Q. I attended your parenting lecture last night. I thought what you had to
say was wonderful. About a 1 1/2 weeks ago, I attended a Saturday workshop which was at the same school by one of your associates. As a result of that workshop, I have started class meetings almost daily. We've done compliments and appreciations several times since I understand that is an important building block. But the problem is that a few kids leave during the compliments. They crawl away and either sit at their desk or often sit under a desk. I thought compliments was something they were probably finding a little threatening and did not want to coerce them into staying in the meeting. Today, I tried brainstorming with the students solutions to a class problem. The problem was kids getting hurt on the playground. For this meeting, there were a lot of kids who didn't want to come. Again, I did not want to insist on it. Exerting that kind of power seems to defeat the whole purpose of the class meeting. But there is no point in having a class meeting if that many kids choose to sit it out. So I think I'm going to try the "Buy In" discussion tomorrow. But what do I do if all but one or two kids agree to have a class meeting? I've got a couple of kids who are very argumentative/rebellious. They are part of the reason I think class meeting could be so helpful. Do I tell the class I need everyone's participation or I'll continue to one up them and they can simply live with what I say? Or do I let a few kids sit out? Come and go as they please? Tell the kids they can either participate or sit in another classroom? I teach second grade and I am exhausted and hoping to figure this out real soon. Thank you.
A. Hi Becky, I suggest you treat class meetings as you would math or reading -- it is not an option. You can be kind and firm about this. And, don't give up any more than you would for math or reading. It sounds as though your students simply need more training in the skills. Did you purchase the book, "Positive Disicpline in the Classroom"? Have you tried the activity of letting each student say what they would like to be complimented for and then having the person on their left give them that compliment. Let them know this may sound ackward at first, but so does riding a bike -- and that you will keep practicing until it feels as natural as riding a bike.
I used to tell teachers to "prepare for a month of hell" when first implementing class meetings because kids aren't used to it and don't have the skills. The month of hell is no longer necessary when you take time to teach the building blocks before tackling "real" problems.
Are you doing them every day. That makes a huge difference. I suggest only 10 minutes a day until they learn the skills. You might ask the students for their suggestions about how to solve the problem of kids leaving the meeting.
Keep me informed on how it goes. Best wishes,