Conversations from today:
“Mr. Henderson, at first I thought you were a mean teacher, but now I know you aren’t”
“Mr. Henderson, me and ** think you are a really nice teacher”
“He comes home and talks about how much he loves your class and being in third grade”
This past summer I read the book Passionate Learners by Pernille Ripp and it was one of the most career-changing books I have read to date. In chapter 7, Ripp discusses the abandonment of classroom rewards/punishment, and focusing on student relationships and fostering choice and intrinsic motivation in the classroom. I was floored! I loved it, I loved this concept of removing barriers to meaningful relationships. (I also plan on reading Punished by Rewards by Alfie Kohn).
I decided this year I would try it, I would not create any system or use any product that attempts to micro-manage my students behavior [minus school-wide systems], and instead focus on what matters, the relationships I have with the humans in my classroom.
So here we are at day 13, and its been a hard ride. It has not been easy to abandon traditional systems and practice that tell us to control everything our students do. I would be joking if I told you it has been all happiness and smiles all day. NO WAY. But I can also tell you this from being 13 days in. I feel more connected to my students. I have removed any fake barriers to real relationships and real conversations. I can connect to these humans in my classroom because removing these fake systems has allowed me to not only view them as students, but view them as human. Because that is who they are. Human beings with thoughts, feelings, emotions, and a place in society. They deserve the real me, and I deserve the real them, the good days, and the bad days. Because in those moments, we connect with each other as humans, and what could be more beautiful? And in these last 13 days, that is what has happened.
In these 13 days, I didn’t have to bribe my students to complete work, or punish them with something obscure. I listened to them, I talked with them, we had, and are having real conversations. I want to reiterate that this has not been all happy-go-lucky. My students do, and will, push the envelope, and break the rules. Some days they will not want to have those conversations, and want to be left alone. And believe me, I have already had a lot of this happen, and it has not been fun, but it has been real. I still have a lot to learn, but I know what I am doing is working, because I am putting my focus on real relationships with my students, without barriers or chains [or treating them animals and rewarding them with a “treat” or point for having good behavior *cough* ClassDojo *cough*]. Ah! New hashtag: #RelationshipsWithoutChains
I am excited to keep developing these relationships and refining this classroom without rewards/punishment so that the humans in my class develop into caring and thoughtful citizens, because that is what this world needs.
I will post more about this topic as the year progresses. Please tell me if you are doing the same in your classrooms, so we can keep this conversation going!