What to do with the Kid who…: Developing Cooperation, Self-Discipline, and Responsibility in the Classroom


Kay Burke

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  • Front Matter
  • Back Matter
  • Subject Index
  • Dedication

    I dedicate this book to my husband, Frank Burke; my mother, Lois Brown; the memory of my father, Bob Brown; and all the members of the Brown and Burke families.

    My family taught me the importance of cooperation, self-discipline, and responsibility long before I tried to instill these traits in my own students or write about them in this book.


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    I am a part of all that I have met.

    —From the poem “Ulysses”

    by Alfred Lord Tennyson

    This quotation by Tennyson describes how I feel about all the mentors who have had a profound influence on my life and the thousands of professionals with whom I have had the privilege to work throughout my 38 years in education.

    A cooperative environment where people feel free to share ideas is important for the classroom and for the creative process. I would like to thank my mentors Jim Bellanca and Robin Fogarty from the early days of SkyLight Training and Publishing for encouraging me to write this book in 1992. It was my first book, and their critiques helped me integrate current research and concrete examples to help teachers meet the challenges of creating a caring classroom community.

    Many outstanding instructors have taught university courses using this book. The instructors in the Effective Teaching Program of the New York System of United Teachers (NYSUT), the Field-Based Masters Program of Saint Xavier University in Illinois, and many other traditional and distance learning programs have helped teachers develop problem-solving strategies to manage their own classrooms effectively.

    I would also like to thank my own community of learners who have been a part of my professional journey working with classroom management strategies: Patsy Clark, Miriam Cotton, Hope Jordan, Ron Nash, Lorrie King, Sharon Kimmel, Kevin McIntyre, Steve Peist, Roz Brown, Susan Belgrad, Hillyn Sennholtz, Bob Basofin, Yvonne Stroud, and Patricia Jackson are just a few of the many people who inspire me every day with their commitment to helping teachers succeed in the cooperative classroom.

    Finally, I would like to thank Hudson Perigo, executive editor, and the team of Cassandra Harris, Lesley Blake, Eric Garner, Paula Fleming, and many others at Corwin Press as well as my personal team of Donna Ramirez and Susan Gray for their assistance and patience throughout this extensive and extended revision process.

    Hopefully, the theories, philosophies, and strategies included in this book will help educators and students develop a spirit of cooperation, respect, and responsibility that transcends the classroom and becomes an integral part of their daily lives.

    —Kay Burke

    November 2007

    The contributions of the following reviewers are gratefully acknowledged:

    Katy Olweiler, MA, MPA, NCC


    Lakeside School

    Seattle, WA

    Barbara R. Dowling, MAT, MS, MA

    Educator SD Teacher of the Year 2006

    Early Childhood Education

    Sioux Falls, SD

    Dr. Cheryl Fields-Smith

    Assistant Professor of Elementary Education

    University of Georgia

    Athens, GA

    Jennifer W. Ramamoorthi

    Professional Development School Coordinator

    CCSD 21/ Illinois State University

    Wheeling, IL

    Marjorie Bleiweis

    Conflict Resolution Specialist

    Fairfax County Public Schools

    Fairfax, VA

    Marguerite Lawler-Rohner

    Art Teacher

    2004 Maine Teacher of the Year

    Cape Elizabeth Middle School

    Cape Elizabeth, ME

    About the Author

    Kay Burke, PhD, is an award-winning teacher and author who taught at the middle school, high school, and university levels and served as a department chairperson, dean of students, mentor, and administrator. She was also the Director of the Field-Based Master's Program sponsored by SkyLight Professional Development and Saint Xavier University in Illinois. In 1992, she wrote the first edition of the book What to Do With the Kid Who… for the Positive Discipline Course in the Field-Based Master's Program. Since then she has trained teachers, coaches, mentors, and staff developers to facilitate classroom management courses for onsite university programs, online distance learning programs, and professional development workshops.

    Dr. Burke works with her colleagues at Kay Burke & Associates, LLC, to design and present professional development training to teachers and administrators in classroom management, mentoring, performance assessment, standards-based teaching, and portfolio development. She has presented at district, state, and national conferences such as ASCD, NSDC, NMSA, IRA, NAESP, NASSP, and IRA, as well as international conferences in Canada and Australia.

