Co-creating a Community
One week until school starts and I'm slowly ticking tasks off my "to do" list. One task was to look into classroom "rewards"-activities that celebrate appropriate social and school behavior. My goal is to keep it cooperative and not competitive-recognizing our missteps and praising our success. As we have written before, classroom culture needs to be inclusive, positive, respectful. Programs like Responsive Classroom and Whole Child offer resources, both of which I use, for creating a community based on mutual respect, play, personal investment. The best way to create community is through a collaboration, working together for the betterment of all.
Each day begins anew. I learned long ago to wipe the slates clean each new day. No errors or successes are held over from one day to another. This gives hope to those for whom appropriate social behavior is a struggle, and "levels the playing field" for those who are blessed with great social skills. It also allows for "bad days" to happen for anyone. The Many Color Days of the classroom are accepted and all are given space to grow.
Building a cooperative community should also be fun. It's challenging enough, day after day, for 20 or more individuals to get along; documenting that growth should be uplifting and supportive. But this is one of the hardest pieces for me. Record keeping, be it in check marks on the board, marbles in a jar, or stickers on a chart, if displayed publicly the records become a moment in comparing ourselves to another and labeling each other and this is not the environment I want. How, then, do I keep track of positive and negative behaviors, make it transparent to the students and their families, all the while creating a cooperative and supportive environment (oh, and not exhaust me, I should say)?
This year, I am looking into ClassDojo, an online behavior management tool. What I like about this tool is that it is accessible in many formats (tablet, smartphone, computer), has student access capabilities, has parent/guardian email option, seems cute and fun with the monster avatars....and it can easily be a private moment between teacher and student. I like the visual nature of the tool--students, and families, can easily see what they have been recognized for, or what they have been doing that is seen as inappropriate. And the convenience to the teacher is definitely a plus (I used to mail home postcards each week!) What I am still wondering is how I can adapt this tool in regards to the point awards and still have each day "start anew". I think it best to meet my class first and see how they wish to incorporate this tool into our community.
This post isn't about the application, though. An app is only a tool--it's all in how we use it.
I don't want to be a police officer in my classroom; external frameworks do not work as well as internal ones. As children grow, the goal of behavior management should be self-management. What I would like to do differently that I haven't heard talked of with other teachers who have used this tool, is that I would want to use this as I conference with students, empowering them to see and change or develop their own behavior. Reflection partnered with learning is always a powerful tool. And since a dojo literally means "a place of the way", a place of learning and in some cases meditation, it seems more appropriate to use this tool in order to guide them on their way to self-management. In learning to be more cooperative and responsive community members, stopping to reflect and goal set would be the most powerful tool of all. Guiding and mentoring, be it in math or reading or character development; that is the role I want to take. Dojo may allow me to do this--time will tell.
Until then, I have first week lessons to get to.