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  #1  
Old 08-14-2006, 11:04 AM
vertizontal vertizontal is offline
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How do you maintain classroom discipline?

Last night on TNT they showed a tv-move, The Ron Clark Story, another inspirational tale about a teacher who volunteers to teach the baddest of the bad kids, and turns around their loser attitudes and remolds them into brilliant young citizens of the world. This was similar in spirit to earlier movies such as Stand and Deliver and To Sir, With Love.
From TV Guide, here is the premise:
Quote:
In this fact-based drama, an idealistic educator (Matthew Perry) leaves his small-town roots to teach at a tough New York City school, where he utilizes passion and innovative methods to inspire his pupils.
After seeing that movie (which was an OK made-for-tv flick, pushing all the right emotional buttons), I wanted to start a thread to get your thoughts on classroom discipline.

In these nicely scripted dramas, the teacher does something creative to “get through” to the kids, which then causes the class to fall in line and be receptive to everything from that point. But the actors in the movies always follow their script, they don’t behave like real kids do.

So what are your thoughts regarding getting and maintaining classroom discipline? Is it something that’s teachable to others, or is there a huge unknown factor, maybe called “likeablity,” that overrides anything that a teacher actually does? How much training do colleges give to Education students regarding all of this? If you’re a teacher, what do you do on the first day of class?
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  #2  
Old 08-14-2006, 11:31 AM
JustAnotherGeek JustAnotherGeek is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vertizontal
So what are your thoughts regarding getting and maintaining classroom discipline? Is it something that’s teachable to others, or is there a huge unknown factor, maybe called “likeablity,” that overrides anything that a teacher actually does? How much training do colleges give to Education students regarding all of this? If you’re a teacher, what do you do on the first day of class?
It's a whole combination of things. There is no magical formula that works for everybody. I have found, tho, that there certainly is an "X Factor" with teaching. This cannot be taught, and only maybe can be learned through experience. (More likely, it can be honed.)

From what I have heard of Education courses, they are mostly a waste of time. There may be some out there that actually have some science behind them, but, every story I have ever heard of one of my colleagues going through an 'Education' course has left me with a less than stellar notion of what is exactly being taught in said courses. I may leave teaching when they start making me attend said courses.

As far as day-to-day classroom management, the number one rule (for me) is: Keep 'em busy. If they're doing work, it's a lot harder for them to get in trouble.

However, as you have noted, it can be tough to get the kids into the idea behind being busy. The material has to have some sort of value for them. Teaching soil characteristics to a group of kids who just aren't interested in science? You've gotta get them thinking about how this will directly effect them. Make 'em understand how this might effect their future hypothetical house. Same goes for any subject. Some kids can take an interest in knowledge for the sake of knowledge, but not many. For the large, large, LARGE majority of students, there must be some sort of direct application for them to take an interest.

Lastly, you have to be more than "The Teacher," and they have to be more than "The Students." You have to actually care about the kids and take an interest in them. If all they see in the person in front of the classroom is the person who stands at the front of the classroom, all they will be are the people who sit in the seats.

What do I do on the first day? I make sure they know what they're in for. I scare 'em a little bit. I lay down the laws. And I make them see why being in my course is worth all of the frustration. Carrot and the stick, so to speak.
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Old 08-14-2006, 11:36 AM
Zsofia Zsofia is online now
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My mom says the secret is you never smile until Christmas - you can always lighten up, but you can't get more strict.
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Old 08-14-2006, 12:33 PM
Hippy Hollow Hippy Hollow is offline
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Just Another Geek and Zsofia have provided good answers. I think education classes can be of value... but there is nothing like being in the trenches putting theory into practice. I taught in an inner-city elementary school in Houston for several years and went from being a possible hiring mistake to one of the best classroom managers in the school so I can certainly relate to the OP.

Deep down, kids hate chaos. They want order and predictability (to an extent). New teachers are in a chaotic state, which is at odds with what students need (but rarely say they actually want). Teachers have to be able to quickly deal with distractions by thinking out every possible interruption (bathroom breaks, kids without pencils, smart-assed comments) and having an immediate, yet not distracting response. And I mean for everything. If kids notice a tendency for a teacher not to respond to certain behavior... guess what, they're going to do that thing, whether it's whispering, getting up without permission, speaking without being recognized...

I was a horrible classroom manager when I first walked into my fourth-grade classroom... the kids fought, talked back, you name it - they did it. I kind of had to bottom out (having two boys brawl in my classroom when I left for less than a minute to deliver my roll card as an assistant principal walked down the hall pretty much did it for me!). I learned to be consistent and to always have a response - even if it was just a look saying "I saw what you did, and I don't approve!"

Responsibility is key. In my classroom, virtually every kid had a job, from passing out papers, to monitoring the line, to holding my keys when we were at lunch. They loved it and they also knew that bad behavior was the one way of losing their job... so they tried very hard to do the right thing. I saw some of the most beligerent kids walk off insults and make great choices because they didn't want to go through the humiliation of being "fired." I also had a great system of rewards and consequences - the home visit. Since I taught at a school where every kid lived within a mile and a half of the school, I made it clear that I would be in the neighborhood EVERY DAY after school. Initially I thought about home visits as a punitive measure but the kids absolutely loved for me to come by and tell their mom or grandma that they had a good day, or were doing well in class. The parents appreciated it too. Too often the only contact they had with the school was for negative stuff (kid gets in trouble, parents get called in). What a surprise to get a call or a visit because you've done a good job teaching your kids manners and respect!

