I remember starting my educational career and hearing, “Don’t smile until Christmas”.  I am sure that many educators do feel  this way but this would never work for me.  I smile every morning I wake up and I smile every time I see a child’s face.  My students know I care about them and I tell them frequently.  It has taken me a long time to have success with  my classroom management in Kindergarten.  It is still a work in progress but I have been pleased with the behavior in my classroom over the years.  Every year is different and every child and situation is different when it comes to classroom discipline.  That means that there is no magic solution that will make students follow rules and make good social choices but I have found (with a lot of patience and trial and error) a plan that has worked for me and my students.  

My classroom management plan starts with a smile and expectations.  A smile can set the mood and show your students and parents what type of character you posses.  I meet every parent at open house with a hand shake and a smile.  I get down on each child’s level and smile and give a high-five.  I want my students and my parents to feel comfortable with me in order to open the door for communication and to let them know we are on the same page. We both want what’s best for their child.  I want the student to know that I care about them as soon as they walk in through my classroom door.  I have each student bring art work from home to help decorate the room and have ownership in the classroom community.   This is the groundwork for creating a caring community of learners.  This is the backbone of eliminating or minimizing unwanted behavior during a school day.  Each family is a vital part of the learning process that takes place in our classroom.   I update parents regularly with my classroom website , quick e-mails, or photos in text messages.  We create many movies, Glogs, and photo stories to make parents feel involved in their child’s education.  I start each year by making positive phone calls home to every family so that it is easier when I have to make a unpleasent call.

Each child has to know what is expected of them.  I have found that this works for all ages of children and even adults.  Life is easier when you know what others expect from you.  I tell the children what I expect from them when; they are sitting on the carpet, walking down the hallway, at recess, at lunch, on the bus, during centers, etc… This is an important part of my classroom discipline plan.  Instead of telling children NO all the time, I tell them what I expect.  Then the ball is in their court, they can either make a good choice or a bad choice, but it is always their choice.  I model the expectations for the first month of school and keep the same routines throughout the school year and I remind them of these expectations regularly throughout the school year.  When they make good choices, good things happen.  When they make bad choices, bad things happen. You can ask any child in my classroom and they will echo this motto.  This is true throughout our adult lives. we can make good choices or bad choices but we have to live with the consequences.  I reward good choices with extrinsic responses.  I do this quite often to start the school year.  I give the students; stickers for their sticker charts, I smile, high-five, say positives and give praise.  Children need these reinforces to learn positive expectations and they need a lot of these to learn what school is all about. The ultimate goal is for children to eventually have intrinsic motivation for making good choices. If they make bad choices; they have to turn their card, a note is sent home, or a phone call is made to their parents. You have to follow through with the plan.  You better call home if you say that is what the consequence is for negative behavior.  This is the mistake a lot of educators make, they don’t follow through.  Sometimes it just takes one call to let the students know that you are working with their parents and they will find out about the choices they are making during class.

The other aspect that has changed my discipline plan in my classroom has been the school wide movement to incorporate our bucket filler program.  The idea is that everyone has an invisible bucket.  When we do nice things, we fill each others bucket.  You fill a friend’s bucket when you make good choices and you fill your own bucket at the same time.  You can also be a bucket dipper.  That is when a student makes a negative choice towards a friend.  You can hear the children out on the playground or in the classroom saying “you are being a bucket dipper” or “you are being a bucket filler”.  We celebrate bucket fillers at school and at home by having them take a picture with our mascot Bruno The Bucket.  Our Art teacher made this puppet and it is amazing.  We hang these on our bucket filler bulletin board in our hallway.  Many notes come in from home with celebrations of bucket filling.  This is a great visual for younger students and they really grasp the concept.  We start every year with an assembly given and performed by some of the staff members including me. 

My hope is that this blog finds a new teacher and helps them figure out what classroom management plan works best to meet their pedagogy or give a veteran teacher a new twist to their discipline plan.  Children need to know what is expected of them and their accomplishments need to be celebrated.  Every student and family is a vital part to a caring classroom community and every discipline issue can be a positive teaching moment.  Each child deserves to keep their dignity intact when they are learning from their mistakes.  Sometimes a whisper in a students ear is just as effective as a lion roar.   I used to spend a lot of energy on classroom management because I didn’t have a plan. I spent 90% of my time on classroom management and 10% on teaching and learning.  My classroom is now 10% classroom management and 90% entertainment.  When the plan works and you follow through with the plan, teaching is a pure joy!  I say that it is 90% entertainment because when kids are motivated, engaged, and know expectations, students learn and have fun learning!