One of the toughest challenges in teaching often has more to do with character development than any academic or curricular expectation. Teaching content has plenty of demands, but instilling positive, intrinsic motivation for being a responsible and contributing member in a classroom, and ultimately in society as a whole is not an easy undertaking.
One specific struggle I am wrestling with is how to instill in my students an authentic, internal desire and willingness to make positive behavior choices. I think in most classrooms, there are always some students who just naturally do this. They are the rule followers. The teacher pleasers. But what about the students who don’t have a propensity for this? How can we come alongside the students who seem to be working harder at asserting their independence rather than demonstrating a willingness to behave in accordance with the teacher’s expectations?
I am all about positive reinforcement over negative consequences. I have designed many a positive behavior charts where students can earn a positive “reward” when they exhibit the appropriate predetermined behavior. The struggle I have is when I stop to consider the “rule followers” in the room. What must they be thinking when they see their classmate(s) earning what appear to be extras just for doing the right thing? Do they feel it’s unfair?
Maybe it is. Maybe the saying “fair is not always equal” is right. But it’s not sitting right with me. I want to find other approaches for students who struggle with behavior choices that dial into their intrinsic thinking & motivation. How can we help them truly want to make good choices just because it’s the right thing to do?
I teach 5 and 6 year-olds, so I must acknowledge that a lot of positive growth comes with maturity, and developmentally, it takes time for them to have an awareness of the world outside of themselves. Nonetheless, I still believe my little ones can develop the ability to make positive choices apart from receiving a reward for doing so.
What struggles have you faced with behavior and management issues? Do you have any go-to strategies that have proven effective with students?