You can't be someone else, or adopt a persona that you've seen someone else use. It has to come natural. If you deal with problems with humor, you should do the same as a teacher. If you're able to come up with witty comebacks to the kids you should do that. If you're kind of square and nerdy, be square and nerdy - the kids will respect you for being real. If you're phony, no matter how cool you appear, the kids will have no respect for you.

You have to have enthusiasm and a fun attitude about your subject(s). Doesn't mean you have to blow up stuff in class every day, or walk around grinning if that's not your style, but you have to see the value in what you're teaching and encourage that for the kids. When we had math class I worked really hard to make the abstract concepts concrete and real, even if the best reason I could come up with was "Well, you need to know how to add fractions because you'll be doing it in fifth grade."

Last, as has been said, you have to give a damn about the kids you teach and the community in which you teach. If you don't care they won't either.
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Old 08-14-2006, 01:25 PM
gfloyd gfloyd is offline
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I was a teaching assistant in grad school and where I was it was teaching, not just grading papers. Now college kids aren't fourth graders, but I was more prepared and serious at 13 than many of my students were. It was very clear within the first few weeks of the quarter which TA's "had it' and which didn't. Those of us that cared and worked at teaching, had students that didn't cheat (which was a huge problem), cleaned the labs after they were finished and were actually making progress. I always approached a new class with the face of if you do what you are told, I will do anything in my power to help you. If you email me three hours before the final with questions, I will meet with you and try to sort out the problem. If you cause problems, I will not tolerate it. This worked, more or less.

As for training, we were shoved in front of a classroom with about 15 hours of training that for all intensive purposes, was don't sleep with your students and make them wear their saftey glasses.
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Old 08-14-2006, 04:09 PM
ITR champion ITR champion is offline
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I was a TA for the last two years, and I will start teaching my own course for the first time in eight days. Being at a top-ranked university, I see less of the 'unable or unwilling to follow rules' problems, but a lot more of the 'spoiled and arrogant' problems. The tips that I've learned.

1. Do not ever let them manipulate you. If they're complaining that there's too much homework, that they need the test delayed for one week, etc... you cannot back down. If you do, they'll only whine twice as hard the next time. You should listen, of course, but you should never fold in front of them. It makes you look weak. Likewise, after you return a graded assignment, don't let a student shove you into changing the grade (unless there's an indisputable mistake.)

2. Deal with problem students early on. This is essential; if one person gets away with disrupting the class, others will start to follow their example.

3. Intimidate them a little bit. I'm dealing with kids who are used to having things go their way easily. They're a little bit surprised when the professor is fairly harsh about rules. One professor says that kids shouldn't even show up to class if they're going to do other work. At the start of the semester, he was quite curt with complaints and direct in pointing out problems. It took the students off guard, they didn't know how to react, and eventually they came to respect him.
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Old 08-14-2006, 04:13 PM
silenus silenus is online now
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Education classes are for the most part useless. The theory ones, at least. If you get a good set of instructors, the more practical ones might just teach you something. But beware any class taught by someone with a PhD-Ed. That just might be the most useless degree on the planet.

I've found after 20 years of teaching that the students may not know what they want, but they are very sure of what they don't want. The previous posters have elaborated on some of this. You have to be organised to the point of anal-retentive, yet be able to improvise a complete lesson on the spot if you have to. This generally gets 95% of your students into line. The remaining 5% have "special needs." These can range from a little more attention up to the use of tactical nuclear weaponry. I have a reputation in the district of being a very hard, very mean, and very deadly teacher, so I can reasonably say that I don't have discipline problems. I nuke a student every few years and the lesson is learned by a new generation.
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Old 08-14-2006, 04:42 PM
vertizontal vertizontal is offline
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A while back, a someone mentioned that a standard interview question given to a potential teacher is something like "It's the first day of class, and when you turn to write something on the board, a kid shoots a spitwad at your head. What do you do?"

What are good answers to this question?

(Let's assume that you didn't see who the student was, and also that solutions involving amputation, high-voltage electrodes, and burning flesh are off-limits).
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Old 08-14-2006, 05:00 PM
WhyNot WhyNot is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vertizontal
A while back, a someone mentioned that a standard interview question given to a potential teacher is something like "It's the first day of class, and when you turn to write something on the board, a kid shoots a spitwad at your head. What do you do?"

What are good answers to this question?

(Let's assume that you didn't see who the student was, and also that solutions involving amputation, high-voltage electrodes, and burning flesh are off-limits).
I think it depends on the teacher.

My mom (sixth grade), would stop, slowly turn and give The Look long enough to wilt eyebrows to the back row.

I had one fantastic teacher who lined us all up with spitballs and made us shoot spitballs for an hour into the wastebasket, one by one. By the end of the hour, we never wanted to see another spitball. And for the rest of the year, he never got another spitball.

Some teachers do best just to ignore it. For other, ignoring means a multitude of spitballs are going to be headed your way in Tminus3seconds.

I think the point of it as an interview question is to simply see if the interviewee has an answer and if he or she is flustered by the question. If the question alone throws him off, he's best not in the classroom.
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Old 08-14-2006, 05:06 PM
JustAnotherGeek JustAnotherGeek is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vertizontal
A while back, a someone mentioned that a standard interview question given to a potential teacher is something like "It's the first day of class, and when you turn to write something on the board, a kid shoots a spitwad at your head. What do you do?"

