Re: teaching

First thought-do the kids have any break in their day, or are they going
from school to supervised homework sessions? If they've been in school all
day, and are then going to an afterschool program and expected to sit and be
quiet and do homework, you're asking for classroom management problems. If
the program isn't already structured this way, even giving an hour of
unstructured time to do various activities not-school related may make a
world of difference. I know that parents who have children in after school
programs want their child to get their homework done there, but honestly, 30
minutes of productive homework time will show more benefit than 90 minutes
of homework time with the kids dragging their feet-and your blood pressure
will be much lower in the former.

My favorite book for classroom management and how to talk kids through it is
"Teaching with Love and Logic". It's not a panacea, but it does give you a
lot of dialogues to use. My favorite "I'm available at X time (after the
child is on their time-like, say, during a play period or after school).
I'll be happy to discuss this with you then" whenever a child tries to argue
with you over anything, because this is most often a delaying tactic. It
almost always works, with a few repetitions (the infamous broken record
technique). I'd also suggest "The first days of school" although it's
probably too late to help this year (that one deals mostly with structuring
a group setting and teaching routines early, so they become automatic, which
leads to many fewer management problems).

What may work in the short term, since you're in the short term now, is some
sort of incentive program, preferably an activity incentive (avoid food
rewards like the plague, and if a child is above, oh, age 6 or so, most
non-food tangible reinforcers which are affordable for a group are likely to
be in the range that a child can buy with their allowance and therefore
aren't really desired). These tend to fade out over any long haul, but can
get the kids on task for at least a few weeks, by which time you may have
been able to teach some other routines and skills. Choices of small
reinforcers where everyone has a chance to earn something tend to work
better than a single big reinforcer over the long haul, and a child has to
have the opportunity to work and earn it back if it's lost-otherwise, one
bad day and you're back where you started.

Good luck. Classroom management is the hardest skill to master when
teaching, and it really can't be taught in advance. It's essentially
parenting a group, and like parenting, all the books in the world don't
prepare you for the reality-but once you've faced the reality, the books can
be a useful tool.

Donna DeVore Metler
Orff Music Specialist/Kindermusik
Mother to Angel Brian Anthony 1/1/2002, 22 weeks, severe PE/HELLP
And Allison Joy, 11/25/04 (35 weeks, PIH, Pre-term labor)