Alli and Carrie, fellow kindergarten teachers (#BEST-TEAM-EVER), tried to sell me on the idea and sent me blogs and other articles that were in support of eliminating behavior systems similar to the one we have used in the past. I've been teaching kindergarten for eight years and for all of those eight years we've used a "Beehive" as our behavior system and tweaked it along the way. For the past two years, our behavior system looked like this, all bees start in the beehive or on green at the beginning of each day and move up the rainbow to blue and purple if the student makes positive choices and down to yellow, orange, and red if making negative choices. Before that, for the other six years, the rainbow stopped at green and the students making positive choices just stayed on green...day after day after day. It was extremely difficult for me to redirect the students making negative choices, by only focusing on their negative behavior all day long. I was giving them the attention they wanted and needed, but for all the wrong reasons. On the flip side, it was even more difficult keeping the students who were making positive choices engaged and motivated to continue to make those good choices. But why would they, they saw all of the attention the other students were getting. That behavior system and philosophy sounds so completely absurd to me now looking back on it. I can't imagine redirecting and acknowledging only negative behavior all day long... How draining. So, the addition of the blue and purple seemed like a super fantastic idea. Little did I know, that I wasn't focusing on the root of the problem. It wasn't the kids making the positive choices or the kids making the negative choices. It wasn't even the KIDS!!!! IT WAS ME!!!! ME?! Yeah, I know!! Shocker, huh?!
I would have never come to that conclusion if I wouldn't have read the blogs and articles that were shared with me. After reading them, I was totally and completely SOLD on the idea...well, in theory. It took 27 very long school days to re-program my brain and shift the way I think as a teacher. Yes, a teacher and not just a teacher, but a good teacher. Looking back, as it related to behavior, I don't think I was even being a teacher as much as I was just an OBSERVER. Think about it. I observed the behavior and then I moved a bee. It didn't matter if it was positive or negative. I provided them feedback with the bee being moved either in one direction or the other just by seeing or hearing about the behavior from other teachers and sometimes even from..."GASP"...their tattle tailing classmates! No discussion really, just seeing and doing. It was a crutch. You get busy with the tasks at hand and the hustle and bustle of the day and it just becomes a reaction. Move the bee and move on to the next thing. The saddest part is, that at the end of the day when a child's bee was on orange or red or even blue or purple, not only could the student not remember why their bee was on that color, but neither could I. How was I going to provide feedback to the parents? How were the students going to learn from their mistakes or behavior to not continue to make those poor choices? How and why would the good behavior continue and the poor behavior stop if I continued with this behavior system that provided extrinsic, meaningless recognition and feedback and most importantly, for those students who were consistently on orange and red, a public display of humiliation?
So with all of that being said, what am I doing now? Well, I am explaining to them what the expectations are and what they look like, sound like, and feel like. If I see positive behavior, I acknowledge it and provide immediate praise and feedback and discuss and describe it to the whole group. I praise students individually with a hug, a high five, and/or use kind, caring, encouraging words to thank them for making such a good choice. I use words like "Respectful", "Responsible", and "Safe". I am trying to TEACH them that making good choices feels good and that feeling good about your choices is the best reward. Better than any extrinsic reward that they could possibly get from me or anyone else. I have also tried to shift away from redirecting behavior that is not impeding the learning of others. I am more of a distraction to the other 21 students, who are engaged and listening, than that of the 1 students' behavior, if I continuously interrupt my own lesson to ask a student to sit on their pockets criss-cross-applesauce. This is working for approximately 80% of the students in my classroom and supports the tiered Response to Intervention Model.
The other 15% of my class is responding to the 1-2-3 Magic Strategy in addition to the previously mentioned strategies. In my classroom, this strategy sounds like, "(Student's name), the expectation is (what I would like them to do, but are currently not)." [Brief pause to see if they comply.] "That's 1." [Brief pause to see if they comply.] "That's 2." [Brief pause to see if they comply.] "(Student's name), if I say three (realistic immediate consequence)." [Brief pause to see if they comply.] "That's 3." [Immediately enforce the consequence.]
For the other 5%, which is 1 student, I met with a team of teachers, students services staff, and the child's parent(s) to create a more individualized behavior plan for that student to be and feel successful in the classroom.
Now, after only 27 very short days of school and shifting my old way of thinking for the last eight years, I look ahead at the way I am currently addressing student behaviors and I can't imagine doing it any other way. I refuse to be an "Observer". I choose to be a TEACHER!!