What are good answers to this question?

(Let's assume that you didn't see who the student was, and also that solutions involving amputation, high-voltage electrodes, and burning flesh are off-limits).
Unless the entire class is "best-of-buds" with this kid, you will immediately know who the kid is. Trust me; everyone else will be looking at the kid in question. This is now a very fine time to lay the smack down, without getting upset. This kid has now given you the chance to keep cool and order at the same time. Stare right at 'em and just say, "office, now." If they don't go, that's another issue. If the admins at the office in question aren't able or willing to back you up, that's yet again another issue.

What would be even more challenging: handling a kid with a laser pointer. These can be easily concealed, even from friends. If I didn't know who it was (much more likely in this scenario), I would say something like, "I'm sorry; I thought this was a class full of ___ year-olds, not middle schoolers*. Do we need to take a 'look at the pretty light break'?"

*I don't believe I've mentioned it here, but I'm a High School teacher.
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Old 08-14-2006, 05:29 PM
Shodan Shodan is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JustAnotherGeek
Unless the entire class is "best-of-buds" with this kid, you will immediately know who the kid is. Trust me; everyone else will be looking at the kid in question. This is now a very fine time to lay the smack down, without getting upset. This kid has now given you the chance to keep cool and order at the same time.
Very true.
Quote:
Stare right at 'em and just say, "office, now." If they don't go, that's another issue. If the admins at the office in question aren't able or willing to back you up, that's yet again another issue.
This part I might take issue with, to an extent. When I taught (many years ago) the admin did not want to deal with these issues, especially not from a new teacher. Yes, it was an issue.

My way of dealing with stuff like that is take a fairly deep breath as I was walking up to them, put my face about two inches from the guilty party, stare directly into their eyes with no expression on my face and blast them with a continuous stream of yelling with no pauses between the sentences. They usually looked down fairly quickly, and as soon as the lower lip began to quiver and/or the body language said they were scared shitless enough (shoulders hunched, hands close to the body, that sort of thing), shut it off instantly and go back to teaching and never mention it again. Don't touch him, you can never touch him, but you don't have to.

Maybe it won't work for you, but it tended to work for me.

Regards,
Shodan
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Old 08-14-2006, 05:32 PM
JustAnotherGeek JustAnotherGeek is offline
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[QUOTE=Shodan
This part I might take issue with, to an extent. When I taught (many years ago) the admin did not want to deal with these issues, especially not from a new teacher. Yes, it was an issue.
[/QUOTE]

Ironic. You version is the one I take issue with. I don't think that turning the kid into a puddle of emotional goo is the way to go.

Just a guess here. Were you teaching in grades 6-8?
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  #13  
Old 08-14-2006, 05:43 PM
WhyNot WhyNot is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WhyNot
I think it depends on the teacher...
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shodan
<snip> this part I might take issue with, to an extent.<snip>
Quote:
Originally Posted by JustAnotherGeek
<snip> Ironic. You version is the one I take issue with. <snip>
I win!

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Old 08-14-2006, 05:53 PM
Shodan Shodan is online now
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Eighth grade, as a matter of fact.

Regards,
Shodan
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Old 08-14-2006, 05:58 PM
Master Wang-Ka Master Wang-Ka is offline
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"You. Out in the hall. With me. Now."

"Aw, man, I ain't goin' nowhere wit'chu."

(Pause. The Look. Pause some more.)

"You know... I was going to speak with you outside, so's not to humiliate you in front of the entire class... but if you really want to hear it right here and now..."

It's okay to bluff. Just know what you're going to do if they call it.
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Old 08-14-2006, 06:03 PM
Brandon Brandon is offline
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I have another question pertaining to classroom discipline, I hope no one objects if I throw it out there.

I have heard from some of my past teachers, picked up on mutterings about it from teachers while I was in school, and seen some examples myself first hand that there normally is a student, or a group of 2-5, that once you gain the respect/control of the rest of the class falls in line. Is this true in your experience and what grade did you teach? I guess this might fall in line with the theory of stopping a student with bad behavior immediately before the other kids pick up on it.

Speaking from personal experience being a somewhat rambunctious youth along with some buds, the natural tendency of kids to look for a leader absolutely is true, and some crazy behavior from ourselves was transfered throughout a classroom to even normally impeccable kids. I saw some classes go to Hell in a handbasket because once there was chaos from a few of us there was chaos from many in the classroom, the converse however was myself, and a few of my friends, would personally see to it that there was respect (if not always perfect classroms) given to those teachers we thought deserved it.

Any thoughts on this behavior or what you did to combat it?
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Old 08-14-2006, 06:38 PM
silenus silenus is online now
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As a General Rule, there are usually a few alphas in any given class. Control them, and you control the others. How you control them is, of course, up to the teacher and the situation. As a high school teacher, I have a different strategy than I would if I were a, Og forbid, middle-school teacher. You can generally count on enlightened self-interest to motivate a number of the more intransigent students. A quick pointing out of where your mutual goals overlap, and what will happen to the rest of their lives should they no longer overlap, and that's it. The only "regular" classes I teach are to seniors, so I have all the cards if they ever hope to graduate.

General Rule #2: An appeal to pride will often work where self-interest fails. See the aforementioned "I'm sorry. I thought you were ______, not middle-school students."
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Old 08-14-2006, 06:42 PM
kunilou kunilou is online now
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My wife is 5'4", soft-spoken and somewhat shy. Until she gets in a classroom. At that point her voice drops by at least an octave and her face settles into The Look. She definitely projects the image of One Who Is Not to Be Messed With.

