Fostering good behavior in the classroom

Gail Fruhling strives to overcome one common problem in her fourth-grade classroom at Cerbat Elementary School.

"Inattention," she said.

"Some kids are in their own little world and I have to bring them into ours.

If they learn self-discipline, they're set for the future."

Fruhling has taught in Kingman for 17 years.

Everybody respecting one another's "space" is the key to avoiding any pushing or verbal confrontations between pupils or by a pupil toward an adult, she said.

A pupil exhibiting improper behavior for the first time is taken out of class into the hall to talk things out with her, Fruhling said.

"After everyone has gotten to voice their angst things calm down," Fruhling said.

"Children don't keep a list (of wrongs done to them)."

"But if it goes past the point where talking doesn't help we talk to a counselor or come up with some consequence, which usually is loss of recess."

Fruhling tries to avoid sending pupils to the principal's office, a measure that often leads to after-school detention for an infraction.

She said she has to give a child an office referral about once every 10 days and has sent 6-8 children to the office so far this school year.

Most of the cases involved verbal aggression toward another pupil, but there were two incidents of pushing.

"If I can't get a child to calm down and issue an apology I'll send that child to the office or if another student's safety is at issue (the child causing the problem) will be immediately sent to the office," Fruhling said.

"I deal with fourth-graders.

They're a group that's not so emotional and willing to see the other side of an issue."

Rebecca Stout is in her fourth year as a kindergarten teacher at Kingman Academy of Learning.

She has few disciplinary problems in her classroom.

"I think much of that stems from our having high expectations for good behavior," Stout said.

"From the beginning we've had an agreement for parental involvement and having them on our side is very important."

Stout said she talks with a child exhibiting inappropriate behavior, sometimes in front of her class.

When handled tactfully, the child does not become embarrassed and other children learn what is or is not acceptable behavior.

She has sent just one child to the principal's office so far this school year and that was for biting another child, Stout said.

Last year, she made three office referrals, one of which was for punching a door in anger.

"Young children don't know how to express themselves like adults," Stout said.

"When things are not right they may express themselves physically because they don't yet have good verbal skills.

"Part of being in school is learning to control yourself."

Every child wants to be a good child and that happens when the child is given the opportunity to practice being a good citizen, Fruhling said.

Fruhling said classroom discipline measures now in effect are adequate for dealing with most situations.

Most children are as safe at school as outside of school, she added.

Behavioral problems that surface in the classroom can be traced to two sources.

They are behaviors observed at home as well as ones learned from other children, Fruhling said.

Stout agreed with that assessment.

Fruhling was asked how she would respond to a parent who says a child sent to the front office means the teacher is not in control of the classroom.

"Because I rarely send a child to the office I am in control," Fruhling said.

"But the office needs to know if some behaviors escalate."

Stout said it takes a serious infraction before she sends a child to the principal's office for discipline.

But doing so removes that child from a volatile situation.

"If one child is hurting another or simply out of control, that child needs to cool down so a trip to the office is necessary," Stout said.

"I would never sacrifice safety in my classroom to look like I'm in control (in a dangerous situation)."