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From Rules to Guidelines, Moving to the Positive

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June 11, 2012 by Arwen McGilvra

Recommended Reading: From Rules to Guidelines, Moving to the Positive by Dan Gartrell

At the end of a wing in an elementary school, a prekindergarten class walks past primary grade classrooms four times a day. The preschoolers have trouble remembering not to talk. With doors open due to the school’s old air conditioning system, their chatter distracts the primary children and their teachers. The principal discusses the problem with Renilda and Cathi, the pre-K teachers. They agree to figure out a way to have the preschoolers walk in line more quietly.

Renilda recalls a group punishment from her own schooldays—when some children talked in line, the entire class had to “practice” walking up and down the hall five times in complete silence. Renilda shares with Cathi how she still feels bummed out about the experience— she wasn’t one of the ones talking—and how negative the class felt toward the “talkers” and upset they were with the teacher.

Not wanting to introduce the negative dynamics of group punishment in their classroom, the two teachers hold a class meeting. They matter-of-factly explain the problem to the children and ask what would help them remember to walk quietly. The teachers acknowledge each idea the children offer. One child says, “We could be mommy and daddy elephants. We have to tiptoe so we don’t wake the babies.” Everyone likes this idea, and they decide to try it.

As the children line up the next day, the teachers ask them if they remember how they are going to walk quietly. The children remember. When the class tiptoes by the principal’s office, he notices them and declares, “I like how you boys and girls are walking quietly down the hall.”

“Shh,” one child says, “you’ll wake the babies.” READ MORE


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