Reflecting on this past week's assignments, my mind is on classroom management. This is probably the most difficult thing for Occasional Teachers to deal with because traditional classroom management strategies--all those great ideas you learned about in teacher's college--just don't work when you're parachuting into a class for only a day (or half-day). A lot of those ideas require days, weeks, or months of estabilishing routines, expectations, and consequences. As an OT, I don't always know what systems are in place in a class or how the system works. I'm just trying to get 25 new names down pat!

Ask for advice in dealing with difficult students, and you will likely get numerous ideas that involve some kind of reward. These rewards can fall into two categories: extrinsic (something tangible like treats, free-time) or intrinsic ("bragging rights," a sense of pride and accomplishment). Upon consideration, I realized that I used both this week.

One classroom management strategy I use on a regular basis is recognizing students that follow my expectations (as opposed to focusing on the students that don't). I have a chart that lists 4 general expectations, applicable to any class, that need to be met in order to receive my reward. The reward is the student gets to write his/her name on an accompanying poster to show that they were caught being good. That's it. I don't draw names, give treats, or free-time to students on the list. The reward is just in the recognition. For most students, this is enough.

However, I ran into two students in a grade one class that didn't particularly care whether or not they had their name on the poster. Toward the end of the day and running out of patience, we were having some silent reading time One student was not being so silent. Not knowing what else to try (having already tried praise for good behaviour, warnings, a time-out, etc),  I took the student aside. Here's a summary of our conversation:

Me - "I've noticed that you're having a hard time following my expecations today. Is there something I can do to help?"
Student - "School is boring. I want to go on the computer."
Me - "Hmm, well we can't go on the computer right now, but maybe later if you can read quietly right now. How does that sound?"
Student - "Ok. When can I go on the computer?"
Me - "When the big hand on the clock gets to the 2, then you can go on the computer, but only if you can read quietly until then."
Student - "That's a long time, but I'll try."

I also told the other troublesome student about my deal and asked if he would like to be part of it. He agreed. I hardly heard a peep out of either of them until the appointed time when they were quick to point out the clock. I let them have their reward, along with some praise for their hard work. So the rest of the class didn't feel left out, I had them put away their books and join me for a game on the carpet. Everyone was satisfied and I left feeling good about the day.

I've come to realize that although intrinsic rewards may be best in the long-run to promote positive behaviour, sometimes a more tangible reward is needed for those "tough cookies." As long they aren't getting extra special treatment for being troublesome (i.e. there is still a reward for everyone else too, like a game), it feels fair for everyone.

OT's do what we can!
 



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