She is not opposed to smiling and is quite lavish with praise. But she also makes it clear from her words and her general demeanor that she is THE ADULT and the Alpha Leader of the pack.

She also seems to have a knack for reading personalities and moods. She knows when a kid who's acting up just needs a soft reminder to use the inside voice -- and when to check for weapons.
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Old 08-14-2006, 07:45 PM
minlokwat minlokwat is offline
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Not much I can add that hasn’t already been said.

You get a feel for what works for you and what doesn’t. It’s more intrinsic in nature. Kind of like the force.

Keeping the students engaged (as has already been said) is as important as anything.

Crank out mindless busy work that has no real-life value to them, expect the kids to act up out of boredom alone.

Old-timers are familiar with the phrase that: “If you don’t have plans for them, they will have plans for you.”
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Old 08-14-2006, 10:05 PM
Can Handle the Truth Can Handle the Truth is offline
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I've been a substitute teacher for about a year now, so here's my two cents:

High School (grades 9-12): Never had any problems. In fact, the kids are so well-behaved it's kind of creepy. I think my school district does a good job of weeding out problem kids before they get to high school.

Middle School (grades 6-8): The worst. I avoid substituting at these schools. But if I have to, the key thing is to get rid of the ringleaders. Write them passes to the library, to the bathroom, to the gym, to the principal's office (they'll leave the room but won't actually go there). If they don't want to be in my classroom, then I don't want them there. I'm there to help the kids who want to learn.

Grade School: A combination of reward and punishment. If they are good, they get recess, cartoons, games, etc. If they are bad they go to the principal's office.
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Old 08-14-2006, 10:14 PM
sunstone sunstone is online now
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Retired High School teacher here. I had very few discipline problems over the 30 years I taught. Setting the stage on the first day was important....at the beginning of the first class, it went something like this.

1. "Welcome, my name is Mr Sunstone, and this is Biology, 4th period"

2. "You will hear lots of rules today, but since you have all been in school for at least ten years, you already know how things work. In this class, two things bear mentioning: Please treat all living things (including your friends) with respect, and make sure you let me know if you need to leave the room."

3. "We are going to start off with a lab. Please pick up the lab papers on the side counter, and visit each station in any order. You may work together in groups of no more than three. Be sure you can defend your answer, even if it turns out to be incorrect."

4. "You will need to use your time wisely in order to finish....I'll be circulating among you, so if you need help, please ask. Lets go!"

That took about the first 5 minutes, with the lab using the rest of the period. I figured that getting out and leading the parade was better than being run over...and I had a lot of fun. And I smiled.
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Old 08-14-2006, 11:34 PM
Brandon Brandon is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by silenus
As a General Rule, there are usually a few alphas in any given class. Control them, and you control the others. How you control them is, of course, up to the teacher and the situation. As a high school teacher, I have a different strategy than I would if I were a, Og forbid, middle-school teacher. You can generally count on enlightened self-interest to motivate a number of the more intransigent students. A quick pointing out of where your mutual goals overlap, and what will happen to the rest of their lives should they no longer overlap, and that's it. The only "regular" classes I teach are to seniors, so I have all the cards if they ever hope to graduate.

General Rule #2: An appeal to pride will often work where self-interest fails. See the aforementioned "I'm sorry. I thought you were ______, not middle-school students."
Alphas is the word I was looking for without knowing I was looking for it, silenus. Thank you for your input, I should have thought of it myself as that very much describes the type of kid I was trying to convey.

I could see how an appeal to pride in the manner you describe would work in some cases, but unfortunately I knew some students who would be almost proud to recieve a comment like that. Holding the graduation card would be rather effective in almost every case that it applies to, I think, as I have seen it put into action successfully first hand.

To those of you who did have students who had moderate to severe discipline problems, how are you disposed to accepting an appology from them years down the road? How did that student(s) affect you, and do you still get a little riled up thinking about certaing troublemakers many semesters after the fact?
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Old 08-14-2006, 11:40 PM
silenus silenus is online now
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Actually, percentage-wise it's been the trouble-makers who have taken the effort to keep in touch over the years. They generally look back on their time with me as educational and instructive, and they usually thank me for busting their balls. I forgive fairly easily, because I know what kind of student I was in high school!
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Old 08-15-2006, 12:04 AM
Hippy Hollow Hippy Hollow is offline
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I notice that most of the folks responding in this thread are high school teachers or college TAs. TA-ing is a whole 'nuther kettle of fish. I can only remember one discipline problem in four years of TA-ing, which was quickly resolved by telling the student to stop making an ass of himself. The problems there are more about grades and the like.

In the K-6 ranks we often refer to "breaking" kids - taking on the discipline problem(s) and getting him/her under control. I always had more success with the boys rather than the girls in this respect. It's really hard (and dangerous) to deal with girls for men... so many things can go wrong and you can be accused of some really jacked up stuff... of course, it's true of any kids - never touch or do anything behind a closed door.

One of my favorite kids was a real knucklehead as a third grader. One time a fellow teacher and I busted him bullying some of his classmates. As a parting shot, I said to him, "I hope I get you in my class year. I can't wait." The look on his face was priceless!

