So I’ve been thinking I want this blog to become about more than just my opinions on teaching and education, about more than just my experiences in education, maybe more about being a whole person something kids so frequently can’t believe. To that end on Fridays a few times a month I’ll be posting Friday Free Time posts talking about things I do or have done in my free time. The idea came to me as I sat crocheting last night. Seeing as several schools I’ve worked in have had FFT for their students I wanted to address that first though.
Year after year I’ve seen teachers have a free time, choice time, extra recess time on Friday or the last day of the week for students who made good choices throughout the week. While I can go with this idea it’s the fact that the time is there to be lost rather than earned that bothers me. I should be honest and say I’m guilty of doing this myself. My tech classes have the chance to earn a game day during technology by filling in the keys on the “Golden Keyboard” I copied a keyboard worksheet on ivory card stock, there is one for each class up on the wall in my room. Our school mascot is the Knights, we talk to students about “Showing your Shield” being respectful, responsible, honest, and safe. Routinely the principal reviews what it means to show your shield in various places in the school over the announcements in the morning. To go with this I put the letters S H I E L D up next to the golden keyboards, as classes have trouble following directions or responding to the quiet signal I take letters away. At the end of class however many letters remain I color in that many keys on their keyboard. I’ve fallen into the same old habits I’ve always seen and experienced even though I don’t like them, so I’m going to be changing my routine.
Maybe I should start by sharing why I don’t like this method. Students can quickly lose their free time early in the week, or in the case of my classes take a lot longer to get to game day when they lose letters. This can lead to them becoming rapidly discouraged and thinking “what’s the point?”, if they lose their Friday free time on Tuesday what’s the encouragement to continue to do homework or behave? Yes they could get into further trouble but often these are the kids that need that free time and seem to care less when they do get sent to the office. The sole year I taught fifth grade I had a student whose mother told him in September he couldn’t play basketball that year because of his behavior, the season didn’t start until late October. Fortunately the principal sat down with her and talked her out of it.
I think what’s needed is a change in handling. Many teachers now keep marble jars and only add never subtract those marbles and when the jar is full the class gets a reward. I think I need to take this approach with my class awarding them letters for the word SHIELD rather than taking them away, and then maybe bonus letters as well for things like leaving their computers neat with all parts put away correctly and chairs pushed in. For Friday free time, instead of taking away time for homework not done, let’s award time for the homework that is done. Everyone starts the week with zero minutes and earns their free time throughout the week so they always have another chance to earn a few minutes, maybe this switch in thinking is what some children need to get motivated. Catch that one particular child who struggles with behavior being really good, award them a minute or two, see a child help another award them a minute. Yes definitely time for me to rethink my golden keyboards and do a switch up when we get back from break next week. I want my classroom to be a positive place not a negative one and I want my students to feel responsibility for their successes and behavior. Time to work out my new strategy. I’ll share more details when I figure them out and then after I implement it for a week or two I’ll share how it’s going.