Soon after the GOOD NEWS CHAIR was published, I received a note from an exceptional teacher. Gale Kotner is a kindergarten teacher in the Springfield Public School District, Springfield, Illinois. She seemed sure that a Good News Chair would be “a fantastic addition to my classroom.” Off she went to find a chair to paint for your classroom. Isn’t it just terrific?!
(or The Red Plastic Chair from Lowes)
The morning after a book talk in Bellingham, WA, I was standing with a bunch of bananas in a short express line at our neighborhood grocery store. Imagine my delight when the woman next to me in line asked if I was the author of The Good News Chair.
As it turns out, she is an elementary school librarian. She was looking for an end-of-the-year gift to give to her principal and assistant principal. After buying and reading my book, she thought about finding an old wooden chair, stripping it of varnish or shellac, and painting it. At the same time, she had way too many tasks to do and too little time. She went on to tell me, “I pray a lot. Following a prayer, I saw a vision of a red chair. It was at Lowe’s.”
Well, after school the next day she went to Lowe’s and sure enough found a red plastic lawn chair for just $8.00. Home it went. That same night she got out her craft paints and added squiggles and stars to make a wonderful Good News Chair.
The Chair went to her principal and assistant principal with a note that read, “Thank you for all you have done for our students. Here’s an idea you might like to try for next year.” She promised that next fall she would report back.
Sooo….if you have made your own version of the Good News Chair I would love to know about it. Our world could sure use a little more good news.
We all have a story about going to the principal’s office. Even if WE were not the one who was sent, we can remember a friend, a brother, a sister, a class clown, a bully, a kid suspected of having lice, a sick kid, or an out-of-control kid being sent down the hall. One thing for sure, it was never to share good news. It wasn’t too long ago that the principals had a strap or paddle in a desk drawer or on public display. No more of that thank goodness.
In my case I was sent twice, once as a first grader and once as a second grader. In 1946 I was in a first grade classroom at Medina Elementary in Bellevue Washington. When it was time to use paste Mrs. David would dollop a glob onto a piece of paper toweling and pass one to each child. We discovered early on that fall that this paste was absolutely delicious! Our teacher told us NOT in any circumstance to eat it but we figured out that when we were in the classroom’s supply closet we could grab a bite or so from a tall white plastic container. Roxy Roman and I were caught and sent off to see the principal. He scolded us just enough so that I never remember eating paste again. Mission accomplished.
In second grade there were 32 students packed into our classroom. Mrs. Johnson must have been beside herself trying to maintain order and at the same time teach us a thing or two. During one work period she told us, “There will be NO talking.” She meant none at all. The girl sitting next to me started to talk to me. I quickly mouthed the words “no talking” back to her. Mrs. Johnson saw this but thought I had been the one doing the talking. Again, off to the principal’s office for another reprimand. I think I made a feeble attempt to defend myself but it didn’t help.
In my book, THE GOOD NEWS CHAIR: A Simple Tool for shaping A Child’s Positive Behavior and Self-Image you will read about the special Chair that sat in my office when I was an elementary school principal. This Chair turned the culture of the office around by recognizing and recording good news as reported by the boys and girls. You will see how this Chair and also work in a classroom or in a home.
So what is your story of going to the principal’s office? I know you must have one. Please share…
In my book The Good News Chair: A Simple Tool for Shaping a Child’s Positive Behavior and Self-Image you will read about the special Chair that sat in my office when I was an elementary school principal. Good News Chairs have now sat not only in my office but also in many classrooms and in the homes of parents and grandparents. Mine was painted to call attention to itself. Yours might be as simple as a pillow, a stool, the teacher’s chair, or a special spot on the floor or carpet.
As a teacher you will see how a Good News Chair can support a classroom and/or school management plan, alter the classroom culture, or be tied to the academic program. The Good News Chair can be a place to share:
- helping a classmate?
- following a classroom rule?
- completing an assignment in a timely manner?
- moving to a new reading level?
- getting to school on time?
All the teachers I’ve spoken with about using the Good News Chair agree that the teacher needs to introduce the Chair with a little “Ta da!” and then talk to the children about how and when the Chair will be used. Here are some tips from the teachers:
- Let the children share whatever they feel is good news. News can range from sharing about a camping trip, to getting a new pet, to a geocaching adventure, to anything else… the child decides what is “good.”