First day of class, Rico is acting up. I got to know his two older sisters the year before. I said to him, "Rico, this can work two ways. You can get it together and focus on getting your reading up to grade level this year and being a leader, or you can try to act a fool every day - and I promise, I will be at your house every day letting your mama know what you've been up to. Your choice." Guess what he chose? Through his sisters I dropped dime on this kid every day, and by the time I got to the house his mom had already raked him over the coals - his sisters would exaggerate his malfeasances, I'm sure. Finally, about a month into the year, Rico struggles through the day with no major problems... has his homework, even does a good job as monitor.

I square him up. "Rico, you know I'm going to your house today," I say. He looks crestfallen. "Of course, I'm going to have to tell your mom you had a pretty good day." Kid's face lights up like a Christmas tree. I go to his house, tell his mom about how well he did and how I appreciated her staying on his case. She starts to cry. he starts to cry. I hightail it out of there before I start to cry... and from the point on, Rico was putty in my hands. If I needed him to do anything he'd jump to do it.

I also sent the well-behaved kids on errands to their third- and second-grade teachers. They loved being shown off as "big kids" and looking like a big shot in front of their cousins and siblings.

Shodan's right. At a tough inner-city school like mine, you wouldn't dare send a kid to the office unless he/she took a swing at you or was beating the crap out of somebody. If you wanted to undermine any credibility you might have had among the staff, just send a kid to the office... because the kid would be back in five minutes and tell you, "The principal said for you to deal with me yourself." We worked out time outs in each others' classes. My friend taught 5th grade - so her kids who acted out would come to my class and have to suffer the ignominy of sitting in a 4th grade classroom as an example of a loser. Conversely, my kids would be embarrassed to go to the next grade up as an example of a immature kid. We'd always make a comment, like "It's too bad you can't behave in your classroom and you have to come to fourth grade to learn how to behave." Sweet.
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Old 08-15-2006, 08:14 AM
Renee Renee is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hippy Hollow

I square him up. "Rico, you know I'm going to your house today," I say. He looks crestfallen. "Of course, I'm going to have to tell your mom you had a pretty good day." Kid's face lights up like a Christmas tree. I go to his house, tell his mom about how well he did and how I appreciated her staying on his case. She starts to cry. he starts to cry. I hightail it out of there before I start to cry... and from the point on, Rico was putty in my hands. If I needed him to do anything he'd jump to do it.

.[/i]
Hippy Hollow, you sound like a really good and dedicated teacher. (All of you do, in fact, but Hippy's ability to "break" a 10 year old astounds me.) I cannot imagine doing your job; the world needs more like you. Bravo.
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  #26  
Old 08-15-2006, 03:10 PM
Hippy Hollow Hippy Hollow is offline
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Originally Posted by Renee
Hippy Hollow, you sound like a really good and dedicated teacher. (All of you do, in fact, but Hippy's ability to "break" a 10 year old astounds me.) I cannot imagine doing your job; the world needs more like you. Bravo.
Thanks for your kind words, Renee. I'm no longer teaching though... I'm working on a doctorate and plan to work on breaking 18-22 year olds when I finish. I give props to the vets who stick it out - teachers only get better with time (that is, if they give a damn, love kids, and love teaching). Everything I learned in the classroom of value came from a battle-tested vet.
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  #27  
Old 08-15-2006, 09:07 PM
Quasimodal Quasimodal is offline
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I love this thread as I'm going to begin teaching in about two weeks!

I'll be teaching band soon, and I'm thinking of instituting the "band bucks" system. Essentially kids are rewarded with band bucks for good behaviour and for helping with tasks I assign them (cleaning up music stands, leading a warm up, etc) and at the end of the term we have an auction for prizes where they can spend their band bucks. As well they could pool their band bucks for a class party as well...

Of course bucks are taken away for misbehaviour as well. And the the amount of bucks will relate to their marks in the attitude/behaviour area of their mark.

Anyone ever use a system like this? I'll be teaching 6th grade.

I hope it doesn't get too expensive....I may just allow them to be used for better marks. I'm not sure though.
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  #28  
Old 08-15-2006, 10:29 PM
Hippy Hollow Hippy Hollow is offline
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Originally Posted by Quasimodal
I love this thread as I'm going to begin teaching in about two weeks!

I'll be teaching band soon, and I'm thinking of instituting the "band bucks" system. Essentially kids are rewarded with band bucks for good behaviour and for helping with tasks I assign them (cleaning up music stands, leading a warm up, etc) and at the end of the term we have an auction for prizes where they can spend their band bucks. As well they could pool their band bucks for a class party as well...

Of course bucks are taken away for misbehaviour as well. And the the amount of bucks will relate to their marks in the attitude/behaviour area of their mark.

Anyone ever use a system like this? I'll be teaching 6th grade.

I hope it doesn't get too expensive....I may just allow them to be used for better marks. I'm not sure though.
I dunno, it depends on you. Are you rewarding kids for doing stuff they should be doing? If so I'm personally against that stuff. It also seems like you have a lot of work involved in keeping track of how to reward bucks. If you don't mind it and you can handle it, by all means, but it seems a little unwieldy.

A reward system should be a) easy to administer and b) not cost very much. You can convince kids that any little thing is a huge reward... how about bringing a cool guitar to class, or a drum machine that they can play with as a reward? Or recording their music on a CD. That stuff wouldn't cost you anything at all, hardly, I think.

I'd also check with other teachers at your school(s), because they might have good stuff they do that you could adopt. Plus veteran teachers love to be asked how they deal with situation... don't discount the importance of connecting to your fellow faculty members. Those folks can make or break your year in more ways than one.
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  #29  
Old 08-15-2006, 10:52 PM
Master Wang-Ka Master Wang-Ka is offline
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It's hard to explain. Yes, teaching is an exercise in using The Force.

