|drawing random objects in a student-designed still-life|
When I first started reading Michael Linsin's work, I was very skeptical, to say the least. I really did not believe that putting middle school kids in isolation (i.e. "time-out") would be effective, but I made the decision to put Michael Linsin's ideas to the test this year. He says to officially warn the child the first time s/he breaks a rule and then send the child to time-out if s/he chooses to continue misbehaving. When I first read this, I thought, "Is this guy serious? He surely has never worked with any at-risk middle school kids! They would eat him for lunch!" (Since then, I have learned that Linsin's methods were developed while he was serving underprivileged communities.) Also, I thought to myself that if I just "warned" children all day when they broke rules they would only make an effort to behave after being warned - I have been proven wrong!
I re-wrote my art classroom rules in order to simplify and clarify a few things - there are only 3 of them now instead of 6 (although they are much more detailed.) I also posted my list of consequences on the wall along with the rules and I have been very focused on consistency. I have had a couple of rebellious 8th grade football players put me (and Linsin's methods) to the test as well as a couple of wild 6th grade classes. Guess what - it actually works! My middle school kids hate to be separated out from the group; it really is an effective consequence. (They have to fill out a "Think Sheet" at the isolation table which is an opportunity for them to reflect upon their behavior and there have only been 2 incidents where I had to put more than one kid in "time-out.")
The chart below outlines Mr. Linsin's rules, both my old and new rules, and the consequences for misbehavior that I am using in my classroom this year:
Here is a set of rules by Michael Linsin; current elementary P.E. teacher - he says he wrote these to cover every possible misbehavior:
1. Listen and follow directions.
2. Raise your hand before speaking or leaving your seat.
3. Keep your hands and feet to yourself.
4. Respect your classmates and your teacher.
Mr. Linsin instructs us to teach these rules explicitly, modeling examples of following the rules as well as non-examples. He also says to take a moment when writing rules to envision your "perfect" class - what does that look like?
Here are my "old" rules that I wrote 11 years ago for my middle school art room:
1. Be courteous and polite.
2. Be responsible
3. Keep your hands, feet, and all objects to
4. Speak quietly and at appropriate times. Do not cause distractions.
5. Do not eat, drink, or chew gum in the classroom.
6. Work every day!
My current art classroom rules:
After taking the online class, "Managing the Art Room" this summer at theartofed.com and reading Michael Linsin's books and articles, I re-wrote my middle school rules so as to be a bit more detailed and to leave no room for misinterpretation:
1. BE RESPECTFUL
2. BE RESPONSIBLE
3. BE SAFE
The consequences for misbehavior are also posted next to the rules. This is the first time in 11 years of teaching that I actually posted these. I came up with this list after studying several different classroom management experts, including Linsin and Fred Jones:
1ST OFFENSE: warning
2ND OFFENSE: isolation table
The student will quietly complete his/her “paper/pencil” work while in isolation. The student will complete the “Think Sheet” on days when art materials such as paint, plaster, paper mache, printmaking, collage, etc. are in use.
3RD OFFENSE: parents contacted & discipline assignment
The student will also remain separated the rest of the class period or the entire class the following day if the misbehavior happened at the end of class.
4th OFFENSE: OFFICE REFERRAL
After the student’s parents have been contacted twice, s/he will be referred to an administrator.
In cases of severe disrespectful behavior or fighting, parents will be contacted and/or the student will be referred to the office IMMEDIATELY.
If a student needs to be referred to an administrator, s/he will be separated, without art privileges, for 3 days following the referral.
Before school started, I re-wrote my "parent letter" to include this list of rules and consequences and my principal approved it - I wasn't sure he would! No parents have complained about it, and the kids haven't complained, either. I was a bit concerned that the 7th and 8th graders would rebel against the new system, but my wiggliest groups have actually been 6th graders - they have been the ones to repeat procedures the most often (the "do-it-over" strategy.)
I choose to remain calm no matter what happens - that isn't easy! One day at the beginning of a 30 minute 6th grade class (the second week) I was interrupted 7 or 8 times - I had 2 teachers, an office aid, a technology associate from the school board, and 4 new students come into my class room within the first 10 minutes of class! I also had an 8th grade boy become belligerent earlier this week, along with teenage emotions running amuck with a couple of girls (and a 6th grade boy, too!) I must also note that the afore mentioned belligerent 8th grader was reported by me to his football coach - not something recommended by Linsin. (This particular student had been to the isolation table on two different occasions and I had already spoken with his mother before he chose to yell at me, so I asked his coach if I could send him to his class if he ever defied me like that again. The student apologized for his behavior and has been well-behaved, enthusiastic, and hard working since his coach had a chat with him.)
Another of Linsin's ideas is to be sure and teach the kids that the discipline plan exists to protect them and their right to learn - not to punish them and make them miserable. My own attitude reflected this for the first time this year - in the past I apologetically tried to get through the first few days of rules/procedures/safety as quickly as possible in order to get to the "fun" stuff. Not any more! When the kids understand that I am being strict in order to help them, they don't resent me for it; especially when I have chosen to treat them with the utmost respect at all times. I will not yell at them, lecture them, or pay more attention to misbehavior than good behavior. I also will not let small misbehaviors slide - if a kid breaks a rule, the kid's name goes on the board (or on a Post-It if I am not teaching at the board.) That's usually all it takes. I have finally found a way to keep discipline issues in the background and to focus my energy on making my classroom fun, interesting, and an environment of hard work!
I make the choice each day to enjoy my job and I am having a lot of fun with the kids! I have some motivators in place, such as "Fun Friday" where the kids get to sit by their friends and talk while they work (as long as they are on task). We also play "Pictionary" on the board at the end of class.
The past 2 weeks have been a time of very hard work for both me and my students because we are learning how to improve drawing skills; this requires intense concentration on the part of the kids. However, to make it more fun and to break up the class a bit, I gave each group a tray full of random things and a wooden manikin person to set up for drawing. They loved it - even though I only gave them 3-4 minutes to set it up! One day I also had 6 small still-life arrangements set up for the kids to draw - one for each table. They got to change seats to draw the one most interesting to them. Finally, on "Fun-Friday," I showed them how to turn a still-life drawing into an Op Art design with a pattern of black and white stripes changing across the objects and background.
In conclusion, I am really interested to see if this new system holds up over the toughest times of the year - Halloween week (and Homecoming week), the week before Spring Break, and the last few weeks of school. The kids get pretty boisterous at these times and it is tough to reign them in!
Also, I admit that I have some weaknesses - when I am really tired it is extremely difficult to remain consistent. It is also hard to hold the kids accountable for raising their hands and waiting. I get caught up in the moment and find myself acknowledging comments from students who "talk out."
Family Psychologist John Rosemond, author of A Family of Value, says that the particular disciplinary techniques a parent or teacher chooses don't matter too much. He says that what does matter is the person's determination and strength. Do I "mean business" or don't I? Am I experiencing success because of my determination to do so? After all, "As a man thinks in his heart, so is he." Proverbs 23:7
by: Mrs. Anna Nichols