    Kay Burke is the coauthor of Foundations of Educational Assessment (in press for 2008) and coauthor of The Portfolio Connection: Student Work Linked to Standards, third edition published by Corwin Press. Other books written by Kay and published by Corwin Press include How to Assess Authentic Learning, fourth edition; Designing Professional Portfolios for Change; Mentoring Guidebook, Level 1: Starting the Journey, second edition; Mentoring Guidebook, Level 2: Exploring Teaching Strategies, and Tips for Managing Your Classroom.

    One of Kay's latest best-selling books, From Standards to Rubrics in Six Steps: Tools for Assessing Authentic Learning, K–8, was a 2007 Finalist for the Distinguished Achievement Award for Excellence in Educational Publishing presented by the Association of Educational Publishers.

  • Epilogue: What to do with the Class that …: Conducting Class Meetings to Address Problems

    When all the Students Misbehave

    Sound familiar? Who has not experienced a class where “controlled chaos” is the order of the day?

    In the traditional classroom, teachers might utilize the Obedience Model and punish the whole class by revoking a privilege (“Okay, we won't be going on our field trip to the zoo on Friday.”) or by threatening (“That's it—if I hear one more word, the whole class will have to diagram all 50 sentences tonight for homework!”). Teachers also sometimes resort to subtle forms of punishment such as, “Okay class, I see we are not mature enough to handle our activity today. Let's separate our desks, take out our ditto packets, and answer all the even problems. The packets must be turned in before you go home.”

    A more effective way for teachers to handle whole-class disruptions is to hold a class meeting to discuss what the problems are, brainstorm solutions, redefine or reset rules as needed, set class goals, and build consensus. Class meetings are designed as a forum for the entire class to discuss general classroom procedures or classroom problems. According to Epanchin, Townsend, and Stoddard (1994), topics for the meeting can be brought up by students or the teacher. The primary focus of the class meeting is on group dynamics within the classroom—not on improving academic achievement. The outcome of the meeting could be to redesign a class procedure, rule, or consequence that doesn't seem to be working. However, “the real purpose of class meetings is to build a sense of community within the class” (p. 214). The scenario below demonstrates how a class meeting can be effective in solving problems.

    The T-chart the class reviews is shown in Figure E.1.

    Figure E.1 T-Chart: Cooperation
    Behavior Checklists

    Students need to review the classroom procedures, rules, and consequences as well as the cooperative group rules and social skills on a periodic basis. It would be naive for teachers to assume that teaching the social skills once in September is enough to embed them firmly in students’ minds until June.

    As mentioned in the class meeting outlined above, groups can use checklists to monitor their social skills in the classroom. In the Group Observation Checklists shown in figures E.2 and E.3, one member of the group acts as the observer, recording the targeted social skills the other group members exhibit.

    Figure E.2 Group Observation Checklist for Social Skills

    Figure E.3 Group Observation Checklist for Social Skills Template

    Class Checklists

    In addition to introducing the T-chart and student-initiated behavior checklists to the classroom, teachers might want to monitor appropriate classroom behavior with a Class Behavior Checklist (see Figure E.4) to get a feel for where the breakdown of rules is occurring. Several types of observation checklists can be used to monitor areas in which the whole class needs help or areas in which specific students are weak. The checklists also can be used as documentation for school referrals or parent conferences. A Class Behavior Checklist template is provided in Figure E.5.

    Behavior checklists provide concrete documentation at a glance. Some teachers prefer to make a “check” whenever they witness the behavior. Any blanks on the checklists would, therefore, indicate a deficiency in the student's behavior.

    Other teachers find it less time-consuming and more efficient to document only those students who are having problems. By focusing on the target behaviors and the students with problems, teachers address those specific behaviors immediately, early in the year, or whenever a series of violations occurs.

    If teachers notice that many of the students are violating one or more of the rules or social skills, it is time to take class action by addressing the problem as a whole group rather than addressing the problem individually with every student who violates the rule.

    Group Checklists

    Behavior checklists also can be used by cooperative groups to monitor group behavior (see Figure E.6). Groups fill in the targeted behaviors in the columns and assess how they did individually and as a group after each activity, at the end of each day, or at the end of the week. One person in the group can ask the group members how they think they did on the checklist, or each member can rate himself.

    By taking time to process their own behaviors, students in a group can reflect on the importance of practicing social skills and learn how to achieve academic goals by interacting effectively with others. A Group Behavior Checklist template that teachers can give to their students is offered in Figure E.7.