My own technique involves keeping them off balance, particularly The Alphas; as previously stated, if you can handle them, you can handle anyone.

Much of my technique involves making them wonder what the hell the crazy man is going to do next. Storytelling is also a good move, if you can keep them engaged; I've been told I have a knack for storytelling...

...but never let them forget: the thing the crazy man does next may well involve discipline or punishment of some sort. Make an example, now and again. But make it very clear what will result in discipline, and what will result in a positive result. Always PRETEND to give them an option, while steering them in the direction you want them to choose, if you follow what I mean.
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  #30  
Old 08-16-2006, 12:32 AM
Gary T Gary T is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Quasimodal
I'll be teaching band soon, and I'm thinking of instituting the "band bucks" system. Essentially kids are rewarded with band bucks for good behaviour and for helping with tasks I assign them (cleaning up music stands, leading a warm up, etc) and at the end of the term we have an auction for prizes where they can spend their band bucks. As well they could pool their band bucks for a class party as well...

Of course bucks are taken away for misbehaviour as well.
I see some aspects of this that I think might keep it from being effective.

One is the delay in reaping a tangible reward. End of term can be a long way off, especially for a youngster. Until then said reward is hypothetical.

Another is the auction. It can be very difficult to get equal or proportionate benefit for one's "money" at these sorts of auctions. Bidding for the desirable items raises their price so as to dilute the purchasing power of the currency used. Sometimes people end up stuck with stuff that they really don't care for, because that's all they could get via auction. I think a "store" format, where for example a certain number of band bucks can be counted on to garner a given item, is a better approach.

What may be the worst is taking away something already given. If you give me something but reserve the right to take it back, you haven't really given it. You've lent it. Psychologically, having something taken back can be worse than never having got it in the first place. I think it undermines the effect of rewards for good behavior and is counterproductive. There are other ways to attach consequences to misbehavior.
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  #31  
Old 08-16-2006, 12:51 AM
Quasimodal Quasimodal is offline
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There are some difficulties with the buck method I realize, but then again show me a discipline system that's flawless. I know many teacher's who have done such a system with success. I think it turns discipline into something more positive.

I don't know if I agree with Gary T's assessment though of lending buck's being pyschologically damaging. How is it any different from when I get a parking ticket? Or if I show up late for work and my hours are reduced? The bucks are a privelege, not an expectation. Therefore if I take them away, the students are back at being even...not at a deficit. I do agree though that one cannot wait too long until a reward is given, and I've been thinking about this. I'm still debating whether I should use this system or a "leadership star system" which is effectively the same thing, only the emphasis is not on buying something. It's more on earning a priveledge like a movie day, or a guitar day, or a game.

And Hippy, I have to reward them for extra stuff. Really band should have two teachers going on at once because of all the extra stuff happening. Rehearsal time is always at a premium (how many times does band get cancelled for some school event right before a concert?) and so I need extra hands to help with attendence and so forth. As well if a student wants to lead a sectional (helping fellow saxophones out) that can take a great deal off of my shoulders while I help the clarinets.

I have found though that pacing is the ultimate disciplinary weapon. Someone mentioned earlier to keep them busy. Of course it's impossible to keep everyone going all the time. It's tough to find fellow band teachers to talk to about this, most don't have a system (or an effective one in my eyes).
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  #32  
Old 08-16-2006, 12:52 AM
Farmwoman Farmwoman is offline
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I thought my first teaching position was going to include adoring special education 3rd graders sitting cross legged with me on bits of carpet. I think I even saw myself playing guitar. In reality, I don't play guitar and my first job was in the Bronx teaching teenagers who had been expelled from their districts for weapons possesion or extreme violence. I learned more in that first year about classroom management than most veteran teachers ever know.

If you're really interested in the topic I highly recommend the Discipline with Dignity series of books by Curwin and Mendler. It's not at all a touchy-feely approach to classroom management and I can honestly say their philosophy is the only reason I was able to continue teaching this challenging population with any measure of success while maintaining my own sanity.

Quote:
Always PRETEND to give them an option, while steering them in the direction you want them to choose, if you follow what I mean.
I agree, except for the PRETEND part. In reality, behavior is always about choices and students are free to make any behavior choices they please. Once teachers accept that fact, classroom management becomes a little easier. Our job is always to clarify the behavior options available while making sure each individual knows exactly what the consequences (positive and negative) are for each choice. Luckily, around 80% of students in the general population are likely to make wise choices without much intervention from us aside from reminders and warnings. Another 15% will probably need disciplinary action, and some more than once. That leaves the 5% who will, for one reason or another, choose antisocial behaviors regardless of the consequences and actions of authority figures. Simply knowing this will often make these incorrigibles easier to handle in the classroom setting.

Allow students to keep their dignity by never backing them into a position in which they feel they must flex their muscles. This may mean backing down from a blossoming power struggle (something few people are able to do gracefully without conscious effort and practice) and saving the confrontation for later when the student can get both barrels without feeling the need to save face in front of his buddies. I used to keep a stack of index cards on which I had written words or short phrases that I could drop on a kid's desk for private reminders and warnings. Included were "knock it off", "get rid of it", and "I'll see you after class". The stack also contained cards with words of encouragement and praise written on them. These sentiments are often just as difficult to receive as admonishment for kids in a public forum of their badass peers . The exchange happened privately in a room full of people and no one had to know which flavor the kid had gotten.

