“School’s out for the summer!” Remember when you used to wait for that final bell to ring on the last day? The exhilaration? The anticipation? Whatever plans you had — maybe it was the lake, a pool, a beach, a camp — this summer felt like the best ever.
Now the thought of that final bell makes you cringe. It releases your kids to you for an extra seven hours a day. How will you manage them? Keep them in line? Their teachers make it look so easy. With no more pencils and no more books to wear your kiddo down, will the first grader destroy the house faster than Usain Bolt in the 100 meter dash?
I have solutions for you — tried and true teaching techniques that teachers across the state are forced to use to manage behavior. After all, isn’t good management all we want from our teachers? It’s the best way to teach conformity and improve test scores. Follow these strategies to break your children’s spirits and provide you with a sense of order and calm this summer.
Plan your day in seven 45 minute chunks with seven different activities. Make sure that each activity meets at least three objectives, begins with a warm-up, and ends with a reflection. Use a timer with a buzzer. Even if your kid doesn’t like one of the activities, make sure she sits there for the entire 45 minutes. If she doesn’t complete the activity in that time period, she must return to it after the other activities are done. If she still doesn’t complete it at the end of the day, you must make her do it the next day.
If, after the extended time, it is still not done, wake her up early or make her stay up late to complete a new assignment which you have spent all night creating that is similar to, but not the same as, the original activity.
Do not accept the fact that she simply doesn’t want to do it as true. Analyze her actions as she avoids the activity and document the reasons why. How many times does she put her head down? Doodle? Stand up? Talk to a sibling? Fidget? It’s helpful to have a table with check marks for this type of record keeping. Do this every day for the entire summer. At the end of the summer, throw it out.
When the children are rambunctious, break out the time-tested strategy of proximity control. To employ this management tool, hover directly over the feisty child’s shoulder no matter what he is doing. If he is happily scribbling on a page, creep up behind him. Stand there silently. When he look up at you questioningly, say nothing. Put your fingers to your lips in a “shhh” gesture and then point back to his work. If done correctly, his shoulders will slump and he will return to his work properly subdued.
If they are good, reward them with twenty minutes outside once a day. Make sure it is at the hottest time of day and stand in the sun with them. However, do not let them play kickball, dodgeball, or tag. If there is a park near you, take advantage of all it has to offer, except the monkey bars, swing, or slide.
On rainy days, you can show a movie. However, if you show the whole movie at once, they will get spoiled. Their whole day will be wasted. Their brains will rot. Instead, show it in twenty minute increments over as many days as it takes. Give them questions to answer based on the film. Pause the movie every five minutes so the kids can write the answers. Whatever you do, put the questions in chronological order or chaos will ensue!
Remember: children sense weakness. Do not smile until after Independence Day. Do not turn your back to them. Do not sit down. Pace. Constantly. Do not leave the room. Not even to use the bathroom. If you are so weak as to need to leave the room during the seven hours, call another adult, explain to them what very private personal function you need to take care of and then wait for them to relieve you. You will get a urinary tract infection. Increase your intake of cranberry juice and drink more water. Still, do not leave the room.
To find out if your kids had a successful summer, have a neighbor create a multiple choice test about summer vacations. You do not get to know what is on the test ahead of time, but you can have the children practice filling in bubbles. Have the kids take the test. Give the completed assessments to the college kid who cuts your grass and ask him to grade it. Pay him 5% over what you make at your job. He will give the results to your in-laws who will determine your skill as a parent.
By the end of August, your kids will be walking in straight lines, raising their hands to speak, and filling in bubble sheets with the best of them! You can reward yourself with a hot lunch, a long bathroom break, and a comfy office chair. You may not be sure how what you’ve done has benefited them or you, but you’ve managed them well and that has to count for something, right?
Jennifer Brick is a freelance writer and former teacher in Durham, North Carolina. She earned her Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Nonfiction from Goucher College. Follow her on Twitter @jenbrickwrites.