I want to recognize my Level C and D students more but it seems that the B ones are getting all the attention; I keep having to asking them reflective questions! For example, if they are all squirmy and loud in the hall I have been asking them, “Do you think your behavior is “up here?” (D/C), or “down here?” (B/A). Most kids will be honest and say they are “down here.” Then I might say, “What should we do if this problems continues?” and the child tells me a consequence for their “down here” behavior. This is part of the philosophy––right?––eliciting consequences from the students? My fear is that my Level C and D students will begin to regress–because of all the extra attention my Level A and B students receive! What do you think?
In a situation like the one you mention, switch your focus to the positive. Instead of giving your attention to the ones who are not doing as you ask, focus on what the students with acceptable behavior are doing. Those who are already at that C/D level, will receive information and affirmation that encourages them to continue. Those who are at the lower level will be challenged to move up. By switching your focus to the acceptable, you will also give the students on the lower level, the information they need to know what acceptable behavior looks like.
Most times you’ll never have to mention the poor behavior at all. Simply focus on what you notice about those students who are providing a good model. Even if it’s only one child doing the correct thing, describe that child’s behavior without mentioning a name.
You can say something like this:
“Boys and girls, we’ve talked many times about what is expected as we walk in the hallways. Think for a moment, in your own head. Are you, right this minute, doing as expected? I want to thank you if you are. I see people who are doing exactly what we have talked about. It makes it so pleasant for me as a teacher when I have people who can manage themselves in an acceptable way.
I see that there are a number of people standing with their arms down to their sides, they are quiet, they ________, ________, _________. What level is this? Yes, it’s C. Level C people set a fine example for everyone. If you’re not sure what to do, look around for someone who seems to be capable in this way. You can become more capable too.
Some people in our class might even be at a higher level right now. What level is higher than C? Yes, Level D. What is the difference between Level C and D in this situation? Yes! Those on Level D don’t even need a teacher with them. They are choosing to be in charge of themselves. It’s a joy to have such mature people in my classroom. You’ll know that you’re on Level D, if inside yourself, you feel very proud. At Level D a person knows that they can act mature even if the teacher isn’t standing right with them.
When you mention these sorts of things to the group, more and more kids become interested in living up to positive expectations. Why? Because deep down they would prefer to think of themselves as mature and capable too. You haven’t called down low behavior––haven’t given it any attention or even mentioned it. You’ve more or less ignored it because it’s simply not something you want to waste time discussing. Instead you have put your energy into helping them think about how they might act more mature themselves. Everyone wants to feel proud inside and you’ve just told them how they can achieve that feeling.
Reflective questions can prompt a person to think about any one of the levels, so try switching your focus. Ask about the higher levels and you’ll start to see how the DWS Hierarchy can inspire young people!