Better Than Carrots or Sticks: Chapter 2 Review.

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This blog entry fits into a series of chapter reviews on the book, Better Than Carrots or Sticks:  Restorative Practices for Positive Classroom Management by Dominique Smith et al.  Find reviews of other chapters below:

Chapter 1

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

After Chapter 1 of Better Than Carrots or Sticks I have a couple of pressing questions for myself as I reflect on my own classroom management practices.

  • How, specifically, can I move my practices from punishment based to restorative based?
  • How do we lead students to view interactions based on relationship instead of based on rules and procedures?
  • Where do my current practices fit?

If I’m honest with myself, I implement most of my practices with a thought toward punishment.  The good news is, there are elements of relationship that I can focus on which I think will move my practices from punishment to restoration.  My classroom management procedures are centered around a Daily Engagement Assessment (Dea Large) which is based on the following:

  • I listen to or read Latin to understand.
  • I express when I do not understand the Latin I’m listening to or reading.
  • I do everything I can so that my neighbor can listen to and read Latin for understanding.

My school situation complicates DEA somewhat as we are are 1 to 1 school with chromebooks.  Our handbook has 2 important rules which I have to entwine into my daily practices.

  • Students must use devices related to curriculum unless the teacher allows otherwise.
  • Students may not use devices or the network to play games or do anything not related to curriculum.

In my DEA practices, I communicate to students when they do not meet expectations 2 times.  After the 2nd time, they are to meet with me one on one outside of class or I will contact home.  Students view this as a punishment, but contacting home can be based in relationship, but how do I make that happen?

***Update 2022 – I retired my DEA set up.  Tracking each interaction became overbearing and I realized I was not doing so objectively.  Instead of DEA I start the year by making collective committments with students and I respond based on our school behavior expectations as situations allow.  This has moved my energy from tracking every little interaction to building relationships with students.  It also takes away the possibility that I am  subjectively implementing the DEA process.  ***

Chapter 2 starts out with a discussion about the importance for teachers to invite students to learn.  I think all teachers want to invite students to learn.  But is an invitation to learn inviting?  Page 23 has a chart with characteristics of Intentionally Uninviting, Intentionally Inviting, Unintentionally Uninviting, Unintentionally Inviting teachers.  If I’m being honest, I fall into the unintentionally inviting box more often than I want to admit.  So how do I add consistency, purpose and sensitivity to student needs to my energy and enthusiasm?

The book continues with some ideas that I think are common sense.  We need to know students’ names.  We need to bring a positive attitude to our classrooms.  And we need to get to know students’ interests to build their trust.  An example of a student survey is given on page 27.  Might student interest surveys, in Latin, wrapped around a language task be a purposeful way to create student driven input while building trust with students in upper level courses early in the year?  In recent years, ideas from Lee Jenkins book, Optimize Your School, have created a positive learning experience for students as they connect with their own learning progress.

The book starts to lose me as it talks about home visits and attending extracurricular activities.  I already take home much more work than I should.  Our whole system needs to change to make things like home visits happen.  My guess is I will start attending more extracurricular activities as my own children become interested in them, but with a young family, it simply isn’t an option.  What discussions can we have at building and district levels to make these things possible for staff within the system of employment?

Finally the book starts to investigate important elements of instruction.  After introducing thoughts about Formative Assessment on page 33, there is a section titled “Gradual Release of Responsibility.”  The sentence, “By intentionally sharing responsibility with students at different points in a lesson, teachers can monitor student learning and adjust their instruction accordingly.”  I find myself rereading this.  What does responsibility look like with students within a lesson?  Purposeful learning seems key for students to be able to take responsibility.  What does I purposeful lesson based on acquisition look like?  How can I communicate the purpose of daily lessons in respect to the goal of acquisition?  Developing Assessment-Capable Visible Learners is another book connected to these ideas with more specific strategies to move students toward more responsibility in their own learning.

Next there is an investigation of collaborative learning.  I think there is potential here for my classroom in respect to tasks in which students respond to Latin that they understand with tasks like Self Directed Reading or Language Tasks.  There is a simple behavior survey which I think can be made to fit into my Dea procedures.  But an intense question remains.  Should surveys such as this be a part of a grade?  I think Better Than Carrots or Sticks might say yes.  But many districts like my own have separated behavior and content feedback in grade reporting based on ideas like Ken O’Connor’s, A Repair Kit for Grading. A simple moved toward standards referenced grades appropriate for the 21st century.

How do we offer language support?  This is really important when we complete activities such as read and discuss and personalized questions and answers.  An example of a conversational move for teachers is to say “I’ll restate what you just said.  Listen to make sure I got it right.”  What a great way to offer simple yet purposeful repetitions of language during input based activities.

The chapter ends with a discussion about self regulation in students.  How do we teach this to students?  An example from a math classroom from the book.  Students completed a 3 part assessment.  The 1st part was a conventional math test.  The 2nd part was extended problem based learning tasks that students had to complete collaboratively.  The 3rd part was a self reflection.  Should we be grading group work and reflection along with content?  “…although the tasks didn’t possess the same life and death risks that hers did, they nonetheless required him to learn the skills necessary to work with others – and especially, to know how and when to ask for help.” – page 46.  This is powerful.  Students will enter a workforce the requires collaboration.  We need to require in their classroom experience as well.

Lastly, chapter 2 left me with powerful thoughts about the importance of self regulated learning for students.  Self regulated learning fits well with acquisition based learning, especially when we consider that students acquire language at their own pace.  On page 47, “In order for students to develop self-regulation skills, they need experience making choices.  Unfortunately, some schools are in the business of issuing mandates that reduce choice in an effort to curtail misbehavior.”  Do I do this same thing to help facilitate acquisition?

Self regulated learning is appealing to me.  But how do we accomplish it?  How do we access these types of thing along with content?  Should we be access how students approach acquisition as much as how much they actually acquire?  I’m still looking for more concrete examples to move toward restoration and self regulated learning, but so far Better Than Carrots or Sticks has led me to many questions that are productive and lead to reflection.  I’m excited to see what is next.



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