Saturday, March 15, 2014

How to Use a Classroom Meeting to Reclaim a Classroom

When a teacher fails to implement the school-wide discipline system (or any classroom system) effectively, students perceive the teacher as flailing. Before long the classroom is out of control. The teacher and administrator cannot allow the situation to remain as it is, or else no teaching and learning will occur in the classroom. 

In order to regain control of the classroom environment, the administrator and the teacher can agree that the administrator will facilitate a classroom meeting with the teacher and his students. The administrator prepares a chart paper with the following headings for four sections: The Problem, Expectations, The Solution, and Our Commitment.

The administrator announces the activity and its purpose: I am here today to talk about what your teacher, all of you, and I can do to make this a positive and productive classroom every day. We know that there have been problems with maintaining the right behavior for teaching and learning. I would like for you to help me to understand the real problem.

Under “The Problem” – the administrator notes the behaviors students describe as problems in the classroom. If no one volunteers to talk, the administrator asks the teacher to describe his or her perspective. The administrator may ask the students . . . 

  • “Do people talk without permission?” 
  • “Do kids get out of their seats without permission?” 
  • “Do people clown around?” 
  • “Is anyone ever hurtful to anyone else?” 
  • “Do people ignore the teacher’s directions?” 
  • “Do people talk and play when they should be quiet or working?” 
  • “Does anyone ever throw things or take things from others?
Next, the administrator asks the students to recite the expectations for behavior in every classroom in the school, which is the same as the common list of rules. For our school, those rules are: 
  1. Raise your hand and get permission before speaking.
  2. Stay in your assigned seat unless you have permission to move.
  3. Keep all belongings and body parts to yourself.
  4. Keep your head up and eyes open at all times.
  5. Follow all adult instructions immediately and completely.
The administrator writes an abbreviated version of the rules as the students list them under the heading "Expectations" on the chart paper.

Under "Solution," the administrator writes the students' and teacher's ideas about how to solve the problem(s) in the classroom. She may want to ask the group to think about each of the following questions and offer answers to each:
  • “What can your teacher do to ensure a positive and productive classroom?”
  • “What can students do to ensure a positive and productive classroom?” 

What typically comes out of this conversation, not surprisingly, is that the students should follow the rules and the teacher should enforce the rules by implementing the school-wide discipline system. 

Finally, the administrator commends the students and teacher for engaging in the problem-solving activity. She tells them that she will expect each of them to do their part to be a part of the solution and that she would like for them to sign the section titled “Our Commitment” to show their intention do to so. She asks the teacher to go first.

Typically, one of the ring-leading students will ask, “What happens if we don’t want to sign?” The administrator responds, “If you refuse to sign, you will come with me right now so we can talk further about how you can be a part of the solution we all need."

The administrator intends to talk further, and sympathetically, with the student in private. We do understand how kids can be angered and distrustful of a teacher they perceive to be weak and ineffective. All people have to learn to be okay even when others around them (including authority figures) are not, so we will coach around this skill for students who cannot acquiesce to our solution as quickly as the rest of the class.

The signed chart paper is now a class contract. The teacher and students find a place to display it in the classroom for the remainder of the school year. When necessary, the administrator checks in to review the teacher’s and the students’ adherence to the contract.

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