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Teacher’s Corner: How a Classroom Behavior System can Promote Collaboration and Acceptance of Self and Others

By Kindergarten Teacher Lauren Kurstin, LMFT, M.S. Ed.

Envision a place where each person feels motivated to meet his or her own individualized goals…a place where people know and embrace individual differences and work together to accomplish their group-created community goals.  Now imagine that place is…a kindergarten classroom at the Gordon School.  My students walk into school each morning embracing their individual and collective goals. Where do these goals come from? Allow me to explain…

At the beginning of the year, students work together to create a list of community goals. Examples include “using kind words” and “helping each other clean up after center time.”  The children work together to accomplish their classroom goals and earn a coin every time they collaborate throughout the day. These coins accumulate and lead to a classroom celebration (who doesn’t love popcorn and movies?!)! This party sends the message that hard work and the ability to cooperate with each other pays off! In addition to community goals, personal goals are equally as vital. After getting to know each student in the beginning of the year, I sit down with every child separately to help him or her create individual goals. Examples include “remembering to bring his/her folder into the classroom in the morning,” to “counting down from 10 when he/she feels out of control of his/her anger.”  Johnny knows that his goals will usually be very different from Benny’s goals, and Benny’s goals will be different from Jessica’s goals, because we are all individuals who have diverse strengths as well as areas for improvement.

As the year goes on, various individual goals are added or tweaked for each student. As students achieve goals, they feel a sense of accomplishment and look forward to creating new goals! Students have their own personally decorated wallets where they keep the coins they earn, and every Friday they visit the classroom treasure box, or choose a reward (e.g. bring a stuffed animal to school or wear bedroom slippers for the day), to recognize that they are working diligently toward their objectives.
The students know that we are all always working toward being the best we can be! Having said that, perfection is not the
aim here…awareness is.  This system has not only contributed to each individual student’s confidence and drive, but also it has opened each child’s eyes to love and accept others…I mean, when’s the last time you heard of five-year-olds clapping for their peers’ achievements? That’s a daily occurrence in our kindergarten classroom.

My students know I only ask that they try their best each and every day. All I can say is, they make me extremely proud.

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