You’ve probably heard the old saying, “You catch more bees with honey than with vinegar.” The meaning, of course is that you are more likely to get the behavior you want if you use kind words.
I have worked with wonderful assistants during my years as a special education teacher. Their dedication, hard work, insight, team spirit and helpfulness cannot be overstated. I have also had one or two assistants who came with a different approach to working with students with significant challenges.
The students in my class often had very difficult behaviors. Though strategies were in place to teach them replacement behaviors, those of you who have worked with these children know that it can be a very slow and sometimes stressful process.
One year I was finding that the tone in the classroom was becoming unpleasant, as one of the assistants was using a harsh, overly stern voice when talking to the students. I brought this to her attention on several occasions to no avail. I decided to have a meeting with everyone who worked in my classroom. We agreed that the class environment had become stressful. I did not want to call out the one assistant in front of her coworkers, so without making it obvious that this was a “one person” issue, I suggested that we try “catching bees with honey”.
The next morning I reminded everyone of our “new” approach and modeled the behavior throughout the day with exaggerated sweetness, hoping that the whole team would get on board. The overall tone in the classroom made a positive shift, but I still heard some “vinegar”. At the end of the day we met again, and though I got mostly positive responses, the one assistant admitted that it was difficult to always remember to use a gentle tone.
Deciding we needed a visual reminder, I printed out several large honeypots, and laminated and displayed them throughout the classroom. These visuals turned out to be very effective, and helped me to give a gentle reminder to my co-worker when it became necessary.
It was amazing the difference it made in the atmosphere of the classroom once everyone was using a kind voice. Students became more compliant, behaviors escalated less frequently and de-escalated more quickly and we became less stressed. Using kind, calm words and a gentle tone of voice can have a big impact!
Have you had a similar experience? I’d love to hear about it!
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