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PART TWO | MANAGEMENT | DISCIPLINE

ior is fun and does provoke lots of laughs) because it is so potent. If there was ever a good example of acting one’s way into a belief, this is it. Practicing these behaviors is practicing an attitude as well—the attitude of teacher resolve and persistence—and developing confidence.

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Here are accounts from three teachers who have been in our courses—one each from high school, middle school, and elementary—of their experience applying the body language of meaning business. All three were experienced teachers, well regarded, and successful. They did not have significant discipline problems, but they still found learning these techniques well worth the effort.

Example 1: Charlotte Thompson—High School

I have been working on discipline this week. Luckily, I have not gotten to the “palms and ooze” stage! In fact, I have noticed that by waiting for the students to turn squarely and completely around facing me, all problems were cut off at the pass. [She means a long pause after a desist move until the student has completely re-engaged attention.] This week I stopped the class with, “Excuse me, class,” and went over to two girls and quietly explained why it was necessary for them to stop talking. I assume because the entire class was watching me speak to them very quietly while leaning over their desk that they were a bit embarrassed. It did correct the problem.

I did have one student this week who was rather persistent in not settling down. I went over to his desk and just stared. Unfortunately, he seemed to enjoy that and did not cease his showing off. I got to step 6 with him, although I must admit I skipped step 5. I was not at all confident that he knew what to do, so I was somewhat anxious to get to the prompt. He spends a good deal of time spacing out. But it did get him back to work and he stayed settled afterward for a pretty good length of time.

Example 2: Jeanne O’Reilly—Middle School

Using the sequence sheet on body language, I decided to try it in class. The first day I used it, I was amazed at how easily and well it worked. In my first class, I never went beyond saying the name and taking the two breaths. For the purpose of this experiment, I want to focus on what happened with Phil. Phil is a good student, though easily swayed. He is very capable, and therefore though he disrupts the learning of others, his behavior rarely damages his own grade. He tends to infuriate his teachers.

 

 

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On that fateful day, body language was really more in the back of my mind. I had been rereading the steps and finally decided to use it. I was at the front of the class leading a discussion when Phil started up with little comments to everyone within range. Normally, I would walk over to a student like Phil not saying anything but just standing near him or behind him while continuing the discussion.

I almost surprised myself (as well as Phil) when I excused myself to the class, squared off, waited, and said his name as blandly as I could. He folded immediately. It occurred twice more, and that was it.

Well, I immediately began using it. My favorite thing about body language is how much it minimizes my own anger. I simply don’t become as irritated, and the breaths really do keep me calm. My problem is remembering to use it. I find that when I’m tired or stressed, I lapse back. I do feel that this is one of the most valuable techniques I’ve learned anywhere.

Example 3: Lisa Farmer—Elementary School

There are times when children’s behavior is inappropriate. In my kinder- garten classroom, inappropriate behavior surfaces during our morning calendar meetings. The children usually talk and move about, switching places with their classmates. What I find most difficult is disciplining the behavior while keeping the momentum of the meeting. I decided to try the science of body language to see if more body language and less speaking would help at the meeting.

While I was beginning our morning meeting, Michael had his back to the circle and faced the blackboard talking to a friend. I called his name and made my face expressionless. He turned around and looked at me.

When he saw my face, he looked at his classmates and quickly and dra- matically sat down. He then gave me what I believe is a “smiley face.” Because I kept looking straight at him, he looked down. I waited. He did look up again and found me still looking at him. What was most interest- ing was the reaction of the rest of the class. Michael’s friend Adam turned around and followed Michael’s lead in settling down. The others sat qui- etly watching. This first episode ended with my saying thank you and moving on to the calendar without interruption from Michael.

The first lesson I learned was that you can make a child aware of and stop inappropriate behavior with the bare minimum discussion. Without dis- cussing it, the behavior stopped, and neither of us felt put down, angry,

 

 

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or uncomfortable. Though I have used a look or eye contact previously, what made this effective was the waiting through two breaths. Since that first episode I have used this technique with other children and other situ- ations effectively. During recent attempts, I have had to move close to the child, but I have never had to do more. One more important component is squaring off. The student seems to know you mean business because you are not moving.

