The Responsive Classroom: A Practical Approach for Teaching Children to CareBy Teachers.Net Resources
From the archives
By Dr. Belinda Gimbert, Teacher Educator
Approaching issues of classroom management and discipline is much more than what teachers do when children break rules and misbehave. Rather than simply reacting to problems, we need to establish an ongoing social curriculum, we need to encourage children to participate in community, we need to teach self-control, and most importantly, we need to accept the potential of children to learn these things and the potential of teachers to teach them.
Helping children learn to take better care of themselves, of each other, and of their classroom is not a waste of instructional time. It’s the most enduring task that teachers do and Ruth Charney’s book, Teaching Children to Care (revised June, 2002) establishes the educational practice and the classroom routines that help teachers accomplish this task with intention.
From Section I, chapter 1:
The word DISCIPLINE is derived from the Latin root disciplina, meaning learning. It needs to be associated positively with acts and feats of learning rather than negatively with punishing. Teaching discipline requires two fundamental elements: empathy and structure. Empathy helps us “know” the child, to perceive his/her needs, to hear what s/he is trying to say. Structure allows us to set guidelines and provide necessary limits. Effective, caring discipline requires both empathy and structure.
- Creation of self-control
- Creation of community
Creation of self-control
We need to strive for the creation of self-control in children. It is the first purpose of classroom management. This purpose is summed up by a quote from John Dewey in his pamphlet Experience and Education, first published in 1938. Dewey writes, “The ideal aim of education is creation of the power of self-control” (Dewey, 1963, p. 64).
Charney (2002) identifies “power” as the key word in Dewey’s quote. Power, says Dewey, is the ability to “frame purposes, to judge wisely…” (Dewey, 1963, p. 64). The power of self-control is the power to assert oneself in a positive way. It involves the capacities to regulate oneself, to anticipate consequences, and to give up an immediate gratification to realize a long-term goal. It includes the ability to make and carry out a plan, to solve a problem, to think of a good idea and act on it, to sift alternatives, to make decisions. For children, it is the ability to enter a new group and say hello, to make new friends, to choose activities, and to hold fast to inner thoughts and beliefs. It isn’t innate power, says Dewey, but one that is “created.”
Creation of community
In today’s world, it is particularly urgent that we extend beyond the domain of self and the lessons of self-control. We need to find connections to others and to feel ourselves members of many groups — intimate groups, community groups, and a world group. These connections and responsibilities need to be taught as well. We need to teach children to care as well as to receive care. We must help them learn to contribute, and want to contribute.
Belonging to a group means being needed as well as to need, and believing that you have something vital to contribute. Every child can contribute care for others in many ways — by listening with attention and responding with relevance, by showing concern for the feelings and viewpoints of others, by developing a capacity for empathy.
Consequently, the best methods, the most carefully planned programs, the most intriguing classroom centers, and the most exciting and delicious materials are useless without [continue reading on page 2]