Yesterday, I got the opportunity to attend day one of a two day training focused on using Love & Logic in the classroom.
Love & Logic is a behavioral modification program that promotes teachers using less energy on arguing and behavioral issues in the classroom, so that the energy can be put in to the actual teaching that's supposed to be going on. It also promotes fostering responsibility for behaviors made by children, but in a caring, non-confrontational way by having consequences thought out and used appropriately.
This isn't my first exposure to Love & Logic. I actually took a mini course in college in my classroom management class.
And to be honest, I'd completely forgotten what the main principles of Love & Logic were, and had a completely misconstrued thought process before going in to that training. In my mind, it was a "promote nothing but positivity and never say no" way of thinking. A harmonious, always stay positive, and absolutely no negativity way of dealing with students.
Something kinda the complete opposite to what I am.
Not that I'm not somewhat harmonious, somewhat positive most of the time... but I use the word "no" a lot, and I don't mind squaring off in a little game of "I will have the last word" if I need to. I also tend to raise my voice in a situation that I feel warrants it, and I may or may not have one or two mild bursts of frustration if I'm extremely frustrated with a student's behavior.
What I was reminded of, however, during that training is that I must have remembered a little more about the training I received back in college, because I actually do incorporate a few of the Love & Logic principles in to my classroom right now. Of course, the way the presenter explained them and the way I use them aren't exactly on the same page.
Love & Logic absolutely does NOT condone sarcasm.
That's a big problem for me, being that my first language is sarcasm. Seriously. I speak sarcasm much better than regular English. Asking me to not use sarcasm is like asking me to start speaking Spanish fluently tomorrow... it's just not possible.
But, with a little focus and practice, I 'think' I might be able to pull of the Love & Logic way... but still keep the sarcasm I use when I'm in a good mood and having a good time with my kids.
You see, as my dear friend and teammate once explained it, sarcasm is my "love language". It's how I communicate with my students to show my love and care for them. I know that may sound weird, but it's actually very true. My kiddos are trained to understand that when I'm being sarcastic, I'm playing with them... joking around. I'm in a good mood, and fostering an upbeat, it's OK to laugh at mistakes culture in my classroom. It actually helps my kids feel safe. If they receive a sarcastic remark from me, they know that whatever it is they've said or done isn't a big deal and I'm brushing it off with a little humorous banter.
But, the use of sarcasm takes training. It's takes introduction. I don't start from day one using my trademark sarcastic phrases... because what appears to be humorous sarcasm once they get to know me could be misconstrued with my making fun of them if they don't understand what I'm doing. It also requires my getting to know my students. I have to get to know their weaknesses, background, and mentality. Because, the truth is, there are some kids that just won't respond to my sarcasm as if it's just playing around, and will take offense or seriously hurt their feelings no matter how much I try explain what I'm actually doing.
So, for the first couple of months in my classroom, I'm learning about my kids and slowly explaining and introducing my trademark sarcasm.
And, using last year as a good example, by the end of the school year my students are using the sarcasm with me and it becomes somewhat of a dialogue or code language between the kids and me. Others on the outside are sometimes shocked when they hear my sarcasm, but receive even more shock when they see how my kids respond to it.
The one part of the training that I really took in and want to really try and instill in to my classroom is the sometimes impulsive response I have in a situation that angers or upsets me. If a child comes to me and tells me that, once again, they haven't done their homework and they aren't the slightest bit concerned or show any care about it, I tend to get a little angry. I make and say rash things without thinking the situation through. I might yell a little, start making some threats about contacting parents and the principal, and taking away privileges and recess time without taking any time to step back and evaluate the situation, or involving the student in facing the responsibility for their actions.
And you know what happens most of the time? I may send the child to the principal, I may take away recess, but the very next day I'm back in the same position even more angry when I hear that no homework has been done... and then I'm even more furious and upset about the situation.
What the Love & Logic approach requires is actually staying completely calm, and flipping the problem back on the student. It's not my problem if a child misbehaves or makes bad choices, it's their problem. And they have to solve it.
I can offer insight and suggestions, but at the end of the day the consequences have to be thought out, appropriate to the behavior, and actually involving the student in the process. How do THEY think they can solve the problem?
If a student doesn't ever do homework, I'm probably not making the best choices by just loading up on more homework. I sometimes assign extra work to a repeat offender, I'll admit that. I think I'm really teaching them a lesson, or "sticking it to them" by making their homework more tedious or drawn out. I make an example of the situation by sometimes ONLY assigning homework to the repeat offender.
That never works.
Yeah, I said it. I'll admit it. It doesn't ever get the result I'm looking for, but just a quick fix to my mood in that moment. But, the very next day when the student shows up with no homework and that same non-caring attitude, I'm back to square one... just 10 times more angry.
So, I've decided that the Love & Logic training might actually be something I want to start incorporating in to my classroom. Something I might want to try. I go back next week for the second half of the training, and I figure why not try a few things out this next coming week and then report back with any issues or questions I have.
Yesterday for example, while I was in the training, I found out that four of my students had gotten involved in a verbal and somewhat physical altercation. They had each written statements for me to read. When I got the statements, the students were right there. My normal response would have been to give them a long lecture about my expectations when I'm gone, and then assign the normal go-to punishment of them missing recess.
Instead, I told them how sad and disappointed I was to hear about the situation. I then told them that I would have to think about the best way to deal with the situation. And then left it at that. Walked away, remained calm, and left them with a total look of shock on their faces. I'm sure they couldn't believe what they were hearing. But, that's the point. They hopefully spent some time thinking about what they'd done, and worrying about how I was going to solve the problem. Causing the problem to be theirs, while I went on my merry way not really letting it get to me at all.
Today, I will sit down with the students and ask them to explain what happened, what their suggestions are for fair consequences, and then once again let them stew about it while I take some time to think about the appropriate cause of action. And then, we'll come back together and they will receive the consequences for their actions.
Calm. Not impulsive. And leaving me with less stress.
For the next week, I'm going to give Love & Logic a chance. I will incorporate the principles we learned yesterday and take notes on how they play out with my kiddos. Then, next week I can learn more and get answers to any questions I might have.
I'm optimistic that it's going to help some of my frustrations.
We shall see.
But, right now, I need to get ready for work.