It's the start of my second month at my new job. I feared that I might get a student like the one that caused me trouble last month. Actually, I got that same exact student. In preparation for that possibility, I immediately started reading another book on behavior management. It's called "How to Reach and Teach Children with Challenging Behavior." It reminded me of the idea of making a contract with my students.
I say it reminded me because actually, Mr. Agajan, my mentor while I was a student teacher for his 3rd grade class also made contracts with his students. At the beginning of yesterday morning, I told one of my especially challenging students that if he raises his hand before he talks and is quiet while he is in class, I will give him a gummy worm. He will get three chances in each section of the day. There are three sections each day (9:30 am to 10:30 am, 10:40 am to 11:30 am, 11:40 am to 12:30 pm). Each time he doesn't do that, he loses a chance to demonstrate that behavior and get his gummy worm. Each time he loses a chance, I let him know. If he loses all his chances in one section, he can't get his gummy for the day. And, even if he earned his gummies, I wouldn't give them to him until the end of the week. He agreed to that arrangement. He was excited about getting the gummy worms. He did well in the first section, but not so hot in the remaining sections.
I tried it again the next morning. He didn't want to play along anymore after he lost all of his chances. He was getting angry. He was tearing up paper on his table. He was dropping some of his homework assignments on the floor and hiding is head in his hoodie.
Today, I started paying a teacher from LeConte Elementary (i.e. one of my previous schools where I had a student teaching assignment) to give me ideas on how to control my classroom. She made me aware that the way that I was using the contract was framed negatively. She suggested that whenever I notice him demonstrating the behavior that I was looking for, I give him a star and make it known to him. Because, when I was taking his chances away, it was still more like a punishment. But now, every time he gets five stars, he gets a gummy. That is a reinforcement rather than a punishment. On top of that, my mentor suggested that instead of waiting until the end of the week, make the reinforcement more immediate and give it to him at the end of the day. After I started giving him stars, he was actually finishing his in class work quietly. I was just happy because he was finishing his in class work. Previously, he would often just leave it blank. But today, he even wanted to help students near him. So, I was pretty pleased with that.
Anyway, there you have it. Those are both the bad and good ways to execute a contractual relationship between a teacher and a student. Keep in mind that the frequency at which a student is reinforced will depend on the specific student. Some will need more immediate reinforcement and others not so much. It depends on how... defiant or distracting the student's behavior is.