Monday, August 9, 2010

Revisiting Sammy from a non-RC background

Awhile ago I blogged about Responsive Classroom's new book, Sammy and His Behavior Problems. After reading it I quickly handed it over to my mom to read. She teaches second grade and although she is a fabulous teacher, she's never had RC training. I was curious to see what someone with no background in RC thought about the book.

My hypothesis had been that the book was a great intro for a teacher new to RC because while telling the story of one classroom, one teacher, and one student, it shows all the elements of RC at work.

I was right. My mother commented on the importance of the teacher's frequent praise, the 3 R's (remind, reinforce, redirect), teacher language, student/teacher behavior conferences, being a child watcher, as well as the academic activities the teacher put into place.

My mother noted that the book showed exactly how make frequent praise work in a busy classroom. As a teacher you know frequent praise is a good thing, but it can be difficult to remember to do with everything going on, and you don't want to end up giving empty praise. The book, my mother noted, shows exactly how to make it work in the classroom, particularly with a difficult student.

She found the journal entries throughout the book insightful. On page 85 the teacher asks, "What behaviors should I let go of? What behaviors should I stop?" She goes on to describe her thought process in identifying behaviors to ignore and behaviors to address. My mother found this not only a helpful description for teachers as a way to think about behaviors in the classroom, but also thought it would be beneficial when talking about behaviors with parents. It addresses the child as an individual, identifies the strengths, and looks at how to maximize the student's potential.

What my mother commented on the most was how Responsive Classroom clearly trains you to be a child-watcher, noticing children's individual strengths and taking note of exactly what piece of a task a child struggles with. She found the description of helping Sammie tackle writing, his weakest subject, very true to her experiences with bright children with attention problems. She noted how well the teacher used Sammy's strongest subject- math- to teach him strategies he could then apply in writing.

My mother and I talked on and on about the book, brainstorming ideas for putting RC into the classroom with morning meeting, academic choice, behavior conferences, and using teacher language. I could write forever about all of my mother's insights on the book. She plans to recommend it to teachers she works with.

Someone recently asked me which book they should start with to understand the RC philosophy. I was stuck- so many of them are great books, but so many of them are specific to one aspect of RC. Now that I've watched my mother's reaction to Sammy I think it might be the perfect place to start. it lets you see RC in action and then decide what aspects you want to learn more about.


Jen Audley said...

I'm so glad to hear that your mother appreciated Caltha's writing about teaching in Sammy and His Behavior Problems! We wanted it to be a book that would appeal to all sorts of elementary school educators, not just those who use the Responsive Classroom approach. Thanks for helping us know that we got it right!

Doing Differentiated Math said...

Just read your article about Erick in the RC newsletter-- a great piece done in the vein of the Sammy book. I'm so inspired!

organized chaos said...

Teacher M- thank you so much! I loved writing the article & I'm so glad you enjoyed it.