Many of my techniques would appear soft or weak to a casual observer, but through consistent enforcement with an emphasis on upholding the overarching principles from which each rule was suspended I quickly gained the reputation of a teacher with whom one did not f*ck. I was sure to nurture that reputation in the principal's office as well. In short, I'll do everything in my power to keep these kids in my classroom, but if one shows up on your bench it's because his ass is seriously grass.

I'll share a tip for dealing with alphas: Call the house one evening and ask to speak to him...not his parents. Him. You have now changed the script, and if you've taught for any time at all, you know how maddeningly rigid the script can be. You've also opened up a space for a new relationship to grow between you. Talk about problems you notice in the classroom and ask him what he thinks he could do to help you fix them.
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  #33  
Old 08-16-2006, 12:56 AM
silenus silenus is online now
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One more thing: One of the smartest things I ever did as a beginning teacher was keep a 3X5 card in my shirt pocket. Whenever I was about to blow my top at some student, I'd take it out and read it. Then I'd deal with the student. Finally, the last day of class, a habitually troublesome student asked me what was on the card. I showed him. It said "Lighten up...you're being an asshole!"

He just about busted a gut laughing as he walked out of the room, and has kept in touch over the last 20 years. He's a lawyer now.
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  #34  
Old 08-16-2006, 01:02 AM
Farmwoman Farmwoman is offline
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[bold]Quasimodal[/bold] I would caution you away from token reward systems unless you are dealing with a specific and insular population. They can be marginally successful with really young kids who are at a stage in their moral development where they actually need tangible, external rewards for good behavior, but once they reach middle school it's more appropriate for us to expect them to choose good behaviors for more internal reasons. I tend to think our goal should always be to move kids toward personal responsibility and away from "what's in it for me?" motivations.
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  #35  
Old 08-16-2006, 01:39 AM
Gary T Gary T is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Quasimodal
I don't know if I agree with Gary T's assessment though of lending buck's being pyschologically damaging.
Not pyschologically damaging. Psychologically self-defeating, in that a reward that can evaporate has a nebulous quality to it. Why try hard to do good, when a slip-up can undo the benefit?

Quote:
How is it any different from when I get a parking ticket?
Getting a parking ticket and having to pay a fine has nothing to do with going to work and earning money with which to pay said fine. Now, if your employer docked you for parking in the wrong space at work, it would be an analagous situation. How many employers do that? How many employees would stand for it?

Quote:
Or if I show up late for work and my hours are reduced?
That's being denied an opportunity for future compensation. It's quite different from having what you've already earned repossessed. In fact, it illustrates one option for consequences for misbehavior - loss of privilege to earn band bucks for X number of days.

I'm just saying that if you're going to give them something, that something should be irrevocably theirs from the moment it's given. Whatever consequences they may face for negative actions should not include removing what they have ALREADY acquired. If they can't count on seeing the fruits of the band bucks they've already earned, the appeal of earning them will be diminished.

Quote:
The bucks are a privelege, not an expectation. Therefore if I take them away, the students are back at being even...not at a deficit.
Which raises the question, what is the punishment for students who haven't earned any band bucks? If there's no punishment, that's quite unfair, and there's nothing to lose by misbehaving so long as one hasn't done anything positive to get band bucks. If there is some punishment, why not apply that evenly to all, whether or not they have band bucks, and let the ones who have the bucks keep them?
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  #36  
Old 08-16-2006, 02:26 AM
Quasimodal Quasimodal is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gary T
Not pyschologically damaging. Psychologically self-defeating, in that a reward that can evaporate has a nebulous quality to it. Why try hard to do good, when a slip-up can undo the benefit?


Getting a parking ticket and having to pay a fine has nothing to do with going to work and earning money with which to pay said fine. Now, if your employer docked you for parking in the wrong space at work, it would be an analagous situation. How many employers do that? How many employees would stand for it?


That's being denied an opportunity for future compensation. It's quite different from having what you've already earned repossessed. In fact, it illustrates one option for consequences for misbehavior - loss of privilege to earn band bucks for X number of days.

I'm just saying that if you're going to give them something, that something should be irrevocably theirs from the moment it's given. Whatever consequences they may face for negative actions should not include removing what they have ALREADY acquired. If they can't count on seeing the fruits of the band bucks they've already earned, the appeal of earning them will be diminished.


Which raises the question, what is the punishment for students who haven't earned any band bucks? If there's no punishment, that's quite unfair, and there's nothing to lose by misbehaving so long as one hasn't done anything positive to get band bucks. If there is some punishment, why not apply that evenly to all, whether or not they have band bucks, and let the ones who have the bucks keep them?
I suppose I should clarify further. Bucks are more of a reward for going the extra mile. If a student is generally quiet throughout class, he is not going to earn a buck, but if he helps lead the class in a warm up he will earn one. Of course the only way he is going to get that oppurtunity is if I feel he is ready. A student who works hard will get the oppurtunity so, the buck system goes down the very beginnings of good behaviour.

As for punishments, I generally think if they have robbed me of teaching time, I will rob them of recess time. We can spend the time together at recess working on some aspect of playing. Before this though, I will give a verbal reminder, relocate them in the room, and so forth.

