Thursday, July 25, 2013

Classroom Management: So last century

This week I saw a request from a congregation for a workshop in classroom management.
I am happy to say that is the first request for that topic I've seen in a very long time.

I don't think the request is rare today because all kids are on drugs that make them zombie cooperatives.

And I don't think we get few of those requests because all educators have mastered Lee Kanter's put a marble in a jar when you behave method (anyone remember that one...ww.canter.net/courses-and-registration/EDUC-6952T.aspx?infinity=gaw~Brand%2BUS%2BENG%2BSPART~Lee Canter~17715634373~lee canter~b&gclid=CJLnn5rbyrgCFcuj4Aodp3IAAw ). Really Assertiveness Discipline?

I think the conversation has changed. Let me try to explore why classroom management has become a "so last century" conversation.

When Jewish education is designed with primary attention to relationships then something happens to a kids behavior. When children know they will  see friends, role models and be seen by friends and role models something happens to behavior. The interaction is less about compliance and more about engagement.

Now that doesn't mean that kids don't still act out. Of course some kids still feel like they don't have a "friend." But, I think what is happening in settings where relationships have become the operating system, as opposed to behavior management systems, that challenging behavior is addressed through a lens of caring, and conversation not "checks on the board and no recess."

Most congregations that have put relationships first have included parents. I heard one educator say, "I see the parents all the time. They know me and trust me. So they convey that to their child. Also if something comes up, I talk immediately to parents. Sometimes I learn something is going on with the child and that helps me work with the child."

Places that build those bridges with parents also often do so with values. So West End Synagogue, for example, in New York, has blanketed the congregation with middot. So the norm for children, and adults is to talk about how they treat each other and then strive to treat each other, guided by identified and glorified values. This is what we do around here folks, we act in a certain sacred striving way.

When you combine focus on the child, relationships, connections to parents and an elevated value system a message gets sent to a child: this is important. This too impacts a child's reaction and behavior.

And children should and do throw spit balls. So I don't mean to say that kids now are winged angels but I do think "behavior management" has a very different flavor when kids are engaged in the new models of learning we see emerging in New York.

So to anyone who is struggling with classroom management I'd say toss the marbles and the star sheets, and the threats of no recess.

The 21st century way for classroom management is to get rid of the traditional classroom and build experiences where kids have friends and role models, are cared about, experience their parents engagement and a clearly defined value environment, and are doing stuff that feels important/joyouse/meaningful. Not as easy as tossing a marble in a jar but so 21st century.