(Originally posted 8/12/11)
A reader asked a number of great questions on a post where I wrote about NOT using participation points. I will try to address some of them here.
How do you get there?
Which system do you have that replaces participation points that works?
How do you deal with discipline (attitude, absences, English)?
Which is the social contract you have with your students and parents?
How did you reach this social contract?
How do you enforce the rules that make daily living (la convivencia) possible?
Below is the contract that I created to address these issues. When I have an administration that requires a signature, I’ll collect that. Our Dean of Students and Principal have a copy. A copy is on my website and a copy is sent home to parents.
The key to this, however, is taking time the first week of school to address each point below:
Your Rights and Responsibilities
1. You have a right to be treated as an individual who interesting, capable, and important.
You have a responsibility to treat others the same way.
2. You have the right to a positive learning environment every day.
You have the responsibility to learn and accomplish something positive every day.
3. You have the right to be informed about the academic and personal goals of this course and your progress towards
You have the responsibility to complete the class work and homework designed to help you achieve these goals and to monitor your progress.
4. You have the right to communicate with me in a respectful and appropriate manner about issues that affect you in class or in this building.
You have the responsibility to communicate with me whenever you have a problem, question, or concern about issues in this class, or your achievement in this class.
You have the responsibility to communicate if you, or anyone else, is in danger of physical or emotional harm.
These are posted in the room and referred to as necessary. We address them as “new information”, one per day the first week…IN ENGLISH…along with any number of team-building and get-to-know-you activities in Spanish.
I address infractions to the above immediately and directly…although not always publicly. A one-to-one conversation often goes a long way. The first two are the most important. As the teacher,
I have the final say if there is disagreement on what kind of behavior falls “outside of the lines”. I briefly mention and discuss “boundaries” so that students understand that there is a need to have lines drawn for appropriate/inappropriate behavior.
What we allow, we encourage.
The first few weeks with a new teacher, it is the students’ job to find out exactly what that teacher will allow. For example: talking when the teacher is talking, writing on other students and/or their belongings/desks etc., arriving late to class, not engaging in class activities, pretending to not know anything, sarcasm, mean remarks, making fun of others, inappropriate clothing, not doing homework, passing notes, texting, eating and drinking in class………………………………………..
I don’t take it personally when students test the boundaries. As adolescents, that is what they are wired to do. They want to know how I will handle trouble when it comes. They need to know that they can trust me to keep the classroom a safe place. Ironically, it is the “troublemakers” that need to know this the most. Many of them are extremely bright and knowing where the boundaries are is how they function. Many of them have learned survival skills outside of the classroom and want to know from the beginning which of those skills they will need to survive this venue. Some of them have a reputation to uphold. If I am consistent about the rules, their classmates will not look to them to act up. If I am NOT consistent, then it becomes their role to see what I’ll be like today. They learn by watching adults….and each other. Adults who are inconsistent become playthings and entertainment. I let them know up front that we have other things to do.
So…Step 1: The Rules and Responsibilities
Step 2: Identify the Boundaries and Stand Firm
Step 3: Offer the Better Option….Calmly.
Step 4: “Conduct” the Class
I tell students that this class is much like a band/chorus/orchestra and I’m the Maestro. I literally “conduct” the class. They need to follow my words, facial expressions, gesture etc. and respond appropriately. The first piece we learn is the “Signal” (check out the post below)
I take my job as Maestro seriously and choose my activities (pieces) carefully based upon the strengths, interests and abilities of the students. From Day 1, I make it clear that I have chosen everything for THEM. Not because it is next in the book, what the other classes are doing, I think it’s cool, it makes me look good or another group liked it. For THEM. I choose activities which I know that my students will enjoy and will be successful at.
Every day for the rest of the year, I keep those rules and responsibilities in mind. I know that we will need to review them regularly.
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