Behavior Management: Respect & Dignity

I always prided myself on my classroom and behavior management skills.  My students were generally well behaved; special area teachers (art, music, PE, etc) often told me my class was the best behaved of any that they taught.  Other teachers asked me for classroom management advice, and I could tell them exactly what to do and what researcher developed the idea.  Administrators encouraged new teachers and student teachers to observe my class and adopt my classroom discipline plan.

At different times, I used the behavior stop light with clips, employed a reflective discipline log, or had students move their colored strip.  There were marble jars, paper link chains, and reward parties.  We crafted classroom rules together and strictly stuck to them.

Looking back, I had it all wrong.

Sure, my students followed directions.  They didn’t cause problems for substitute teachers and were model citizens in the cafeteria.  Each one knew that choices led to consequences: good or bad.

I’ve come to realize that my students were generally obedient because of the structures that I put in place, not because they were really developing their own senses of self-discipline and regulation.  Dare I say it?  They were scared of consequences, and some of them were probably scared of me.  Wow, I didn’t always treat them with respect and dignity.

I’ve been reading a good deal lately about teachers who are ditching their behavior charts and reward systems.  I think that they may be on to something.  Each have their own reasons, but the one that speaks to me most comes from Miss Night’s Marbles:

 A child’s dignity, privacy, self-respect are no less real or important or valid, than mine. When I undermine a child’s privacy and dignity, I do damage to their relationships: with their peers, with me, and with themselves. Yes, behaviour charts can create a classroom full of raised hands, quiet voices, walking feet, please-and-thank-yous.  But a child’s dignity is too high a price to pay for criss-cross-applesauce.

 Yes!  That says it all.  We can all go home now.

I hope that you will take a look at some of these other posts about classroom management, both via Miss Night’s Marbles.

Too High a Price: Why I Don’t Do Behaviour Charts

Behaviour Management: Not Systems, But Relationships

Possible Connections to Georgia’s PreK
Managing a classroom of four-year-olds is a challenging affair!  We all try our best to do it successfully, using our knowledge from college coursework or advice from the teacher down the hall.  In Best Practices trainings, we emphasize the importance of dignity and respect by including information on Becky Bailey’s Conscious Discipline.  The links above, while not related to Conscious Discipline, may help you shape your perspective on behavior management into a more developmentally appropriate plan for four-year-olds.

Possible GELDS Connections
SED3.4a Independently follows rules and routines.
SED3.4b Regulates own emotions and behaviors, and seeks out adult support when needed.
SED3.4c Regulates a wide range of impulses.
SED3.4d Manages transitions and adapts to changes in schedules and routines independently.
SED4.4a Transitions well into new, unfamiliar settings.
SED4.4b Uses a familiar adult’s suggestions to decide how to respond to a specific situation.
SED4.4c Shows affection to familiar adults by using more complex words and actions.
SED4.4d Seeks out adults as a resource for help and assistance.
SED5.4a Develops and maintains friendships with other children.
SED5.4b Plays cooperatively with a few peers for a sustained period of time.
SED5.4c Attempts to resolve peer conflicts using appropriate strategies.
SED5.4d Shows emerging empathy and understanding of peers by attempting to comfort and help.
SED5.4e Shows respect for peers’ personal space and belongings.


I train Georgia PreK teachers and dabble a bit in the art of blogging. Have an idea for a blog post? Email me at On the web: Facebook: Twitter: @bestpracticespk

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