Life in the Trenches

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Life in the Trenches

A substitute teacher shared with us a successful experience relating to positive interactions between teacher and student. The experience illustrates how the substitute teacher decided that the actions of a crying student were "inconsequential" and then "fixed" the problem by rewarding the student's appropriate behavior.

I had a long term sub assignment for the beginning of the school year as a PE teacher. There was this one child who would just cry and cry anytime there was a transition or a change. The first week she did not come to PE because she was crying too much. The second week she came but didn't participate at first - she just stood on the side and cried. When she stopped crying and ran after the ball I gave her a super star sticker and thanked her for participating and I told her I was sure she would have fun. The third week, there were no tears and she played the whole time - she even smiled!!

I think that since I ignored the crying and focused on her when she stopped that it helped out a bunch. She still cries (in the fourth week) when she goes to music, computers and the library [where the teachers] tell her she needs to stop crying and be quiet and so on. They are focusing on stopping the "bad/wrong" while I focused on the good and her participation in class and ignored the crying and lack of participation.

On average teachers only recognize 2% of all appropriate behavior in a classroom. They are two to three times more likely to recognize inappropriate behavior. Research shows that strengthening desirable behavior through positive reinforcement, rather than trying to weaken undesirable behavior using averse or negative processes, does more to make a positive environment than any other single skill.

Try it out in your own home and office environment. Negative and corrective interactions should be outnumbered by positive interactions. A ratio of 1 negative to 8 positive interactions is recommended. Take time to notice a good behavior, and be sincere in your comment, smile, or nod. If you should follow a positive statement with a conjunction, such as ..."but"...or ..."however," then you are negating whatever you said that was positive. That doesn't count as one of your eight positive interactions. This is more of a challenge than you realize but I know you won't expect anything from your substitute teachers that you can't do.

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