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Time Out!

Recently a friend had me over for lunch and she let me look through her books in case I wanted to borrow something.  One of the books I chose was 123 Magic by Thomas Phelan.  Nothing in this book was new to me.  I have taken Responsive Classroom courses and am well-versed in positive reinforcement and classroom control, but reviewing the concepts I already know really helped my teaching this week.  I can't wait to share what I reviewed.

Time Out!
The concept of time out is a very simple one.  When a child's behavior is out of control, they have a cooling down time in a safe place with no adult attention.  After the time out (usually the number of minutes that corresponds to the number of years of age for the child), the child is welcomed back into the class.  For very young children (2-4 years old), they may need a hug and reassuring review of why they were in time out after the event.  This is not usually appropriate for school-age children.  If a school-age child seems to be constantly timing out and not knowing why they are being timed out, a discussion at the end of music class is useful.  Again, I only have to do this with young pre-schoolers or possibly children on the Autism spectrum.

Here's the Montessori approach.  Same basic idea.

Two Rules 
There are two rules to discipline of bad behavior that are hard and fast.  Remember these rules and you will retain your sanity and keep your temper in the face of poor behavior from students. 

Rule #1: Emotionally Neutral
If  you are getting annoyed, angry, or frustrated, chances are you have let a student's behavior deteriorate over time.  The trick to keeping discipline is to begin counting the behavior BEFORE you begin to get peeved.  As soon as..... 
  • Amy begs for a turn after being told not to
  • Joe keeps touching his friend after being reminded not to
  • Nate refuses to change circle spots 
  • Isabella pouts because she didn't get a turn
You say and/or hold up a finger.  "That's 1."  
No emotion, no drama.  You are simply stating a fact.  If Joe continues touching his friend after a few seconds, "That's 2."  Now you might want to change Joe's circle spot.  Refusing to change?  "That's 3, time out for 5 minutes, Joe."  You can keep a very pleasant tone throughout.  He was warned and counted down.  The whole thing didn't disrupt your class.  

What if Joe refuses to time out?  You can: ignore him for a few seconds.  You can remind him that it is not a long time.  You can have his classroom teacher come get him or call for back-up (administrator) to get him to time out.  Letting it go is not an option.  Joe needs to know who is in charge.  He will soon realize that he gets nothing that he wants if he doesn't cooperate.  

What if Joe wants attention, even if it is negative?  If that is truly the case there will be special needs services for his emotional and intellectual development.  If it is a temporary situation for Joe (his parents are divorcing and he's acting out, his mom's away in another time zone on business, etc) some leeway and compassion is necessary.  You'll develop a feel for your students.  Not timing out is very rare.  If you keep the emotion out, you keep the child from feeling hated by you.  Ultimately, they want your love and acceptance.  If you give that even when they are misbehaving, you are building the relationship with the child as you discipline them.  This is the key to having an emotionally safe classroom environment.  

Rule #2: Use few, if any, words
Most of the time you can simply hold up a finger and mouth the word "One" when a student is pushing the envelope of poor behavior.  If they are a little confused, you can then say quietly, "that's two" and they get the picture pretty quickly.  If there was any doubt still, a quiet, "that's three" and then, "just sit over there.  You are how old?"  They answer and you say, "Okay, ____minutes then.  I'll tell you when it's done" takes away any confusion.  

When you time a child out this way, you are also communicating with your class.  This is what you are saying.
I respect everyone, even when they misbehave
Poor behavior is not tolerated in my classroom
I don't allow people to be mean to you
I don't allow people to disrespect one another 
I want you to have fun and learn music
After a time out, a child has a clean slate with me
I'm not going to include a list of quotes that I didn't say this week because I re-read the rules of discipline.  That list would be embarrassing.  I had fallen into expecting small children to think like and act like mini adults but I knew better.  I had allowed little misdeeds to go thereby increasing my frustration level.  I had forgotten the basics of discipline.  Fortunately, I read the book because I was frustrated, not because my supervisor or colleagues thought I should.  

I'm going to re-read this post in August so that I start the year with a solid foundation.  Maybe I'll take a Responsive Classroom refresher over the summer.  Whatever the case, I'm glad I read that book!

Now here's something for entertainment.  


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