The problem with holding a contest is that I now have to pick a winner. With my early childhood ed background, I want EVERYONE to be a winner, especially since these stories and lessons learned were SO entertaining and informative.
So let’s do this…while I can only afford to give away one book if I want to pay my mortgage this month, I CAN offer to pay the shipping costs on books for everyone who commented. So, if you want to buy a copy of the book, go through my website here and where the PayPal info reads “Instructions to Merchant”, type “Free Shipping for Me Because I Left Such an Awesome Comment”. Or something like that. When I process the book order, I’ll refund the $5 Priority Mail shipping cost. You can do that anytime during the month of August, but please, no later than that, because it will drive me nuts to keep track of that discount indefinitely.
So without further ado…the best Classroom Management Lessons Learned the Hard Way:
3RD RUNNER UP: Teri Hamilton- Kansas City
I gotta credit Teri for the way she handled the situation, and transitioned seamlessly into a teachable moment on procedures for the whole class:
Last year I was happily teaching a small group in my procedure driven first grade class. I glanced up expecting to see my proud, independent first graders busily working away. Instead, what met my eyes was one of my boys SHAMPOOING with hand soap! Apparently, he had gotten glue in his hair and was ‘taking care of it’. I quickly switched gears to whole group instruction on exactly how much is ‘too much’ hand soap while I rinsed his head -beauty shop style- in our classroom sink. The moral of this story: you can never have too many procedures. And NEVER turn your back on six year olds!
2ND RUNNER UP: Anonymous
Anon, I thought your reflections were really deep. You learned a lot from what could have just been a passing incident, and you worked to bring about positive change in your school:
A few years ago, our school had an open door policy, which meant parents could come to your class at anytime, no appointment, just show up. Bad, I know. One day it was Sherri’s birthday (name changed) and her dad appeared at the door with a rectangular Barbie birthday cake. I was caught off guard, took the cake mainly so I could just resume teaching, and her dad left. Mind you, he brought NO OTHER SUPPLIES (e. g. napkins, plates, forks). I did not even have a knife to cut the cake with. Not wanting to disappoint the little birthday girl, I borrowed a plastic knife from a neighboring teacher and procured the school’s “brown paper towels” so the kids would have somewhere to put their cake. Later on, we sang “Happy Birthday” and the birthday babe told me she wanted the piece in the middle with her name on it with Barbie next to it. I cut the cake and began traveling around with it, giving out pieces around the edges first. After about five kids got served, the cake became unbalanced and, to my horror, I DROPPED the entire thing on a little boy’s head and jeans. Everyone gasped and my mouth dropped open, aghast at what I had done. I apologized profusely to everyone and began cleaning the boy up. After school, I immediately left and spent $17 on a cupcake “cake” to replace the one I had destroyed and spoke with Sherri’s incensed mother, who did not readily forgive me, even after I tried to make amends. (BTW, I never heard anything from the little boy’s mom. I guess she just washed him and his clothing and let it go. I love that!)
Lessons learned: Many! I approached the administration about the “open door” policy, and within a few months, major changes were in place that helped make our school better and safer. I was also instrumental in changing the birthday cake policy–no cakes, just cupcakes, treat bags, etc. I try not to “travel” around with anything that can tip over on kids; also, that it’s okay to convey to my class my sorrow for the accident. I now try to extend patience to my own childrens’ teachers, remembering this horrible disaster. I think even though it was such an embarrassing situation, I tried to teach my class that I am human, accidents happen, we should do our best to make amends, ask forgiveness, and finally to forgive ourselves.
1ST RUNNER UP: The Tabbs
The Tabbs gets a runner up for not only enduring this hilarious incident, but for pointing out two really important lessons that every teacher NEEDS to know:
My first year teaching I taught sixth grade. I had a student ask to use the restroom. He didn’t have his hall pass book so I told him to have a seat. He did not appear to be in any dire need to go. A few minutes later, I was teaching and noticed a terrible smell. Several students around him were laughing. I thought he was just passing gas. I finally asked what was going on because the students were laughing so much. They pointed across the way at a girl’s desk a few rows over. A strange-colored, gooey substance was on her desk chair. Never thinking about what it could be, I told her to get a paper towel and wipe it off. The laughter was still not stopping, but I pressed on and finished the lesson. Finally, class was dismissed and I pulled a very trustworthy student to the side and said, “Honey, what in the world was everyone laughing about?” She said, “______ pooped in his pants.” I looked at her kind of strange and was quite at a loss for words. Then she continued, “She put his hands in his pants and flung it.” My jaw dropped even further to the floor. I said, “Wait…so that stuff on ____’s chair was….poop? He put his hands in his pants and flung poop across two aisles?” She nodded. I looked in the trash at the paper towel she had thrown away and sure enough…poop. Thankfully the assistant principal’s office was just down the hall and we were able to get the student up to the office quickly, although he was probably uncomfortable in more ways than one. All in all that day, I learned that sometimes, it’s okay to make exceptions for restroom use. Sixth graders are not too old for accidents. And never ask a student to clean up anything that looks suspicious. Never.
AND THE WINNER OF “THE CORNERSTONE” BOOK IS: Emily
Emily wins the book because she explains how to teach a procedure that (I’m embarrassed to say) it has NEVER OCCURRED TO ME TO TEACH. Year after year, I struggle with this issue because I assume the kids know what cheating is. I tell them why it’s wrong, yet I don’t define it. As Emily proves, teachers really do need to clarify their precise expectations for everything, including this:
One lesson I have definitely learned over the years is to be specific when telling kids what “cheating” is. Before a test, I give my little speech, which has grown in length and detail because of certain experiences I have had. My speech goes something like this…”During the test, do not look at anyone else’s paper or anything around the room. Do not write the answers down ahead of time in any way(pants, crayon boxes, desks, paper, being some of the surfaces on which students have written things such as spelling words ahead of time). Purposefully showing your paper to someone else is also cheating (as one of my star students allowed another student to copy the planets of the solar system off his paper and didn’t realize that was wrong). You may not say the answers out loud, as that is also cheating (my first subbing experience I dismissed a child from the classroom for spelling the the spelling words aloud during the test). I want to know your answers and your answers only.” I’m sure someone will come up with another unforseeable way to cheat this year, which will make one more line to my ever growing speech. 😉
So congrats to Emily, who should email me with her address (Angela at TheCornerstoneForTeachers dot com) so I can send her a copy of “The Cornerstone: Classroom Management That Makes Teaching More Effective, Efficient, and Enjoyable”. And to the rest of my dear commenters, because you are so wise, I’ll be sharing your classroom management lessons learned the hard way in an upcoming post. Thanks for sharing!