Sunday, January 22, 2012

Beware! The Behavior Modifying Teacher Is On The Prowl

Fourteen.  One ten and four ones. 2 x 7.  14.  That's how many times Kinley came up to my desk to talk to me on Wednesday. FOURTEEN!  I know because I made a little tally mark in my lesson plan book each time.

Ever since we came back to school from Christmas break, I had noticed that Kinley was spending an unreasonable amount of time getting out of her seat and crossing the room to tell me in hushed tones about the most recent development in her book or the way so-and-so was not really reading during reading time or how this little spot back here in her throat was kind of hurting. 

It was driving me nutso.  And something had to be done.

Now, if this had been a problem with a regular student, I would have immediately gone into Behavior Modifying Teacher Mode.  I would have taken careful notes about the subject of each conversation with the child and then tallied the number of times in a day the child came up to my desk unbidden. Then, I would have gone to the supply closet and gotten out my little tub of green Bingo chips.  I would have called the clearly-desperate-for-attention-and-obviously-not-getting-it-at-home student up to my desk and would have spoken with him or her about the need to stay on task.  I would have shown the child my tally marks and then I would have told the child that fourteen trips to my desk was really too much. I would have given the child 5 Bingo chips to use the next day to spend for 5 (and only 5) private audiences with the Queen (that would be me).  Each private conversation would cost a chip, hopefully resulting in nine fewer one-on-one meetings with this child.

I would have informed the child that he or she could earn 20 Boyd Bucks the next day if fewer than the 5 Bingo chips were cashed in.  Then I would have sat back and patted myself on the back for having implemented yet another successful behavior modification intervention.

But this wasn't just any child.  It was MY child.  My child who gets plenty of attention at home, thank you very much.  And from her teacher, no less!

So instead, I called Kinley up to my desk at the end of the day (private conversation number 15 of the day)and showed her the fourteen little marks.  As I told her what the marks represented, I could see her cheeks begin to flush.  She shrank back from me a little as I asked her to multiply 14 by 27(the number of student in my class).  As I asked her what she thought it would be like for me to have 14 x 27 individual conversations with students in a single day, I could see her eyes start to fill with tears.

Did this stop me?  No.  I soldiered on in Behavior Modifying Mommy/Teacher Mode.  (Note:  If she had told me what 14 x 27 was after doing it in her head with mental math, I might have been more sympathetic and given up.)

But as it was, I laid out for her all the things that are a part of my job that I can't accomplish while listening to Kinley's Daily List of Observations, Injustices, Ailments, and General Miscellany.  I told her that (without the help of green Bingo chips) I expected her to reduce her number of trips to my desk the next day by at least half, and then I sent her on her way.  Back to her desk.  Away from my much-needed personal space.

I looked up a few minutes later to see her sitting on the floor under her desk sobbing, knees pulled up to her chest, arms wrapped tightly around herself, rocking back and forth in a stupor.  It was pitiful.  And it almost made me regret my words.  Almost.

Mostly it just made me roll my eyes at her melodrama and look forward to the next day when surely she would take my words to heart.  Which she did. 

She only came up five times on Thursday.  And five is a huge improvement over fourteen.  Especially without the aid Bingo chips.  Which just goes to show....something, I'm sure. I'll let you know when I figure it out.


Lanita said...

I really want to comment on this, but I am almost speechless. I am incredulous that my son actually married someone as direct and firm (read mean and heartless)as his own mother. Or perhaps I've unduly influenced you in the twenty years that I've known you. Whichever--it worked, didn't it? (And look how well my children turned out/survived!)

boyd2 said...

Should I assume this means that you approve?

Jonathan Davidson said...

Nicely done, Gina. You continue to show us the difficulty that having Kinley in class causes your normal teaching routine. I appreciate you working through the myriad issues it prompts and doing so well. I know it's not easy, but I would be proud to some day have my child bankrolled in Boyd Bucks!

Heather White said...

Being that you are in a unique situation with Kinley, I suspect that most people have no idea what to say. I think you have the liberty to handle these things the very way you see fit without the judgement of others. I can't imagine being your shoes!

Miss Sue Perry said...

First of all - Love Lanita's comment. Secondly, I can actually picture each movement and facial expression from Kinley and Gina. Finally, I am so glad that through the drama enSUEd - Gina held her ground but in a silent manner. This lets Kinley know mom is firm but cares to not humiliate her in front of the class.Thank you, Lord, for not giving me a house full of girls and girl drama. I am not sure that I would handle it with Gina's GRACE.

boyd2 said...

Jonathan, thank you so much! And I'd LOVE to have a little Davidson some day!

Heather, thank you for freeing me from judgement of others(especially since I go ahead and judge myself harshly anyway).

Sue, you aren't kidding about girl drama! And this little girl has drama in spades.

pednurse said...

I know all about girl drama.....for such a quiet child (at least around everyone else!), Sarah provides way more drama than I want.