I received the following question from an educator in Brooklyn, NY in response to my blog post about my Tip #41: Sweat the Small Stuff.
What is the importance of sweating the small stuff? What are some scenarios in grades K-2 and 3-5 that would be sweating the small stuff?
Thank you for your question. As I said in my original post, I think some teachers take the approach to only be concerned with "big" kinds of misbehavior. In other words, one might say something like "as long as they aren't killing each other, I am happy." I think this mindset is a mistake. Sure, there is something to be said for avoiding catastrophe. But to stop there is kind of a lame goal to have. Let's be a little more ambitious than that.
There are two main benefits of sweating the small stuff:
1) When students see that you won't allow less serious kinds of misbehavior, they will really think twice about doing anything more dramatic. There is something about setting the tone that you won't allow the little things that makes the thought of doing something bigger unimaginable for students, or at least like less of a good idea.
2) Sweating the small stuff allows you to teach things like manners and social skills. I am a big believer in the side lessons that students can learn at school. Teachers should be concerned about more than just helping their students make a grade on a state test. Things like manners and social skills are about more than just making your students "good" boys and girls. Those things are valuable life skills as well.
So, what does the small stuff include for younger students? It can be anything that would be considered manners and social skills. Here are a few possibilities:
*saying please and thank you
*not insulting/being mean to another student
*not talking/interrupting when the teacher is talking
*not telling another student to "shut up"
*not putting your hands on people
*picking something up when someone near you drops it
*(boys) being nice to girls
*cleaning up after yourself
I am sure you can think of many more of your own. Hopefully this list is enough to give you the idea.
Just remember, when you are sweating the "small stuff", make sure you handle it like it is small stuff. That means you aren't blowing your top getting an attitude about it. The younger your students are, the more you should handle discipline with correction and repetition of the right behavior. It doesn't take some kind of elaborate discipline system.
I hope that helps!
Question of the week: What kinds of small stuff do you teach? What kind would you like to teach better? Don't keep your wisdom to yourself. Comment below!
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