A new and really encouraging team spirit about behavior and making our time together the best it can be has begun to emerge at after-school. We’ve started having Monday “family meetings” with the kids. As a community, we discuss what we think is going well and what we would like to work on. The kids have been learning a lot about the role they play in making after-school a safe, happy, encouraging place where they can learn and feel loved. ”Responsibility,” “privileges,” “respect” and “obedience” have been big words this month. It is so easy for behavior to become a tug-of-war between adults and children, but this month at after-school, we’ve been coming to understand that our goal is the same. We are a community pursuing God, joy and growth together.
With all this effort being poured into growing in these traits, we wanted to find a way to recognize and encourage the kids when they displayed moments of obedience and respect. But I have always been very wary of using candy and prizes to get better behavior from kids. Our goal is that the kids would genuinely be growing in these qualities, not just putting on a performance for candy. Sara had the simple (but brilliant!) idea to make little stickers that name the quality the child is displaying.
About two weeks ago, we started experimenting with the stickers (which simply said things like, “Today, I showed obedience!”). Instantly I could see how much it meant to each child to have their efforts and successes recognized and named. Not only are these simple stickers helping the kids to feel joy in the traits themselves (rather than in candy or toys they receive for them), but the moment of giving and explaining the sticker also creates an opportunity to reteach the meaning of these words. When a child understands a concept and is helped to recognize it in action, they are more likely to be able to do it again and again.
It has been really encouraging to see the kids wear their stickers proudly, pointing them out to their parents at pick-up time. Several of them have started collecting them on their notebook and folder covers. And we have started to expand the traits we are naming and helping them to recognize and feel good about–self-control, perseverance, optimism, and more.
And we haven’t just been seeing a shift in individual behavior. The group has been coming together to work as a team as well. At our first family meeting about behavior, we set a goal of working on our “Eyes on Lauren” routine. This is simply a hand signal we use to silently communicate that everyone should get silent, put their eyes on Lauren and be ready to listen for instructions. We set the goals that “Eyes on Lauren” would take less than 30 seconds to do, that everyone would be participating 100% correctly, that we would use silent ways of getting each other on board (instead of screaming and yelling at each other) and that we would remain attentive once the hand signal ended and the announcements began. It took two weeks, but on Friday we celebrated meeting our goals as a community. We had a pizza party and even made a toast with sparkling grape juice–”To community and to working together as a team to meet our goals. Cheers!”
It’s been interesting to see this season of celebration also become a time of order and increasing structure at after-school. We have a tendency to see these as opposites, but I’m realizing that the safer the kids feel within healthy structures and boundaries, the more they are able to enjoy freedoms and celebration.
So, to sum up, it has been a good month at after-school! It’s only a few months into the school year and already we see so many signs of growth–spiritually, emotionally, academically–in each of the kids. We certainly have a lot to be thankful for.
Daziyah wears her “Perseverance” badge with pride! She stuck with a long and challenging worksheet all the way until the task was done.
KJ and Elijah were showing fantastic self-control and perseverance last Thursday!