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

The Power of the Hat

Teachers do silly things from time to time.

I know, shocker, right?

But seriously, bear with me. In my building alone, here are some of the sillier things that have happened during the past four years and a month that I have taught at Wiley:

  • Duct Tape Divas – Several of the teachers in the Primary hall dress up in crazy costumes made primarily with duct tape when we have our Coyote Colleges (school-wide assemblies) to keep students focused on them.
  • Duct-Taping a teacher to the wall – During my first year, our school-wide incentive for positive behaviour was that we allowed the students to tape one of our teachers to the wall in the gym. Then we left her up there for a crazy long time while we finished an assembly.
  • Dunk Tank – During my second year, we had a dunk tank as the incentive for student behaviour. Teachers were placed in the tank and students took turns hurling a softball at a target so that they could soak their teachers.
  • Shaving my head (twice!) – During my third year, I grew my hair out until the students had read over 1,000,000 minutes! Then it all got shaved off. During my fourth year, I grew my hair out again so that we could encourage students to do 1,000,000 math problems. (We reached half the goal and therefore shaved off only half of my hair.)
  • Tutu Fridays – Our kindergarten teachers wear tutus on Fridays. Just because.
  • Colour Run – For two years now, our end-of-the-year celebration has been a colour run which has resulted in students and teachers getting covered in multi-coloured cornstarch.
  • Singing Songs – Lots of teachers will sing silly songs to teach routines and procedures and expectations to the students.

And that is just the tip of the iceberg! Seriously, if it is going to get the students engaged and excited, we will probably do it!

Then there are the other silly things that we do just for ourselves. Because my hair is still relatively short, I have started wearing my fedoras to school. (I can’t wear them when my hair is longer because hats mess up my Naturally Curly Hair™ (note: not actually trademarked). The first time I wore my hat was on a Friday and I decided to wear it all day long. The following Monday I decided to wear my hat only when we were going outside or when I was meeting with a small group.

That’s the silly thing. I told the students that my hat was a signal that they were not allowed to interrupt me when it was on my head unless they were bleeding, vomiting, on fire, or dying. If a student came to me while I was wearing my fedora and s/he was not experiencing one of the four previously-mentioned conditions, I would simply point to the hat, shrug, and continue what I was doing.

Photo on 9-14-15 at 5.58 PM

Here’s the crazy thing: It has worked! Even my students who were the most notorious for interrupting me have stopped trying to ask me questions when they see a fedora on my head. (One of them will even mutter to herself, “Oh, nuts, he’s wearing the hat again! I’ll just have to wait!”

Here’s another silly thing: Sometimes I take the hat off because my head is itching. When a student sees this, s/he may start to come over to ask me a question, but then I put the fedora back on and what happens? That students says, “Oh, I guess I can’t talk to him yet!”

The other crazy thing: It still works! And today I saw an additional component to my students’ responses when I was working with a small group. Instead of just sitting in his/her seat doing nothing when s/he was stuck, the student would quietly, respectfully ask a classmate for help! (This is one of our classroom expectations and I was thrilled to see it in action!)

So now that I know that my totally silly “I feel like wearing a hat today” decision has turned into a wonderful classroom management tool, I find myself wanting to get a couple more fedoras. I only have two right now and, honestly, one of them is more of a summer hat. (That’s another silly thing, I know.) But in the meantime, I will continue to keep my black pinstriped fedora here at school so I can plop it on my head whenever I am working with an individual student or a small group! Because hey: if it works, it works!



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