Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Book Review: Setting Limits in the Classroom, Revised: How to Move Beyond the Dance of Discipline in Today's Classrooms by Robert J. Mackenzie

My first book review. The book is Setting Limits in the Classroom, Revised: How to Move Beyond the Dance of Discipline in Today's Classrooms by Robert J. Mackenzie. I purchased mine from Amazon.com.

I feel that this is an excellent book. Though targeted toward classroom teachers rather than substitutes, I feel that this book will help everyone learn to respectfully teach children to make good behavioral choices. And I don't just mean teachers - parents, too!

The book helps readers identify their own style of teaching, and then highlights the author's best method for implementing classroom discipline. His approach is practical, and utilizes what he calls the "democratic" approach to discipline. Basically he suggests providing immediate choices for consequences for negative or unapproved behaviors. This allows the student to have a hand in his discipline, and allows the student to save face - keep respect. Of course the trick, as with all "self-help" books, requires that the reader implement these techniques consistently. This, of course, can be difficult to do! But as with all good things worth doing, practice makes perfect.

This book is about creating and keeping a respectful environment while still teaching the students that there are consequences for their actions.

Mackenzie writes this book in an easy to read fashion, and lays the concepts out simply, using examples from multiple grades. He also uses diagrams to simply illustrate his points.

I found that in my case I was particularly able to see these examples in the book - DESPITE being new to substitute teaching - because of my experiences with children... including my own. I could actually identify my own children as "compliant" or not, and see the teacher examples from the book relating to how I relate to each of my own children. Mackenzie himself uses an example from his own family for one lesson on how each student differs from another.

A great read, informative and well-written, nicely organized, and terrific information!

A+ review

Monday, February 22, 2010

Teaching in the classroom....

Though my family is full of teachers, including my father, who was a college professor, I never had the dream of working in a classroom. Quitting college after the first year, I ran off and got married, and entered the workforce. A few years later, our first child was born, and suddenly it became apparent that teaching was in my blood, whether I admitted it or not. When my children were toddlers, I printed words and pictures identifying objects throughout the house, as some people do when they are learning a new language. My intent was to teach my children word recognition, similar to the early-learning skill of recognizing store signs such as those from McDonald’s and K-mart. When I read to them, I taught them hand signals for words such as “the” without easy phonetic translation, and in this way, they could “read” with me, word by word, even if the only symbol they recognized was that letter grouping. To encourage letter sounds, we played hangman on big chalkboards. Entering kindergarten, all four children were voracious readers, and I had re-enrolled in college, taking occasional courses as time allowed.

While I enjoyed these word games with my children, I still did not consider a degree in education. I was even a volunteer coordinator for the Dauphin County Literacy Council. Friends and teachers from my children’s schools where I volunteered would tell me repeatedly that I was a natural teacher, and that I should consider making that my career when I was ready to go back to work. I demurred, finding focus in my love of art, and ultimately I graduated just this summer with my Bachelor of Art in Art History with a minor in General Computing. However, three years ago a teacher friend of mine enrolled at a university to obtain her Reading Specialist Certification and Masters Degree. I was intrigued. It was at this moment that I began to imagine myself in a classroom. I spoke with my adviser at my university, but an education minor was not available to me. I decided I would have to work toward it after graduation, and here I am today.

Understanding that a Reading Specialist Certification can only come after previous teaching certification, I would love to inspire students to want to embrace language and learning. I worked hard to receive my degree, particularly since I finally received my Associates Degree in 2006 and began completion of my Bachelors. With four children, school, and a job, the past three years have been a joyful challenge to maintain my excellent grades and yet maintain stability at home. I can proudly say that my two oldest children have now entered college, and I would love to be able to help other students make this a reality. I am an encourager, something I used ridicule about myself when I was younger – saying that everyone needed cheerleaders to appreciate their efforts. However, it is only now that I can understand the need to embrace this gift of encouragement and to use it, with my love of language, to help others. 

I will contribute my enthusiasm and my strict work ethic. These traits will be evident in both settings, and will encourage both my peers and my future students to set goals, and enjoy their journeys as they work toward their goals. My circuitous route to this point may have been a long time coming, but I am glad, because I would not have the insight I have now, had I not gone through so much to get here.

Sunday, February 21, 2010


When I first thought of keeping this blog about expectations for life and work, I really was thinking that so many people have no expectations - or they don't know how to articulate them. I actually forgot that many people have negative expectations, and they live their lives that way, and don't even realize it. This is a huge issue and I think it is only in my own optimistic denial that I didn't think of it as an issue at all.

It came to my attention in a big way this past week when I was in a classroom with preschool children. The students were of varying ages and some had emotional or physical diagnosis outside of the average preschooler. The staff in the classroom had been working with these kids since September, and clearly they were tired of some of the repetitive behaviors of some of the children. Let me make it clear that they did have the student's best interest in mind. I just think that they let their own emotions get in the way of the correct way of dealing with some of the kids.

They also may have needed additional training, for that matter. Maybe a reminder course with interactive lessons to get them to respond to the issues in fresh new ways.

We all need to remember that at one point or another this is something we need to face - shaking up our own routines benefits not only the students and those around us but gives us renewed energy.

But I digress!!

In the case of one student in particular, the teachers never once responded to him positively. I guess maybe this could possibly be something that they had determined was not appropriate for him (for example, maybe he couldn't learn that way bec/ of his diagnosis). However, no one prepped me for that so all I saw was negativity. Every action this child performed was pounced upon as if they were looking for bad behaviors. And you know, by the end of the class, this student was the only one who didn't get to be a "Super Star" on his behavior paper that he took home for mom.

Once our minds are 'tattooed' with negative thinking, our chances for long-term success diminish. ~John Maxwell