Back To The Drawing Board

Our Journey with Conscious Discipline & Leader In Me

Phase One: Conscious Discipline

Managing Emotional Mayhem

As a grade level, we read the book Managing Emotional Mayhem by Dr. Becky A. Bailey. This book focuses on Self Regulation or your ability to follow the rules, achieve your goals, and maintain personal commitments and relationships.. An interesting fact we came across while reading and researching Conscious Discipline is that Self-regulation is the number one skill necessary for children to be successful in school and that almost 40% of children enter school missing this essential skill? Interestingly enough, many adults struggle to teach self-regulation skills because it was never taught to them!

There are 5 steps for self regulation. When coaching a child toward self-regulation, the first step is noticing they have been triggered by an event or situation. Different students have different triggers.

When a child has been triggered, they enter what Dr. Bailey refers to as the Survival State, meaning that they are overcome with an emotion and cannot express themselves in an effective way, nor learn. Behaviors include kicking, hitting, hiding, slamming doors, biting, spitting, or putting their head down. Students need to be coached to be able to process through the 5 steps to self regulate.

5 Steps for Self Regulation

  1. I Am: recognizing the feeling

  2. I Calm: teaching ways to self-calm (STAR, Balloon, Pretzel, and Drain Breathing)

  3. I Feel: helping students to identify & validate their feelings.

  4. I Choose: how to cope/deal with my feelings (drawing, writing, music, books etc)

  5. I Solve: revisit what caused the trigger and plan for more positive ways to solve a problem.

Implementation of Morning Meaning: After researching studies that dove into understanding what strategies can truly make a difference in student performance within the classroom, we found that many researchers argue in order to encourage students across the board, both academically and behaviorally, teachers need to help "create a classroom culture where students feel safe, supported, and ready to learn" ( One area we were trying to wrap our brains around was how to implement this routine into our 5th grade classrooms in an age appropriate way while still incorporating the 4 key components: greeting, sharing, activity, and morning message. Our hope was that by focusing on this at the start of our day, it would set the tone, provide purpose for each student and prepare students for a successful day.

Something we have found is that with our students, and the limited time we have before rotating to our first block class, there isn't time to fit in all 4 components first thing in the morning. Because of this, we have made the decision to move one or more components to a later time in the day so that the time is still meaningful and not rushed for the sake of our classroom community as a whole.

Within the classroom, all students are expected to greet both the teacher and their peers first thing in the morning as they are entering the classroom and gathering materials for the day. Just like any other aspect of our day, this has become routine and students have grown to greet and respond to each other as they welcome each other to school. Students are encouraged to verbally greet their peers as well as to offer their choice of a high five, fist bump, or some other type of greeting.

Our whole class meeting takes place after students have had time to settle in, begin taking responsibility for their morning work as intentional learners, and kind of "let go" of any baggage they may have brought through the door that morning. Our key component seen here is both the morning message to give students an idea of what the day will look like as well as to complete an activity or simply a discussion about goals they have for the day and how they are going to accomplish these goals.

As will be discussed below, we are also incorporating the 7 Habits of Happy Kids through the Leader In Me program. A big piece of our morning meeting is often centered around the habit we are focusing on and successes/struggles students are having with that specific habit. The integration of Conscious Discipline along side Leader In Me has been seamless.

The piece we are still working to incorporate and give due-diligence to is the sharing piece. This component is key and the pay off is huge, but it often also takes the most time. In room 5, our time right before lunch is where we have been able to spend a little bit of time focusing on allowing students to share and listen to each other as they build relationships with one another and get to know each other "outside of our 4 walls".

Strategies for Breathing: At first glance, the thought that ran through our minds when it came to introducing the various breathing strategies encouraged through Conscious Discipline with our 5th graders was, "yeah, right". To be honest, we envisioned them rolling their eyes and looking at us with, "THE look".

Instead of introducing these myself, in room 5, I chose to use a video of the breathing strategies being demonstrated by pre-k students within our building. The pure "cuteness" of these kiddos engaged even some of the most reluctant students. From there, as a class we discussed ways we can use the breaths to help us calm down without making it quite so obvious that that is what we are doing.

For instance, instead of holding their hands out to partake in the "drain" breath, students showed that they could simply hold their hands down by their sides and do the same thing, without anyone knowing they were even doing it. It was encouraging to see students take charge of making these strategies work for them!

7 Habits of Happy Kids

We chose to bring leader in me into our classrooms for several different reasons, the main one being that we believe every child is capable and every child is a leader which is the foundation of "Leader in Me". Additionally this way of thinking can be applied anywhere, at any time to any facet of a child's life. It is something that all parties in a child's life can take part in both at school and at home. The common language used with "Leader in Me" also lends itself well to consistency among the grade level, for example putting first things first, and emotional bank accounts are all things, when mentioned, the students know exactly what is being referenced and what is expected of them.

Since implementing parts of the "Leader in Me" practice we have seen students grow in their self-confidence, teamwork, initiative and personal responsibility. When students face a peer to peer challenge they are using statements such as "I feel disrespected when" and are able to pinpoint their exact feelings versus tattling on a peer. Teachers have even been using this language to communicate their expectations with students. For example, when a student or a class is not producing the desired behavior, we have used those same I statements followed by what we would like them to replace their behaviors with, such as: "I feel disrespected when you enter the classroom loudly, next time I would feel more respected if you entered quietly and got started on your work right away."

So far we have been able to implement this program in a variety of ways. Beginning with the "I statements" when a conflict or disagreement arises between peers. When students approach teachers with a problem, we facilitate a face to face conversation between the two peers where these "I statements" are used by each party to come a resolution. We also have implemented the "think win-win" mindset into our classrooms, which encourages students to come to a compromise where both parties feel like they are winning in the deal even if it is not exactly what you wanted when you began. Finally, one of our most used components has been the idea of "emotional bank accounts". When communicating our feelings with one another we - teachers and students included - are sure to cite if they interaction was a withdrawal or a deposit in the emotional bank accounts. Students are aware that you can make deposits and withdrawals from a persons emotional bank account even if you were not talking to them directly.