Thoughts shared on the success of using the DWS Principles

The following story was shared by teacher, Marie Swift, regarding the power of using the three DWS Principles; Positivity, Choice and Reflection.

I would like to share a situation that happened recently in my Grade One class.  I have been using DWS for a few years now I firmly believe that we have to approach behavior issues as learning opportunities.  Although I must admit that sometimes it is difficult for me to remain focused on using positivity, choice and reflection in all situations, here’s the growth one child experienced in my class as a result:

All of my students were sitting with me at the carpet working on a math lesson recently.  After sending them back to continue the work at their desks, I noticed that some glitter had been spilled out of a small container at the side of the carpet and I commented on it.  As six- and seven-year-olds are prone to do, one quickly announced the name of the student believed to be responsible.  I ignored the comment and went to my desk.  I casually called the child whose name had been mentioned over to my desk and she approached looking ashamed.  I asked her what had happened with the glitter.  She denied having had anything to do with it.

I asked her that if she had done it and then told me about it, what was the worst thing that would happen?  She guessed that I would call her mom.  I asked her if she had ever seen me calling other moms when something like that happened, and she said no. I asked her if she thought I would do that this time and then confirmed that I would not.

I asked what was the next worst thing that could happen?  She said that I would spank her.  I asked her if she had ever seen me spank anyone and she said “No”  I asked if she thought I would do that this time and then confirmed that I would not.

Again, I inquired,”What’s the next worst thing that could happen?”  She said that she thought I might yell at her.  I asked her if she has ever seen me yell at anyone.  She said no.  I asked her if she thought I would do that this time and then confirmed that I would not.

Then I asked her what was the best thing that could happen and she said that she would get a hug.  This took me off guard so I asked her the question again and this time she admitted that she had made the mess, after finding some glitter that didn’t belong to her.  I asked her what she should have done instead when she found some glitter and, of course, she knew what was an appropriate thing to do.g We worked through what she could do if something similar ever happened in the future.

Then I asked her if I could give her a hug and I did.  I said I was proud of her.; even though she didn’t do it right away, she did tell me the truth.  I asked her if she felt good about it and she did.  I then asked her what level she had been on and she responded appropriately.  I asked her what needed to be done now to solve her problem.  She said that she needed to clean it up, but that she was concerned about missing Math.  I assured her that the lesson she had just learned was more important than Math today!

Later I reflected on the experience and thought about how similar ones in the past had turned out so differently!  If I had raised my voice to her or pressured her to “confess,” it would have turned her against me, eroded her fragile self-esteem and left her feeling very negative.  Instead, I truly believe that she learned from her mistake.  As for me, I re-learned that it is always worth every extra second it takes to empower kids by using positivity, choice and reflection, rather than overpower them.

Marie Swift