Bringing Good Behavior Home

A story from Chris Gilbert

Chris Gilbert got her first taste of teaching back in the 1960s. “I was in a class and the teacher did an incentive where if we did really well, we could go help the kids in the special ed. class. And I got picked to go do that. Even as a young child, I knew these people were different, they were special, and they could learn.”

Teaching has been Chris’s third career and the one she’s enjoyed most. The unique demands of special education have made it particularly fulfilling. “It was a challenge to see, How can I get these children to learn, to read, to do math, to write, so that they can function in society and be independent? And once I went into the classroom and started working with the kids, I was hooked. It was like, This is what I want to do.”

Chris teaches in a self-contained classroom, where class sizes can reach up to 17 kids. In such large classes, students’ behavioral issues can become overwhelming to her. About a year and a half ago, a struggling student with ADHD was transferred from general education to Chris’s class.

“He wasn’t able to sit in a regular classroom. He was up grabbing the teacher’s skirt, calling on the teacher, and wanting her attention every second of the day. It was impacting not only his learning, but also everyone else’s learning. So they put him in my classroom, and I didn’t know what I was going to do with him. That was around the same time that I got Instructor magazine and saw ClassDojo mentioned. I brought it in the next day and tried it, and instantly saw that he was trying to get those points.”

Today, that same student can stay focused for an entire class period. He still gets up from his desk occasionally, but he’s now able to do his work. The school is in the process of transferring him back to the general education classroom.

“We recently had an Individualized Education Program meeting for him, and his mother just went on and on and on about his behavior. She’s noticed that not only has it improved at school, but it’s also improved at home. He’s starting to take responsibility for himself. He’s helping his little sister, and his brother who’s a year younger than him. He’s helping around the house more.”

Disciplinary issues in Chris’s classroom used to be so bad that every quarter, she’d lose her voice trying to talk over the kids. Under her guidance, her class’s behavior has improved dramatically, and she doesn’t have to strain so much. The student with ADHD was transformed, but he’s not the only one. By giving regular feedback via ClassDojo, and deliberately encouraging positive behaviors, Chris can stop negative behavior before it starts. “We have a time out section. I very seldom ever have to use it, so it just sits there collecting dust. My day has just become so much easier.”

Chris Gilbert, Special Education Teacher

Chris teaches a self-contained, special education class in Phoenix, Arizona.