each student. Get to know their names quickly. Learn something about each student. Notice them and acknowledge. Greet them each day (meet them at your door). Smile. Be sincere. Ask them questions about things that they might find interesting. Use positive body language including safe and gentle touch (side hugs with younger students, high fives, other appropriate touch with older students). With the older boys, I like to give the shoulder bump (like the football players do except I do it softly). Show interest in your students.
2. Show Empathy: We all make mistakes. When a child is frustrated, or hurt, show empathy for the child by acknowledging their feelings. Saying things like, "That must be frustrating." or "You look upset." or "Ouch, that must hurt." shows students you care about how they feel. These are statements of empathy. Say a child is running through the hall and slips and skins his knee. Rather than say, "That's why we walk in the hall." you could say, "Looks like you skinned your knee. That must hurt. Let's go to the nurse and have her take a look at it." Then later, after the child has had time to consider the consequences of his actions (running in the hall) you might say, "How's is your knee doing?" (show empathy) "Have you thought about what you could do differently so that you don't get hurt again?" Most kids have already figured that out.
3. Offer Choices: When a child is acting up and you want the behavior changed, give reasonable choices. Keeping the principle of empathy in mind, acknowledge that the student looks frustrated (or mad) if appropriate. If the student is just acting out, ask if they can pull it together of do they need to go to the back of the room (or across the hall) and pull it together there. Make the choices reasonable and non threatening. (In Love and Logic, you don't always have to give choices. If a strong relationship has been formed, that alone may give you enough of a bond between you and that student to ask for compliance. "Do that for me will you? Thanks." Turn and walk away - assume the student will comply. Most often, they will.
4. Use Enforceable Statements: An enforceable statement is one that you can actually enforce. It's what you will do, not what you expect the students to do. For example, "Turn in your math books to page 14 and look at problem one. We'll start there. I'll begin the lesson in thirty seconds." When the thirty seconds is up, begin the lesson and notice those students that haven't followed through. Walk toward them but continue teaching. As you approach them, most students will magically find page 14 and get on task. The enforceable statement, the one in italics, is one you can enforce. Be sure not to say it unless you can actually do it. Always follow through.
Love and Logic principles also include the ideas of avoiding getting sucked into arguments with kids, delaying consequences until you've had time to reflect what's appropriate for the situation (which also give the students plenty of "think time), and a plethora of other great ideas on relating and dealing with students in one's classroom. The above are really small snippets of a much larger picture. If these ideas are of interest to you, find out more by visiting the Love and Logic website.