“Body language poker,” as Jones calls it, is a form of consequence for students who fool around. It is the lowest stakes and most common form of response successful teachers make to disruptive or inattentive behavior, and it eliminates most of it. But teachers must have a clear series of escalating moves to reach for in order to have the confidence to implement good body language. “What if it doesn’t work?” runs through every teacher’s mind, especially beginning teach- ers. If the body language doesn’t work (it will almost all the time, if done well), one can move up the hierarchy of responses and consequences slowly, always escalating only the minimal amount necessary to eliminate the disruptive be- havior, confident in what you can do if you have to.

Consequence 2: Acknowledging a Change in Behavior and Offering Help This is a gentle and positive way of reprimanding and is similar to the desist move in the Attention Continuum (see Figure 5.1 in Chapter 5) called “offer help.” The teacher talks privately to a student and says something like, “Jim, I notice you’ve had a hard time staying focused today. Is there some way I could help you get back on track?” or, “What would help you refocus and get back on track?” Sometimes this will lead to help in the form of moving the student’s seat.

Consequence 3: Quiet Time This consequence is really an opportunity offered for a student to regain com- posure and self-control when behavior, such as excessive talking, is getting out of control. “Juan, I think you need a little quiet time to regain your focus. What part of the room would be good for you to use?” Quiet time can be replaced with a walk around the classroom or a one-minute stroll in the hallway that the student takes to regain control and focus.

It is different from time-out (Consequence 10) because time-out is teacher en- forced and the beginning and ending times are usually teacher determined. Teachers can work out a cuing system with individual students who do not read their own signals and indicate when it would be advisable for them to take such a quiet time. The agreement is that the reason for taking the quiet time is for the student to take the initiative to refocus.

 

 

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Consequence 4: Warning Warnings inform individual students that they are getting near the threshold of receiving an aversive consequence. The warning can be delivered privately in the student’s ear. “That’s 1, Kiesha.” Maybe when she gets to 3, the consequence becomes automatic. Students have to know what the consequence is, and every- thing we said in the previous section about consistent and certain implementa- tion of the consequence must be carried out.

Warnings may also be delivered publicly by writing a student’s name on the board and putting a stroke next to it for stage 2. These warnings are objective, low-affect moves that can be delivered without even mentioning the student’s name or interrupting the flow of instruction in any way. Calm, neutrally de- livered warnings avoid confrontation and blame, and they convey the message that this is just the way of the social order, as Dreikurs (Dreikurs & Cassel, 1972) would say.

It is not absolutely necessary that students know exactly what will happen to them when they cross the threshold. In fact, it can be even more effective if they don’t, as long as they know something will happen, and they won’t like it. And even if they don’t know what will happen, you (the teacher) need to know the range of options you may actually carry out.

Medium Consequences

These consequences require some teacher time and effort, and they are some- what risky and inconvenient for the student.

Consequence 5: Re-education Cafeteria school is a favorite example of this consequence. Students, who mis- behave in the cafeteria, are required to attend cafeteria school following after- noon dismissal or during recess. They receive a real “class” in cafeteria manners and appropriate behavior with modeling, practice, and testing. The unstated as- sumption is that if they knew how to behave properly, they would. This positive attribution of intent is slightly tongue in cheek, but not entirely.

Many students in early grades do need practice in the impulse control and ex- pected norms to wait quietly in audiences or contain their urge to run in hall- ways. The older the students are, the more aversive cafeteria school is. And the bonus is that students don’t want to repeat being sent to it and don’t form the usual resentment that detention or other punishments generate.

 

 

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Consequence 6: Hold Up a Mirror: Simple Counting or Anecdotal Record-Keeping This consequence is about holding up a mirror to the student about his or her behavior. Here’s an example of the first version: simple counting.

Example 1: Latoya is always calling out and interrupting in class.

It is impulsive on her part, and the teacher decides to use simple count- ing to highlight the behavior and call Latoya’s attention to it. After a group one day, the conversation goes something like this.

Teacher: “Latoya, do you know that you call out a lot without raising your hand? It’s really distracting to me and unfair to the rest of the kids who want to speak.”

Student: “I’m sorry. I’ll stop. I promise.” (They have had these conversa- tions before.)

Teacher: “Are you really willing to work on it? Well, I’d like to help you. How many times do you think you call out in a lesson?”

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