As a postscript to my February column, this column submits a few potentially powerful practices for parents of school-age children and school staff to help children with their behavioral and academic successes in the school environment.
This specifically is for the classroom setting, which should always be a reverential place and where the teacher always should be a highly respected professional.
I am humbled and enamored by the wonderful, random occasions to have verbal exchanges with members of the entire Central Savannah River Area who read my columns and stop me for a minute or two to elaborate on points I’ve made. Sometimes, they simply wish to share a relative thought or two of their own. In fact, this column is a direct spin-off from such an exchange. I find the talks delightful and directional.
Parents are concerned, and wish to connect in a constructive manner with schools to enhance the behavioral and scholastic successes of their children. This is very good news! I strongly encourage schools to tap this value-packed resource – the parent.
During my tenure as superintendent of schools in Richmond County, partnerships were formed with parents, churches and organizations in the various schools’ attendance zones to assemble and recognize students who had excelled, as well as those students who had shown improvement in their academics and conduct. If a student showed improvement in a positive direction, no matter how minute the improvement was, the student was brought forward to be recognized and encouraged to continue on the path toward excellence.
I called this approach “priming the pump.” A number of students have never experienced what it feels like to walk to a stage to be recognized for academic achievement.
Traditionally, only A and B students received recognition. Sometimes it is expedient for educators in tandem with parents and the community in a symbiotic manner to tap the achievement-success where it can be found, and then grow that achievement into a more expected, higher level of achievement.
Representatives (notably, church pastors) assisted school leadership and teachers with presenting the certificates of achievement to the students in their respective churches. The expressions of pride and the sense of achievement that completely covered the faces of students and their parents (plus the fan club of family members in attendance) was more valuable than pure gold. I saw in these students what a walk toward achievement looks like. They also could see the pride that covered my face, delighting in their achievement.
The strategies that follow are notes from observations made of parents across several demographic lines – racial and family configurations (two-parent, single-parent, surrogate parent, wealth and the like).
A parent and grandparent (another very valuable person in the lives of young people) were in my office recently to discuss some inappropriate behaviors of their young person. It appeared the young person had a problem regulating his best behavior over his poor behavior.
In just a few minutes, we discovered that he had the ability to manage the extremes of his behavior when he chose to do so. It became obvious that he did not delight in disappointing his parents, grandparents or the school staff.
Discovering this very rare behavioral skill in a pre-adolescent was so encouraging and hope-inspiring that we decided with no delay or reservation among us – including the student – to place him on a self-monitoring, self-regulated behavioral-control plan. It must be filled out by the hands of the student with manual checkmarks (in ink) on a cardstock chart every 15 minutes. Accuracy will be verified by the teacher at the end of the class period, and signed by the parent upon the student’s arrival home.
Under this plan, the student has to continually rank his behavior throughout the day as “excellent,” “good,” “almost good” or “poor.”
The parents clearly desired a conventional childhood for their student at home and at school. The parents were readily willing to partner with the school to achieve a positive and useful result. A member of the administrative staff will monitor the plan at three-day intervals, at a minimum. As alluded to, the parents will monitor the plan each afternoon at home.
These very conscientious parents came by the school to put a plan in place to help their student self-regulate his behavior. They clearly knew what would happen eventually if the child continued to exhibit poor behavior. They were not going to fail at planning for a positive result and avoiding a negative one.
The behavioral standard that will serve the student as a personal compass is simple, and the student agreed completely that it is simple enough to follow. The overarching expectation is this: Stay away from any self-generated or peer-generated behavior that will prevent the placing of a checkmark under the heading labeled “good” and/or “excellent.”
Excellent behavior is the golden expectation, for which the student will be eligible for an award. The school, in collaboration with the parents, will recognize the student for meeting that golden standard.
This column was designed to engage the reader in a seminal experience, which can be used beyond the reader’s time spent reading the column. Parents may adopt this behavioral management system for use at home as well. However, parents may find it better to divide time into one-hour time periods for the child, as opposed to 15-minute intervals, to make an earnest judgment about his/her behavior.
Additionally, parents may want a standard student notebook for the student to self-chart his/her behavior. Position it so the lines run vertically, so the behavior standards can be labeled at the top of the vertical lines, creating a behavioral chart.
(The writer – a former superintendent of schools for the Richmond County Board of Education – is executive director of Horse Creek Academy charter school in Aiken, S.C.)