Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Training them "too well"

Any teacher knows it. Great classroom management is all about training.

We have to train our students (especially the little kinders) on everything. How to hold a pencil. How to push in their chairs. Where the pencils go when they need to be sharpened. How we line-up. How we walk in the hallway. How we greet each other in the morning. How to wash their hands. Everything. It's all about the training.

I have always felt like classroom management was my strongest "teaching quality." Especially this year, I have learned that a well-oiled classroom can roll with the punches, be flexible with the schedule, and spend a whole day going off what the kids are interested in. I have learned that a well-managed classroom (with a "well-trained" class) is simply more joyful to be a part of -- for me and the kinders.

Over the years, I have had a few times during teaching when I have realized I have trained my kids too well... I've praised them a little too much for their "good behavior." Reflecting on these always makes me laugh...


I used to be in a classroom separated from the other two kindergarten classrooms. This room did not have its own bathrooms, so my little kinders had to walk down the hallway to the "big kid" bathroom. This, of course, took a lot of training -- especially on how to walk in the hallway, staying quiet, cleaning up after ourselves, etc. 

Well, once, another teacher came to my classroom and praised a few of my kids for picking up paper towels on the floor at the bathroom - even though they weren't theirs. In true teacher nature, I made a huge production of this and doted on these few kids endlessly. Over the next few months, the minute a paper towel touched the tiles, my kinders hit the deck. 

After a few times of "catching" kinders taking care of our bathroom, my kids had it down. They were just good citizens. I was so proud.

One day, during our quiet time, one of my kids walked into the room shaking her head and mumbling to herself. She quietly stomped her little feet to her seat, sat down, and sighed a big sigh. I asked her, "Honey, what's wrong?"

She replied with the fed-up expression of a housewife, "I am just so sick of picking up poop on the bathroom floor!"

I, of course, replied with a, "What?!"

She clarified, "Uh yeah. I'm just so sick of picking up poop."

Oh my. I think I over did it this time. 

Enter: the conversation about hazardous substances... and body fluids... and boundaries for clean-up. Oh my.

I didn't laugh at the time... but I do now. The sigh and look on her face was priceless.


My kinders know how much I love the earth. Let's be honest... I breed a group of tree-loving hippies in my classroom. It's amazing how naturally kinders "take to" being green. I believe children have a natural connection with our world, animals, and nature. We simply lose it as we grow older.

Well, let me tell you, do not try to throw away a piece of paper in my classroom this year. You might be swarmed. If tarring and feathering was still acceptable punishment today, I'm pretty sure my class would impose it on any litterers without even blinking an eye.

This year, my kiddos have taken to recycling, picking up litter, and reusing like no class I've ever seen before. I think it's because they are just a naturally caring, gentle group of children.

In the last couple months (since we had our "Earth Week" celebration), I have had to stop my kinders from the following "too well-trained, too green" acts:

  • Picking up empty beer cans at recess (yep! the local teens just love our playground)
  • Yelling at adults throwing away paper in our school ("That goes in the recycle bin!!")
  • Pulling papers out of the trash can to re-use the backs of them... oh, with snack on top of it
  • Recycling tissues ("Hey! They're paper, too!")
  • And lastly... being too good at finding litter. One of my kinders earlier this year literally found a pipe and lighter buried in the sand on our playground.


Ah, the moldable minds of a kindergartner...

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