February 7, 2013 by sarahmortonisp
Outbursts. They’re frustrating, they’re distracting, they’re disruptive, and, according to 30+ year elementary school teacher Marti Schwartz, “Any teacher can be suddenly derailed by outrageous behavior,” and many times “we respond as human beings rather than wise educators.”
Contrary to popular belief, Marti claims that offering students rewards such as stickers or other prizes was “often self-defeating” because it didn’t lead to her students “developing internal pride in work well done”.
Marti found that encouraging positive behavior and having students write down their problems (later to be discussed calmly and asked “What happened?” and “What should I do next time?”) worked much better. “There are always problems” Marti claimed, “but I can honestly say that there were far less after I taught myself to always begin by looking for the positive. ”
Instead of reprimanding children immediately, or holding stickers or candy over their heads; a teacher should be patient and try to figure out why there was a problem.
This reminds me of a behavior technique B. F. Skinner–most famous for his “Skinner Box”–came up with: shaping. Shaping, as according to David G. Meyers’ 6th edition Psychology book, is “an operant conditioning procedure in which reinforcers guide behavior toward closer and closer approximations of a desired goal.” A reinforcer being “any event that strengthens the behavior it follows”, positive reinforcers are a much more positive method of dealing with outbursts than punishment–which, also according to Myers, does not get rid of behavior altogether and can “evoke undesired responses, such as anger, fear, or resistance.” “Punished behavior is not forgotten;” Myers asserts, “it is suppressed.”