- The Chair can be used to recognize achievement of a particular classroom goal. Learning a set of number facts or a perfect spelling test might warrant a trip to the Chair. Likewise, a child who shows respect or kindness can take a turn in the Chair.
- Require students to sign up for a turn in the Chair. Set aside a specific time each day for using the Chair.
- Think of sharing as a way to give students an opportunity to speak in front of the class, listen to a classmate, and ask questions of one another, skills that need to be taught and practiced anyway.
- Capture the good news and send it home in the class newsletter as another way of sharing with parents what is going on at school. Dr. Haim Ginot, a recognized authority on child development, wrote, “If you want your children to improve, let them overhear the nice things you say about them to others.”
Teachers, do you have a unique and effective way to recognize and celebrate your students’ achievements? Please share.
My best to you and your students,
Well, this isn’t really going to be about fishing but it has a lot to do with the proverb, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” You see you can teach a child a few behaviors and a few manners that will feed him for a lifetime. Adults and even peers will love kids who have good social skills, and in turn these children who are well loved are usually secure and brave about learning something new. They have positive relationships. So what are these positive behaviors and manners? Here are a few big ones:
Eye Contact – This is easy for some and nearly impossible for others. The first step is to make the child aware of what good eye contact looks like. In a playful and relaxed way, model good and bad eye contact. Finally have your child practice with you in a variety of settings. In our society clear eye contact is seen as respectful and a sign that a person in listening.
Manners – So simple! With no prompting a school age child should say thank you, please, excuse me, and know when to ask permission, or offer to help out now and then. Basic table manners go a long way too.
Tidiness – This is simply expecting that children pick up after themselves. Kids in school who sit in the middle of a mess never seem to get easily from the beginning to the end of a task.
To teach these behaviors and more we must give clear expectations, model, coach, and offer praise that describes the behavior. (See THE GOOD NEWS CHAIR: A Simple Tool for Shaping a Child’s Behavior and Self-Image for a unique way to recognize even the smallest accomplishments.) Rather than “Good job” try, “I noticed the smile on grandma’s face when you remembered to say please and thank you.” No need to expect perfection immediately. It won’t happen. Acknowledgement of what I call approximations is the starting point. Think of a child learning how to talk and walk. It sure doesn’t happen overnight. Neither will learning the social skills that sweeten relationships and in turn strengthen a child’s self-image.
What other social skills and character traits do you think all children should learn? Any tips for teaching them?
My best to you and your children,
I am 73 years old and still buying children’s books. I have been, all my life, a passionate lover of children’s books—as a child who read every horse book in the library; as a teacher who liked read aloud time best of all; and as a mother who was always on the lookout for the perfect book for a son. The language and art in the best books for children are about as good as it gets. It might be, too, the wisdom in these books that keeps me looking.
Have You Filled a Bucket Today? A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids by Carol McCloud is just such a book. This story teaches children how to love others. In the author’s words, “Children who learn how to express kindness and love lead happier lives.” The book shows children how everyone in the world walks around carrying an invisible bucket. Its purpose is to hold your good thoughts and good feelings about yourself. So how do you fill a bucket? You do it by showing love to someone. Illustrated examples of how to do this are colorful, simple, and lively. Ways to fill a bucket include: giving someone a smile, helping someone, writing a thank you note. It is no surprise that in the course of filling other people’s buckets yours fills up too.
I am wary of stories that are too didactic or moralistic. So are kids! That being said, tales we all know such as The Little Engine that Could (don’t give up), The Three Little Pigs (hard work pays off), Little Red Ridinghood (obey your mother and watch out for evil), The Ugly Duckling (lots of times things turn out all right), and Stone Soup (teamwork brings people together) all manage to entertain us with a good plot and memorable characters while at the same time remind us of a value or behavior that is admirable.
Try to recall a book written for children that both warms the heart and illustrates a positive behavior. One that you like to read over and over again. And while you are at it, see how many buckets you can fill today.
My best to you and your children,
More is on the way. Come back soon.