Still for the giving thing...let me give a better example. If you bring a set of books for students to use out of your home to the class, and they begin to trash them, are you going to leave them in the room? No, you're going to save your books and take them back home! Have you ever had students talk during a movie and threaten to turn it off unless they be good? Wouldn't both of these examples constitute taking back something you have given? If I am going to spend money on prizes for my students, it is in fact my money. Yes maybe I am giving them a "loan" per se (band loans doesn't have the same ring to it), but the fact remains if they want to earn a prize they have to be deserving. I don't see what the problem is here if they are told about this at the beginning. Yes certain behaviours are expected, and that will be true in my classroom. But do we want to merely emphasize the negative behaviours without showcasing students who model good behaviour by themselves for others? Why can't we make good students an example for others to follow? Seriously, some kids need extra help in the area of self discipline.

As well you say why try hard to do well when a slip up can out do the benefit? Well I say, if they slip up they have a chance to regain what they earned! It's not like if they take 20 days to earn 20 band bucks, and they slip up bad once that I'm going to take away all 20. And if they lose some, they can earn them back again.
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Old 08-16-2006, 11:13 AM
WhyNot WhyNot is online now
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Quasimodal, I think perhaps you're looking at "going the extra mile" the wrong way. It's the things you've mentioned - leading band at warm-up, taking attendance, etc. - that are themselves the "reward" when you're in sixth grade. Tough talking or not, that age loves to help out, and if you approach it that the "fantastic kid of today" is ALLOWED to take attendance, you've made good behavior its own reward - literally.

I'd turn the whole system around, take away the bucks, and simply say things like, "Jane, I like how neatly your case is stowed under your seat." "Tim, great job with that last piece, that was a tough one!" You don't even have to tally it. You'll know who's being a knockout. The kids will know what you're looking for. At the end of the week, when it's still fresh in everyone's mind, announce that Jane will be the warm-up leader for all of next week, and Tim gets to take attendance. Then, at the end of the following week, pick out two more stand-outs. (Or change it bi-weekly, or daily, or whatever works for you.)

They'll be fighting to be good.

The other thing my mom does is occasionally throw out Jolly Ranchers as random rewards. Not often enough that they're expected or begged for, but once in a while, you'll do something good and get pegged in the head with a yummy treat. (Her aim is still awful, after all these years.)

Remember, intermitent reward cycles are actually more effective than a reward every single time.
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Old 08-16-2006, 01:28 PM
Quasimodal Quasimodal is offline
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Originally Posted by WhyNot
Quasimodal, I think perhaps you're looking at "going the extra mile" the wrong way. It's the things you've mentioned - leading band at warm-up, taking attendance, etc. - that are themselves the "reward" when you're in sixth grade. Tough talking or not, that age loves to help out, and if you approach it that the "fantastic kid of today" is ALLOWED to take attendance, you've made good behavior its own reward - literally.

I'd turn the whole system around, take away the bucks, and simply say things like, "Jane, I like how neatly your case is stowed under your seat." "Tim, great job with that last piece, that was a tough one!" You don't even have to tally it. You'll know who's being a knockout. The kids will know what you're looking for. At the end of the week, when it's still fresh in everyone's mind, announce that Jane will be the warm-up leader for all of next week, and Tim gets to take attendance. Then, at the end of the following week, pick out two more stand-outs. (Or change it bi-weekly, or daily, or whatever works for you.)

They'll be fighting to be good.

The other thing my mom does is occasionally throw out Jolly Ranchers as random rewards. Not often enough that they're expected or begged for, but once in a while, you'll do something good and get pegged in the head with a yummy treat. (Her aim is still awful, after all these years.)

Remember, intermitent reward cycles are actually more effective than a reward every single time.
I'll take all your advice under consideration, though I still think there will be students who adopt a "who cares" attitude to leading a warm up or taking attendence. I mean if I were in grade 6, I know I wouldn't have wanted to do either despite the good it would have done me(I was a "bad" kid who wouldn't do a shred of work if I didn't have to). An extra reward can help motivate them, and if the task is enjoyable then it's a double bonus. I like the idea of weekly helpers though, I was originally thinking monthly helpers, but that may be too long of a time to wait.

The only conclusion I've reached in the matter of classroom discipline is that everyone finds their own way and makes it work for them...that's why university courses in this area teach you nothing! Hell, we haven't found a discipline program for society yet that is 100% effective. A discipline program has to be adapted for the needs of the students, which vary from school to school, class to class, etc.
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Old 08-16-2006, 02:03 PM
Hippy Hollow Hippy Hollow is offline
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Originally Posted by Quasimodal
I'll take all your advice under consideration, though I still think there will be students who adopt a "who cares" attitude to leading a warm up or taking attendence. I mean if I were in grade 6, I know I wouldn't have wanted to do either despite the good it would have done me(I was a "bad" kid who wouldn't do a shred of work if I didn't have to). An extra reward can help motivate them, and if the task is enjoyable then it's a double bonus. I like the idea of weekly helpers though, I was originally thinking monthly helpers, but that may be too long of a time to wait.

The only conclusion I've reached in the matter of classroom discipline is that everyone finds their own way and makes it work for them...that's why university courses in this area teach you nothing! Hell, we haven't found a discipline program for society yet that is 100% effective. A discipline program has to be adapted for the needs of the students, which vary from school to school, class to class, etc.
You're going to be a good teacher... everything that's said here, that's through our own personal lenses and experiences. This could be the system that works for you and your kids - so go for it! Just be willing to adapt and adjust on the fly; if it's not working, fix it.
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