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need opinions!!


Senior Member
I need honest feedback about whether I am being too harsh.

This is my 4th year teaching and up to this point, I have had very well-behaved classes! Consequently, I haven't had to do much modification to the way I handle classroom management. I tend to have a hands-off approach. Very positive. Only use negative (card change/loss of minutes at recess) sparingly. Given the great classes I have had, this has worked in the past!

This year is different. I took this approach the 1st trimester and probably shouldn't have. The kids are extremely talkative, very active (16 boys), and don't follow directions very well. It takes quite a bit of time to get them on task following any type of transition.

Friday, they made me extremely upset for a number of reasons. Complaining about the type of candy they got for doing 'odd jobs for slight pay'. Taking forever (longer than usual-which is bad because they already take far TOO LONG) to transition (stopping at neighbor's desk to chat, etc.). The final straw was when one little girl told me she was getting annoyed with my mentioning last year's class and how they behaved. This was in reference to my explaining to them that they might not get to do our Living Diorama project (Native Americans) because they didn't know how to stay on task and get too excited during hands-on/fun learning activities. Basically, they don't know how to control themselves!

Now, I know I should NEVER compare 1 class to another-especially to the class at hand. I simply wanted them to see that a class that is well-behaved is more likely to get to do the 'hands-on' projects. So, that was my mistake.

Anyway, after she said it, I did tell them I would watch myself and not do it again.

But, I was so mad at how it has been going in my classroom that I stayed late on a Friday night and did the following:

-Moved all the desks away from each other, except for 6 who are in pods of 3 as a reward for being good students (yes, I only have 6!).
I am not big into pods, so this will be huge for them! The rest are sitting singley, scattered around the room.

-Placed quite a few on a behavior plan-chart on their desk on which there are 20 squares, representing 1 min. of recess. If they display certain behaviors (listed on the chart), they will get an X in a box
and lose that many minutes of recess.

-Took away the fun 'things to do when I am done' area. This had 20 questions electronic game, Mad Libs electronics game, puzzles, etc. They have lost this because everyday after lunch, we have 'heads down, cool down', where the kids come in from recess and I dismiss 3-4 at a time to use the restroom. We have a sound machine that plays and they are to just sit quietly and relax, with the lights off. Well, from day 1 this group didn't 'get' it. Couldn't do it. So, I allowed them to pull something from the things to do when I'm done area and use it silently. Well, this turned into using them together, not being seated, etc. So, they have lost that priviledge, because they abused it.

-P.M. work-similar to a.m. work, but this work will be on their desks after lunch and will take the place of heads down, cool down. They will be required to work on it silently while I dismiss kids to use the restroom.

(We can't all go at once-we are a small school and 2 other classes are using our restroom at that time-so I send them sporadically to the 1-3rd bathroom and the 4-6 bathroom).

I realize I should have been tougher to begin with, but...I wasn't and now I'm realizing it. I am one of those softer teachers who probably puts up with more than most. This group has taken advantage of it.

2nd trimester begins Monday, so I think it will be 'ok' that I am implementing it now-will explain that, aside from things not going well, with a new trimester comes new and higher expectations.

So, what do you think? Am I being too punitive? Honest feedback wanted!



Senior Member
You might want to put a system in place for them to earn (or earn back) the positive reinforcement. Don't make it personal between yourself and them. They should have to meet measurable, objective standards to receive rewards. Even if you are absent or another teacher is working with them, they should be able to tell whether they are earning their rewards or not. They need specific directions in measurable time periods. Maybe a class marble jar? I could see you issuing a challenge to them - "OK, I'm setting the timer for one minute. If everyone is in their seats ready for the next class when the timer beeps, three marbles in the jar!" When the marble jar is full, you can bring out something that you know they would enjoy, or have them vote on it.

Also, keep in mind that individual kids can only control their own behavior. They can try to influence each other, but if you rely on that peer pressure, it puts them in the position of enforcer and that can have social consequences. A kid who is trying to remind his friends of the rules could be labeled as a teacher's pet or a geek. If many of the kids in the class are playing together and a kid isn't joining in because he knows it's supposed to be an individual activity, then that kid looks unfriendly because he isn't joining in. This sounds like a very social group, and as such, the reinforcement they get from being together and talking is probably greater than what they get from the toys and projects.

You didn't mention the age of the kids, but that obviously would make a big difference.


Senior Member
Difficult Class

I agree with PP comments. I have found with difficult classes keeping them busy with meaningful school work is very effective. So, your idea of afternoon work seems quite good. Also be sure you make clear your expectations for what students are to do if they finish work early. I do not allow my students to get up and wander around the classroom. We have a set working time and if they finish before the timer goes off, they are to read their library books. (I teach 4th grade.)

You may want to focus less of external rewards. I like to let my students take care of the classroom. Everyone gets an opportunity to select and carry out a necessary classroom job. Some students enjoy these jobs more than others. Those students who do like to help out (calendar, word wall, paper collection and distribution, keeping art, math, and library shelves neat, etc.) do it because they want to, not because I give them a piece of candy. Eventually, I want all of my students to enjoy doing something to make the classroom run efficiently and I am always on the lookout for just the right job for each student.

