Saturday, November 20, 2010

Have You Filled A Bucket Today?

I'm not sure how I manage to be the only teacher I know whose teaching experience gets MORE stressful year after year, but it may have something to do with never having had the same job description twice.

That said, it may also have something to do with the insane behavior problems that my current group of miscreants display on a regular basis. This week I received an e-mail from my assistant principal asking to meet after school about some of the "disturbing interactions" that have been occurring between my 5th graders and the 2nd graders during recess.

I will not defend my children this year (though why they are placed in the same place at the same time and given the opportunity to influence 2nd graders, I'll never understand). As a whole, they can act mean to the point of malicious, snotty, and spoiled. Every day is an exercise in trying out parenting the way that I hope to do it someday. It is about character development around the clock in our classroom and it is and uphill battle.

So, I'm not going to defend my students...but I do feel like they are in a crap situation. Because of our bilingual reading schedule my 5th graders eat lunch with 2nd and 4th graders. Their classroom is in the 3rd grade hallway. There is not a single second of the day when they are not the oldest students around (and therefor responsible for being a positive influence ALL the time.) Our classroom motto this year: "Be the example."

My students have demonstrated to me time and time again that that is a task that is far to daunting for them. So, thanks to a great suggestion from one of our 1st grade teachers, I decided to break it down for them. Every week we have a classroom C.A.R.E. meeting. I always open it up as a time for students to share their concerns and celebrate their successes. This week, however, after the amount of time I wasted meeting about their behavior and worrying about it int he evenings while they were happily oblivious at home with their families, I decided it was my turn to talk and let them know exactly how things are going to be from now on.

I read the book "Have You Filled A Bucket Today?" to my students. It is a VERY primary book about how each person carries an invisible bucket that is filled by positive comments and good feelings and emptied when someone tears you down and tries to take away your self esteem. It is a VERY good book, but I purposefully made my students feel less-than-cool about the fact that I had to read it to them because they've basically been acting like kindergartners and I was making a point by bringing things down to their level.

I then went about stripping them of their current behavior plan. Rewards in my class will no longer be earned by how smart you are or how much you try academically or how quiet you are in the halls. The only thing that matters is the kind of person you are and how you make other people feel. So I told my children that THEY ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR FILLING THE BUCKET. The choice is theirs. If I hear that they are building people up at recess and being generally good citizens, it will make me feel happy and proud...and we'll put some marbles in the bucket. If they go the extra mile and help teach someone else, translate for a newcomer, or share something...I'll notice and the bucket will get fuller. When they've filled the entire bucket, only then will they have something to celebrate.

But the book warns about "bucket dippers" as well. Those are the people who try to tear someone else down to make themselves feel better. Their buckets are empty and so too with our classroom bucket be. It's time for my students to step up and take responsibility for their actions. There are two signs up on the walls, one as the students enter the classroom each day and the other sitting above the bucket. They say simply "Have you filled a bucket today?"

We'll see how this goes.


  1. I used this book with Pre-K students last year. We also brainstormed a class list (with pictures) of things that could fill some ones bucket. We then had an actual pail taken from the sand table. Any time that someone did a good deed, or filled the bucket, we talked about it during meeting time and I wrote it on an index card. We were literally filling a bucket with good deeds. We talked briefly about emptying buckets as well but I tried to emphasize the positive with them. I also know a fourth grade teacher in my school who used the book with her group. She had good results with it. I hope your year gets better and that the book helps with your kids

  2. Cool, thanks so much for the information. I'm glad it was something that translated across grade levels! It's not that I'm being negative necessarily, but I want my children to understand choices and consequences because they left my bucket completely empty with their actions and luckily they like me enough to be affected by that. Thanks for your well wishes! We'll need them. :)