The adventures of a fourth grade teacher in East Central Illinois.

Expectations and Procedures

Almost a year ago from today, I wrote about establishing rules of procedure for my new class. The focus was on establishing expectations and identifying routines for the classroom. Throughout the year, I worked on different strategies to help my class be successful in meeting expectations and following routines. Some days we had great success in this, while other days were huge struggles. But we worked together, we learned, and we survived.

This year I wanted to apply what I had learned over the past year, what I had read in professional books, journals, and magazines, and what I had discussed in workshops and conferences. I wanted the year to start off with a bang so that we would have a high standard of excellence to live up to.

If today was any indicator, the bar has been set about as high as can be!

We set our classroom expectations yesterday. Using our PBIS foundation of being safe, responsible, and respectful, the students decided our expectations should include being kind, keeping hands, feet, and other objects to ourselves, telling the truth, paying attention, treating others the way we would like to be treated, and working together. (Sadly, there is no expectation related to defenestration or conflagration this year, but I am sure it will come up in conversation, anyway.)

With the expectations for the classroom set, we began practicing expectations for other parts of the building, especially in the hallways, restrooms, and coming in from recess. Last year I learned about a teacher strategies called “do it again.” The strategy is simple: if we expect excellent from our students, we need to give them opportunities to practice and do it again until they can do it right. (As an aside, Effectiveness Training says we should not use words like “right” or “wrong” because those assign labels to behaviour. I respectfully disagree with values-neutral language and believe that students benefit from knowing that there are behaviours that our society believes are correct and others that are incorrect.) I really feel that modeling the expectations, rehearsing them, modeling them again, and giving the class ample opportunities to demonstrate mastery has been a key to their success in exceeding expectations.

As a result of our practice, the boys and girls were totally prepared for out Boot Camp review of building-wide expectations. The fourth grade is partnered with a member of the building support staff–in this case our school social worker–who took them around the building to talk about expectations in the hallways, in the restrooms, in the lunchroom, during assemblies, and on the playground. They nailed them, and in a most definitely non-ironic way! My students know the expectations and they showed that they could go above and beyond when it comes to meeting them.

For the benefit of the parents, friends, and family members who are (hopefully) reading this blog now, I’d like to share  an email that our social worker sent to the principal to brag on my class:

I did boot camp with Valencic’s room this afternoon and he and they rocked!  The class had strong routines, followed them easily.  Really well done!

I have told my class several times each day that they are awesome and that I expect them to set the standard for awesome in our building. I have already seen that they have it within them to be great, and I am going to remind them of this every day. After all, they are awesome!

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