I don't know that we often think about relationships outside of romantic ones. The truth is we have relationships with everyone whose path we cross. Obviously some relationships are better than others.
For a teacher, the challenge is in establishing relationships with his students as soon as possible...and then maintaining them throughout the year.
Such relationships may be deeper and harder to achieve than we would like. Districts, schools, administrators, and teachers would love to have something called a magic bullet. I'm not sure where the term came from: the Lone Ranger has a silver bullet forged from the silver badge of his ranger brother, and a silver bullet can seriously end a werewolf, but I know not of the power of a magic bullet.
A successful, positive relationship is the key to discipline in the classroom. By the way, it helps in a parent-child situation, too. Because this is true, and because proper discipline is greatly desired, a relationship is a majorly important thing. It should be a course in every college elementary degree program! I'm here to warn you, though, deep relationships are not magic (or any other type) bullets.
In many classes, these days, you will encounter something called a clip chart. These are easy to use and easy to understand. Spread like an infection through Pinterest and teacher blogs around the world, the clip chart is a cutesy, artsy piece of decoration that hangs from a bulletin board in the classroom. When a kid shines, she can move her clothes pin (which is not called a clip, by the way) up on the chart. Less desirable is the result when a child misbehaves and the pin is moved down. Conceivably, a kid could move down and back up all the livelong day, and never receive any consequences for his negative actions. In other words, he can "work the system".
I've not used a clip chart to monitor conduct in my classes. I've used a combination of Positive Discipline, the positive behavior supports our school subscribes to, and Class Dojo. Why not a clip chart? It's simple really:
- Many teachers found it on Pinterest, which I believe puts teacher creativity in shackles.
- It's cute, and as such it would be disingenuous for me to use it. Beauty is only skin deep.
- It allows a child to "work the system" as described earlier.
- It does not provide the teacher with short- or long-term data to use in evaluating the system or any behaviors under scrutiny.
- "Everyone else" is doing it, and anyone who knows me knows I don't like to follow the crowd.
Class Dojo is also not a magic bullet. Teachers around the globe use the program to monitor student conduct, but I cannot believe that it was designed to fix the problems. The key in that last statement is the difference between monitor and fix.
What I believe Class Dojo does is provide the teacher with ongoing tracking information pertaining to particular behaviors. A teacher can easily track both negative and positive behaviors with this tool, and as such may use the information to establish deeper, more meaningful, individual relationships with his students.
You see, some teachers believe that avoiding negative points in the program and inflating the positive points is the secret to using Class Dojo. They believe that a naughty kid can be fixed by rewarding every little positive moment they catch him doing. I call that shallow, and I think those teachers are dreaming of magic bullets.
Instead, let's use Class Dojo as a way to legitimize behavioral conversations. Absolutely, reward the positives more than you punish the negatives, but at the same time, you must have one-on-one discussions with your "troubled" student. I like the idea of focusing on the positive, and I do, but at the same time, I have to remember that as a teacher I must establish a deeper relationship with my student. My fourth graders know when I'm being fake. So while I make those attempts to be positive, my students also understand that they have to legitimately earn those points. It is our job - together - to change the behavior in order to earn them. The points mean more to them when they know I didn't just give them the points to manipulate them.