You may also want to make it clear to those students who are sitting alone exactly how they can go about earning the privilege of sitting in a pod. A certain number days with no Xes,etc.

Unfortunately, it seems that we teach in a time when difficult classes are the norm. When I have those classes, the days I put emotions aside and simply enforce the rules, we usually have productive days. However, I am built to keep a straight face all the time. I like to laugh and enjoy having fun activities to help students learn.

Don't worry about what you said to the class; you were frustrated. We have all said things we wish we hadn't. Learn from the experience. We are all human and make mistakes sometimes. I don't know who decided teachers had to be perfect all the time (probably we did since so many of us are perfectionists!), but we get tired and crabby just like everybody else. For most of us, we just take longer to snap than the rest of the world!

Good luck with your new plans.


Senior Member
Dramacentral and Catbells

Thank you both for your feedback! I didn't let my emotions get the best of me while they were still in class, but after they left, I have to admit, I got upset.

Anyway, they do have class jobs that they are responsible for each and every day.

Fridays are just the days we do the extra/above and beyond cleaning. So that we come back Monday to an extra clean/organized room. That is where the odd jobs for slight pay comes in. It is the only time they can earn a piece of candy.

They know what the expectation is after they finish their work. That isn't a problem. The transitions is the huge problem! It's gotten out of hand how long they take!

I definitely will use the timer for transitions. I think if they have a measurable goal, they can meet it. This is a very competitive group!
Thanks for that idea!!

I do have rewards and use them frequently. "Caught Being Good" tickets. We also have a marble jar that we use. I have to admit, the marble jar is a school-wide thing and generally isn't 'my' thing (I forget to use it!!!!!). So, I will see what I can do to better make use of it.

I also like the idea of them having a chance to earn back the priviledge of being in a pod. However......I never DO pods-this is the 1st time ever. I actually hate pods-they have just never worked for me.
And I am only doing it as a 'reward' for those who are always on task and just the 'ideal' students. So....we will see how it goes. If the 6 can make the pod thing work, then the others should get a chance to see if they can make it work, too.

I'm actually looking forward to tomorrow. I spent all afternoon in my room, cleaning and organizing. It looks like the 1st day of school, only with our current units of study displayed, not the back to school stuff! So, a fresh start will feel good!!

Thanks again. You both gave me some things to think about. I appreciate it.


Senior Member
One thing I used to do with my class of 4th graders was to generate a new "class goal" every day during morning meeting. We did this every single morning, so if an idea got voted down one day, it would often get voted in a few days later. It was fascinating to see what the kids asked for. I never guaranteed that they would get all of the items on the list, or even most of them, and I reserved the right to veto any item that wasn't appropriate.

At first there were a lot of "party" goals. Have an ice cream party. Have a pizza party. Have a candy party. That went on for a week or so. Then the kids started to run out of junk food parties to suggest, so they began to get more creative. One of the first really good ideas was to have a New Year's party with different traditions from around the world.

Then they got off the party idea entirely. They began to ask for art supplies like Model Magic and for class games vs. the teacher and vs. other classes. One surprising goal, considering these were fourth graders, was that they wanted to be able to bring in toys from home. Another was that they wanted to bring in their favorite games and teach the rest of the class how to play them. Yet another, which led nicely into a social studies unit, was that they wanted to elect a class president, which we don't normally do in our school until 6th grade.

Toward the end of the year, we started to get more academic. Have a class newspaper, finish our social studies projects, invite our parents to a publishing party. Some of them wanted field trips to science museums, which we didn't get to but I kept in mind when I became the field trip coordinator later on! I didn't steer the conversation in that direction, so it was fun that the kids came up with those things on their own. The fact that there were so many non-academic rewards already up on the list reassured them that this wasn't some teacher trick to get them to care more about their studies.

I really liked having the class list because it allowed me to take the "pulse" of the class. I could find out very easily what would really motivate them. I especially noticed how many of the suggestions were social in nature. They really wanted time to interact with each other, teach each other things, share things from home, experience fun things together. They responded to the group reward system way better than the individual reward system, which they were using to buy the exact same toy so that they could go off and play a game together anyway.


Senior Member
I would start by talking to them about it. Explain your frustrations and ask for their input. What do they think should happen if/when transitions are taking too long? Maybe they can come up with some ideas and/or ways to solve the problems (and consequences).

I would set a timer and have them "beat the timer". Kids love competition. Set it for X amount of time and see if they can beat it. If they do, subtract 10 seconds (or whatever amount) and see if they can beat that. Keep it a challenge.

Also I would keep track of how long transitions are taking. If it's taking a minute longer than it should, that's a minute off recess. Two minutes longer is two minutes off recess...etc. If they waste precious class time, then natural consequence is less time for recess.

Maybe they can earn back the right to be sitting in a pod. If they know they can earn something back, they might be more likely to work for it. If they know it's not going to change they may think, "why bother?"

Hope it gets better for you!


Senior Member

Sound like what you are doing is fine. There is nothing wrong with changing things when the need arises. Sounds like this class may not appreciate an honest give and take discussion. I agree with telling them why the change was made in the room and I too agree with earning back privileges. You're the boss and if they don't like it they can change their behavior.