    For teachers to help their students develop cooperation, self-discipline, and responsibility in the classroom, they have to empower them to self-regulate their own behavior. Sometimes, however, the teacher needs to monitor the behavior and offer gentle reminders to get the students back on track.

    Figure E.4 Class Behavior Checklist

    Figure E.5 Class Behavior Checklist Template

    Figure E.6 Group Behavior Checklist Template

    Figure E.7 Group Behavior Checklist Template

    Final Thoughts

    Because of high-profile incidents of school violence in the last 20 years, many communities have allocated tremendous resources to protect their children in schools. More and more schools, even at the elementary levels, are installing metal detectors, searching students’ lockers, and hiring police as hall guards. Students who write about violence in essays or stories, or who are heard talking about committing acts of revenge or violence, are immediately referred to school administrators or law enforcement. While some parents and educators feel that they can control student behavior and prevent possible violence through these external means, others feel that the message being sent to kids is “we don't trust you.”

    Toxic Schools

    Hyman and Snook (2000) describe schools that rely solely on fear and intimidation tactics as toxic. “Toxic schools” are those where autocratic leadership focuses on punishment. Hyman and Snook state that the “intensifying and automatic use of punishment, as opposed to prevention of misbehavior and violence in schools, makes the schoolhouse toxic for many children” (p. 491). According to Hyman and Snook, too many poisonous practices by administrators and teachers are harming the emotional, academic, and physical health of children. In these authoritarian schools, the “Obedience Model” is used as a means to keep students in line. External controls, such as detentions, referrals, low grades, removal of privileges, suspensions, metal detectors, and searches of students and lockers, may act as deterrents when authority figures are supervising. However, the real question should be, How will a child act when no authority figures are present?

    Democratic Schools

    The alternative to toxic schools is what Hyman and Snook (2000) describe as “Democratic Schools.” They state:

    In contrast to toxic schools, [Democratic] schools that encourage participatory democracy are characterized by a climate in which students and staff members understand the need to respect one another's rights.… They provide students with a sense of shared responsibility with the school staff for assuring the safety of all.

    Further, these schools will encourage students to participate in democracy when they become adults. (pp. 491–492)

    Democratic schools, moreover, reinforce the “Responsibility Model,” which encourages students to develop an internal locus of control. Students behave because it is the right thing to do and because they respect the rights of others—not because they are following orders or being watched! This idea is echoed by Johnson and Johnson (1995), who believe that educators cannot concentrate on the extrinsic manifestations of violence without also addressing the intrinsic needs of students that are not being met and that are causing them to “act out.” Prevention requires a long-term commitment to a variety of programs to identify student needs.

    Democratic Classrooms

    Individual classrooms can also be labeled on a scale as either toxic or democratic or somewhere in the middle. Democratic teachers share in the decision-making process with students. They believe that involving students in the process of establishing expectations, addressing behavior problems, and participating in class meetings not only honors and respects the dignity of the students but also lays the foundation for a healthy classroom climate. Students in democratic classrooms tend to cooperate more with the teacher and each other. They tend to share responsibility, take more ownership for their behavior, feel empowered to make some choices in their learning, and empathize with others. Each student's emotional intelligence is valued as much as her academic intelligence. Students respect authority figures and their peers, and, most important, they respect themselves. They also feel good about themselves because their teachers, and hopefully their classmates, have provided them with the encouragement and support that is sometimes missing from their home life.

    Internal Locus of Control

    As students go through life, there will be times when the teacher is absent, the parents are out of town, or the boss is on vacation. Students who develop an internal locus of control through the Responsibility Model learn to respect themselves and others and will usually do the right thing, sometimes after some reflective soul-searching. Responsible students are better able to regulate their own behavior, self-evaluate their actions, and live up to their own expectations and the expectations of the people they love and respect. They are independent thinkers who will make mistakes but who are capable of facing the consequences of their actions.

    As Glasser (1986) observes, the role of educators is not to coerce students into behaving but instead to teach and model interpersonal skills, ethics, and etiquette to empower students to make appropriate choices. Students who are capable of developing cooperation, self-discipline, and responsibility in the classroom will be better prepared to assume the responsibilities associated with being a good citizen in life. Hopefully, the theories, research, and strategies provided in this book will help educators develop their own philosophies, problem-solving strategies, and action plans when faced with the dilemma of What to Do With the Kid Who.…


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