Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Who is the Chairman today?

This is a question we ask the twins almost everyday. "Who is the Chairman today? Vice-chairman?". Yes, our twins, our 4 year old Asher & Shawna twins. You see, this year, the twins have wonderful Teacher Yani as their teacher in their Learning Vision childcare, and she has these very neat ways of encouraging the the kids to behave themselves, and urge them towards being responsible, kind and helpful.

I first heard of this Chairman business one day after school, when I was fetching the twins back home. As I was driving, I heard Asher and Shawna talking to each other and my ears picked up the words "Chairman" and "Vice-Chairman". Apparently, Asher was the Vice-Chairman that day, and Shawna was going to be the Chairman the next day! I was intrigued! Shawna also said she was a Superstar! and Asher said he was Rockin', but I couldn't make head or tail from anything much.
Behaviour Ladder to encourage good behaviour and discourage bad behaviour. Ingenious!

So when I sent them to school the next day, I looked around their classroom and saw this on the wall. I'm not sure what Teacher Yani calls it, but I call it the Behaviour Ladder. The pictures of all the kids in class were laminated, with blue tack on their backs and could be shifted around. From what I gather from the twins and from Teacher Yani over the past few months, this is how it works:
  • Everyday, everyone child starts at the level Ready to Learn, it's like a neutral position.
  • If a child behaves well, he is rewarded by an upward shift - he or she can move their picture to a level higher. 
  • Good behaviour includes being helpful to their friends, eating their meals on their own, keeping toys on their own without being told to do so, etc
  • If a child misbehaves, the child's photo will be brought down a number of levels, depending on the severity of their misbehaviour, and whether they apologised or are repentant (or not!)
  • Misbehaviour includes snatching, fighting, pushing etc
  • Children who reach Superstar will become the Chairman and Vice-Chairman the next day. If there are more than 2 children who reach Superstar that day, Teacher Yani will take note and the kids will take turns to be Chairman over the next few days.
I loved this system! Love love love! Firstly, I love the labels! Above the neutral position of Ready to Learn, there are 4 levels - Good, Rockin', Fabulous and Superstar! Frankly they all sound good to me, and that's great! Because, what we want, is for the kids to be encouraged to behave well, but it doesn't sound good to have obvious delineations like the traditional "Good, Very Good, Excellent." reminiscent of the "Good, Better, Best" comparison. To me, as long as a child is above the neutral position of Ready to Learn, I feel that that is good, as that means that the child has tried.

Secondly, it's great that everyone, even the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the day, all start at the neutral Ready to Learn at the start of every day. This means, even the kids who misbehaved the previous day, have a chance to start anew the next day. That is great! Indirectly, it teaches that everyone should have a chance to start afresh. That we shouldn't bear grudges of what happened in the past, but move on, and strive hard for the future.

Thirdly, if you look at the negative levels, it goes from "Warning" to "Cool Down" to "Office Referral". I thought it was interestingly but aptly worded. If you misbehave, you are given a Warning. They did not label the child as "Bad" or "Worst" - that is putting labels on a child, on his person. Instead, in this case, "Warning" is a state - "You have been warned... to stop the bad behaviour,  to behave well instead.". Then you have to heed the Warning, to stop the bad behaviour, and to apologise - if the situation calls for it. But if you continue in your bad behaviour and/or continue throwing a tantrum then you may be downgraded further to "Cool Down." Again, there are no aspersions cast on a child by calling him humiliating names like "Horrible Hothead" or "Most Naughtiest Child in Class". But because "Cool Down" is below "Warning" in the chart, the children instinctively know that the lower you get... is not good. And the last position is "Office Referral."

I laughed and ask Shawna and Asher "What does Office Referral mean? What happens if you go to Office Referral?" Their eyes widened and they solemnly shook their heads "No good, no good. Don't go Office." I pressed on "But why? What happens when you go to Office? You have to see Teacher Jamie? (who is the Principal of the school.)" "Mummy, if very bad, Teacher Yani go Office and tell Teacher Jamie. then she call Mummy Daddy!" they almost wailed at that. This was hilarious, it brought tears to my eyes. 
Many Superstars in school on this day! :)
And so it became a daily ritual for me, that everyday, when I went to pick up the twins, I will pop into their classroom to see where they ended up that day on the ladder. On the days that I forgot to do so, I would ask them and they would tell me. Asher would happily proclaim that he was Rockin' that day, or Fabulous, or Superstar and he was going to be Vice Chairman the next day. Shawna too, will report accordingly, unless she threw a tantrum that day and was reduced to Warning. She would quickly tell me that after she was reduced to Warning, she slowly but steadily worked her way up to Rockin' by the end of the day. 

When the kids misbehave badly, especially if they fought or hurt another child, Teacher Yani would whatsapp me to inform me. We would then make sure we ask the kids what were they that day, and especially if they were reduced to Warning or even Cool Down. We would then coax them to tell us what happened in school and we would talk to them to make sure they learnt why the behaviour they exhibited was not good, and why they shouldn't do it again. 

Oh! We also asked the kids what the Chairman and Vice-Chairman do? Apparently, they would be the Teachers' Helpers that day. And, amongst other duties, they get to help erase the white board, and it is their duty to remind their classmates to be quiet, if they are too noisy. So, being a Chairman is like being a Prefect, or a Class Monitor, in Primary or Secondary school. When we first learnt of this, we thought it was a bit premature to use this system on 3 plus 4 year olds like the twins and their classmates - but we were wrong, it worked very well indeed. 

What I like about this system, is also how it rewards the child for good behaviour without giving candy, or stickers, or any other tangible things. Instead, what it gives the child is an intrinsic want to behave better, and be proud of themselves for behaving well. This is far more invaluable than any prize can be. And best of all, all the kids benefit from this!
Well behaved kids &amp - Ready to Learn!
In the past, when we ask the kids "How was school? Were you good today?" we hardly got any response. Admittedly, these were very vague questions and even adults would be hard pressed to answer these questions in a meaningful way. But now, we ask questions that the twins can relate to and reply. So this has become our daily conversation with the twins. We would ask "Who's the Chairman today?' and they would tell us. Isaac loves to ask "Who went to Warning today?" and the twins would tell us too. I would ask "Oh how come they went to Warning? What happened?" And they would tell us what happened. Hubbs and I would ask them if what their friends did was correct, and they would know, "Oh he should not fight, right? Must be gentle." 

Every day when I pop in to see the end-of-day Behaviour Ladder, I am pleased to see that, most of the time, Asher & Shawna would be in either Rockin', Fabulous, or SuperStar. They also seem to be appointed Chairman or Vice-Chairman on a regular basis. What a ingenious way to encourage good behaviour! :) Perhaps I should see if I can adopt this for home use!

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