One teacher's challenge: defiant students, attention seeking behaviors
The colorful classrooms of Underwood Elementary School in Raleigh, NC fill every day with children enjoying the opportunity to learn dance, foreign languages, horticulture, physics, technology, and much more. It's here—in a cheerful kindergarten classroom—that you'll find Ashley Cooper, a finalist
for Wake County Public Schools' 2011-2012 Teacher of the Year, surrounded by active, curious students eager to learn.
And yet not long before, Ashley had fought frustration as she found too much her time taken up with discipline issues.
Just five years before, Ashley, the daughter of a superintendent, was at the beginning of her teaching career and encountering challenging behaviors in her students. Each year, one or two defiant students arrived in her classroom at the start of the school year, and some of the other children’s attention-seeking behaviors distracted from an otherwise positive learning environment.
Frustrated with the amount of time disciplining children was taking away from teaching, Ashley began a quest for better classroom management strategies.
A new approach to discipline
Today, a visit to Underwood Elementary finds a different classroom learning environment in the kindergarten wing. Ashley enjoys being able to focus much more time and energy on teaching, and her students are enthusiastically engaged in the learning process and love coming to school.
"Learning is now personal, active and genuine; discovery invites mastery and empowerment, delight feeds passion and a quest for more," Ashley says.
And it's not just her students who have enjoyed the change; Ashley has also helped other teachers by sharing classroom teaching techniques and modeling best practices.
What made the difference? Ashley contributes it to four primary factors:
- Daily implementation of the Conscious Discipline® approach
- Integration of active learning activities that respect different learning styles in children and enhance social development in children at the same time
- Challenging and meaningful curriculum that is developmentally appropriate
- Seeking out authentic "teachable moments" and a full understanding of each child's capabilities through observation, careful questioning, respectful listening, and record keeping
It all began with a single teacher workshop introducing Conscious Discipline.
"I was so positively impacted by Kim Hughes' teachings and the incredible potential impact of Conscious Discipline on my students that I sought her out as a mentor," Ashley says. "We met monthly where she would listen first and then provide the kind of feedback, ideas and strategies that have since shaped my implementation and widespread use of Conscious Discipline. Through our sessions I could always count on solving the most difficult problems, having access to outstanding materials, learning new strategies and ideas, and leaving with tons of encouragement and optimism even if the school day had not gone well."
Thanks to the positive discipline techniques she learned from Kim, Ashley says countless teachers she knows have enhanced their classroom learning environments with developmental centers and active, child-centered learning benefiting not just the teachers, but their students.
How to create a positive learning environment