Classroom Management / by Alan Strathman

Today was the first day of my second week.  My first week was good, though I quickly learned that the children need some significant behavior management. The teachers, school-wide really, spend too much time yelling at, and to some degree hitting, their students.  Students take much too long to do even the simplest tasks.  Today I asked students in my Grade 1 class to get out a pencil and their notebook. Twleve minutes later this was not accomplished by all 18 students. Two did not have their notebooks, 3 did not have a pencil, 2 did not have either, 4 needed to sharpen their pencil, and the rest weren't even paying attention when I asked them to do it.

This weekend I spent a lot of time thinking, and talking to other PCVs, about classroom management strategies.  I emailed one of my co-teachers, Miss A., last night and today we discussed some possibilities. At the end of the day we created our behavior thermometer, which looks like this:

Each student's name is written on a clothespin and then we move it up or down based on a child's behavior. We will use rewards like stickers, pencils, little toys, etc.  In articles on classroom management I noticed that the consequence is often communicating with a parent about a child's inappropriate behavior.  I asked Miss A. if it would be useful for us to do the same thing and she said that contacting parents wouldn't do any good at all.

All of this is consistent with a movement in U.S. schools to focus more on reinforcing positive behavior than punishing negative. It is also consistent with research showing that reinforcement is a more effective tool than punishment. But this idea, as well as ideas like child-friendly classrooms and libraries, is still quite new in St. Lucia.

I will let you know how it goes.  And if any of you have other ideas that might help me in teaching primary school please feel free to share them.