Tuesday, May 8, 2012

One Teacher’s Survival Secret

By: Theresa Oliver

Spring is in the air, flowers are blooming, and, in the schools, children are restless! When they look out the window and the sun is bright and beautiful, it’s hard for students to concentrate. Summer is sooo close they can taste it and they are definitely ready for it. But, then again, so are the teachers.

In addition to being a writer and publisher, I’m also a full time teacher. I love my job, but finding ways to keep students on task can be challenging. That’s when I found a solution.

One day I walked to the white board and in huge letters, I wrote the magic words PIZZA PARTY! And as if waving a magic wand, I suddenly had the attention of every student within the class without saying a word. In fact, you could have heard a pen drop … okay, sorry for the pun!

Then I proceeded to make a small box in the top left hand corner of the board with the magic letters: S.O.
My students were mesmerized.

Since I had their undivided attention and never had to utter a single word, I told them that I’d make them a deal. If they could get three shoutouts or less within a day, they would earn one letter. Then, once they have earned each and every letter (no cheating) then I would hold up my end of the bargain and give them a pizza party. And it worked.

The first day, they quickly went through their three chances and were disappointed. Then I told them that I would give them three more chances since it was their first day.  

They still didn’t earn a letter.

But now, as if entering a bad version of the Stepford Students, they have mastered the shoutouts! Now, if my students start getting rowdy when it’s not appropriate, all I have to do is walk purposefully toward the shoutout board and before I pick up the marker, the students are silent. And I never have to say a word.
This technique has worked like a charm! It’s saved a lot of stress on my part and helps the students the check their own behavior before I have to say anything. And, like the old saying goes, if bribery works, then why not? After all, a few pizzas are a small price to pay for sanity! I’d take it any day!

So, next week, I’m proud to announce, that my students have earned a pizza party! They are sooo close and really pumped about it! And I thoroughly enjoy watching satisfaction spread across their faces when I cross off another letter at the end of the day, one step closer to their goal. It also gives them something to work toward. I’m not giving it to them, they are earning it. That makes all the difference.

After the much coveted pizza party, they’ve requested a popcorn party. I wonder how long this will work, but there’s just four more weeks of school to go. And with the help of Dominos, we will make it through to summer!

Hummm, I wonder what they’ll want on the last day of school? Knowing my imaginative students, I’m sure it will be interesting! 

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