Insights, Ideas and Strategies for Educators and for Parents

Tips for Teachers

Moving Forward

Family Outside in Winter
Tips for Teachers

One sure way for teachers to feel burned out and uninspired is to remain stuck in old ways. We all develop habits in our lives, some of which work well for us, and some of which hold us back. For example, a helpful habit is to start each day with a warm welcome for each child and parent who enters the classroom. Smiling at one’s charges and their parents and letting them know that you are glad to see them at school each day is a sure way to invite a positive attitude on the part of both the child and his/her parent. On the other hand, a habit that is not so helpful would be clinging to rules for classroom behavior that were created with little thought to individual needs, such as “If you hit, you sit!” It is essential for teachers to always keep in mind the purpose behind the rule (keeping children safe, for example) and strive to arrive at interventions that help children learn how to behave in more positive ways rather than focusing on demanding that all children “suffer the consequences” of their behavior in the same way.

On a personal level, it is helpful for teachers to reflect on their practice at frequent points throughout the school year. Asking questions such as “Are the children engaging in the curriculum I am providing? Am I building curriculum around their interests vs. canned activities or themes I have used for years without much additional thought or consideration? Am I connecting with parents in a positive way and working to build trust, rather than being quick to blame them when they do not live up to my expectations? Am I looking at the children as individuals whose needs differ at times, and developing interventions/responses that are guided by those individual needs rather than simply general group expectations?”

In these ways, teachers continue to move forward in their professional development and help children to do so as well! Keep moving will make the children and parents feel better, and you will feel stimulated and challenged by your work in new ways!

Tips for Parents

Parents, too, can frequently fall into the trap of automatic responses to their children’s behavior rather than reflective planning to develop interventions that will help children learn how to behave more positively. It is good for adults to be consistent with their children and have clear guidelines re what kinds of behaviors they expect and find acceptable/not acceptable. At the same time, stopping to think about one’s children’s behaviors and how a parent’s interventions may or may not be helpful and effective, is an important practice to keep up.

One of the wonderful aspects of parenting (and teaching, too) is that there are innumerable opportunities for improvement! Multiple times each day, parents are called upon to respond to their children’s needs and behaviors, and there are always opportunities to improve. Such improvement is possible only when parents are willing to pause and reflect on their interactions with their children.

For example, is it working to ground a child from computer games when he/she speaks disrespectfully? Is the child improving in this area as a result of this consequence? If not, it may be time to rethink the response. Perhaps it would be helpful to create a positive reinforcement plan for the child, in which the child is reinforced (with stickers, stars, some kind of concrete labeling) for getting through specific periods of the day speaking respectfully and being cooperative. The day can be divided into morning, afternoon, and evening. If the child gets through more than the usual amount of time using a respectful tone of voice, some kind of reward can be offered. I usually recommend that such rewards NOT be a trip to the toy store, but rather some kind of special time spent with the adult. Perhaps a trip to the park, or picking up a movie at the library, or going ice skating together. Smaller, daily reinforcements might include things like an extra story at bedtime or playing a favorite game together, which can be lovely rewards for cooperation and respectful interactions.

Moving forward implies progress... moving along a path that is leading somewhere. Parents have opportunities each day to reflect and fine-tune their reactions and interventions with their children so that they can keep moving forward and make progress on the path of positive parenting!

Questions or comments? call Nancy Bruski at (847) 475-1828 or post them on our contact form.