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March 06, 2007

Honoring our Contract

She did it!  After three weeks on her individualized behavior contract, Aniyah finally earned enough points to present a special cheering show in front of the whole class. 

As she stepped into the spotlight, Aniyah was surprisingly shy, unlike her attitude when giving frequent, disruptive cheers at inappropriate times.  This “command performance” cheer was a bit more subdued.  Yet as her friends cheered her on, her face brightened, and you could hear a sense of pride reverberating through her voice.

She cheered while clapping out each letter, “A-N-I-Y-A-H, A-N-I-Y-A-H, Aniyah, Aniyah, I am Aniyah! Aniyah, Aniyah, Aniyah!”

When I shared news of Aniyah’s show with her brother and mother the following day, the pride became contagious.  Her family members smiled widely and seemed relieved that Aniyah was showing progress.

Aniyah’s road to victory was not quick and easy.  She initially responded to the point system just as she had to our whole class color card behavior system, asking me angrily why I gave her a one or a two or a yellow or blue card instead of connecting her behavior to the negative consequence.

As we had one-on-one conversations each day, focused on her specific behaviors and the number of points that corresponded with them, she began to grasp the relationship between her choices and the consequences.  Towards the second week, I would ask her how many points she thought she earned for the day, and she could usually guess correctly based on her own assessment of her behavior. 

What does Aniyah’s behavior look like on the rug now?  She usually listens to her friends and me attentively and rarely creates a disturbance by calling out.  We, of course, still have our cheering moments, but these have become exceptions.

Perhaps best of all, Aniyah’s behavioral improvements have facilitated intellectual growth.  She engages more actively in discussion during stories, making predictions and thinking critically about how to solve the characters’ problems.  Just last week, she posed the “water car” solution to the problem in Leo Lionni’s classic, Swimmy.  After losing his school of fish to one deep sea predator, Swimmy found another school of small fish so petrified of big tuna fish that they would not swim around the ocean.  Aniyah’s solution required the small fish to drive a water car out of the ocean away from the big tuna fish.  Aniyah was so focused that she not only suggested the idea but also wrote “wtr car” on our solutions list without guidance from me.

Her behavioral and academic progress have gone hand in hand, and I look forward to more improvements in the months ahead.  This is one contract that both sides of the table are happy with.


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