I found the way that Innovations Academy handles discipline fascinating — and I hope you did, too! Here are some interesting bits that didn’t make it into my article today:
• What does positive discipline look like in a kindergarten class? It can be pretty subtle: Teacher DeeDee Remington nudged a kindergartner to sit up during a lesson by saying, “Sticking your feet in somebody’s face — nobody likes that. Is that what you were trying to do?”
• San Diego Unified has been trying out a related method that focuses on teaching children good behaviors. It doesn’t necessarily let kids make the rules, like Innovations does, and it includes rewards, which Innovations avoids. But the idea is in a similar vein of redirecting behavior, rather than just punishing it. Dozens of schools are using the new methods and the plan is to expand them to the entire school district. Read our old article for more details.
• Erica Diamond, the second grade teacher at Innovations whose kids set a rule banning the phrase, “You smelt it, you dealt it,” said her kids are actually bigger enforcers of the rules than the adults are. And they are less ashamed to admit their mistakes: “They’ll walk up to me and say, ‘I hit somebody,’” Diamond said. “They want help solving it.”
• Jill Kerper Mora, a San Diego State University associate professor emerita who has taught classes about classroom management, found Innovations’ lack of rewards surprising, especially for younger students who sometimes have more trouble understanding more abstract ideas about discipline.
“I don’t think we should be afraid of rewards,” Mora said. “I think we should be afraid of tangible rewards where kids get the ideas they’re being bribed to behave. But recognizing children for positive behavior builds an intrinsic sense of the value of the behavior.”
To be clear, kids do get recognized at Innovations. Before second graders launched into their class council to mediate disputes, they gave and asked each other for compliments, for example. But the school frowns on “milkshakes and stickers,” as one school director put it.
• Want to know more about why some child experts think rewards and punishments are a bad idea? Alfie Kohn is the best known critic of praise. Want to hear some criticism of his ideas? Check out this blog by Dan Willingham.
— EMILY ALPERT