An elementary school leadership team asked me to spend a day observing classrooms in the school with the instructional coach, keeping a focus on classroom management, group dynamics and the impact on learning. Then, to plan meetings with vertical professional learning communities to uncover common beliefs and practices that could support the leadership team’s development of a school wide behavior plan.
What follows is the questioning strategy I used to generate conversations and identify common themes among the schools 5 vertical PLCs. The instructional coach served as a recorder of the conversations and an ear for the leadership team.
The first two questions asked individuals to write short responses which were collected without names for future planning purposes. Each person shared their thoughts with the PLC.
#1 What is the message you want your students to take from your classroom management approach?
#2 How would you describe the group dynamic you want to create?
PLC members quickly identified with and extended the responses of their colleagues. Two themes emerged across the school…RESPECT was a desired outcome that teachers wanted to build and promote and TEAMWORK was important. Most teachers wanted students to take some responsibility for the learning success of their classmates.
For continued conversation and uncovering of beliefs, I provided each teacher with index cards numbered 1-5. I presented the following statements one at a time and had each person share their rating prior to discussion.
4 some agreement
1 strong disagreement
2 some disagreement
3- not sure where I stand
A. I would like my classroom to function with less and/or different rules late in the year than the rules earlier in the year.
B. Students need to know that classroom rules and procedures change from one learning activity to another.
(During my observation I noted some classrooms had rules posted that included, “Always Raise Your Hand”, yet teachers were approving called out answers on the current activity and later reprimanded a student who called out.)
C. Compliance is a starting point but not my end goal.
(I noted that behavior charts in classrooms where I observed tended to move from compliance to negative behavior that led to a negative consequence. I wanted to explore how people communicate recognition of appropriate behaviors without teacher request or extended behavior like going out of one’s way to help a classmate.)
D. Disruptive students sent from a classroom to guidance counselor should receive a negative consequence (punishment).
E. A disruptive student returning to the classroom from guidance or office should have a plan and the teacher should be part of the plan.
F When I send a disruptive student out of my classroom, I have begun an initial RTI process.
A final question sought beliefs about what message a school-wide behavior plan should communicate.
Note that all of the above were designed for teachers to hear each other’s thinking and reflect on their own approaches. None of the questions were explored long enough to seek consensus.
Here are some possible next steps that the leadership team examined from the PLC activities.
Have upper grade classes discuss respect with a set of exploratory questions. Then, have representatives from each class meet to create a RESPECTFUL STUDENT definition. Use the definition in classrooms throughout the year.
Have the faculty at a staff meeting complete a similar activity and create the RESPECTFUL TEACHER definition. (Useful for ongoing observation, coaching and self reflection.)
Share Marve Marshall’s thoughts on expectations and procedures versus rules with faculty. (Discipline Without Stress, Punishments, or Rewards)
“Relationships improve as rules decrease”.
Have teams of 4th and 5th grade students interview students and staff and create safe use of playground procedures, efficient cafeteria procedures, respectful and considerate hallway procedures, etc.
Examine how staff relations should model the team behaviors that we want from students:
We are all responsible for all students’ success. Each staff member works to support the success of other staff members.
Substantial conversation occurred and many ideas were generated in a short amount of time.