Until Lizbeth entered my life, I believed I was a wonderful teacher. But it turned out
that years ofexperience and my college degree were no match for this five-year-old.She
threw paint on the windows and turned a favorite tape into a twisted mass of ribbon.
She was fluent in the vilest profanity, and during a tantrum she head-butted me hard
enough to crack a rib. Lizbeth was first to arrive in the morning, last to leave in the
afternoon,and the only one not absent with chicken pox.
That year with Lizbeth was painful.But more importantly,that year I started on a
journey that was to change the way I taught forever.
Lizbeth crossed my path after I had a few years ofexperience with children.By then
I had learned classroom management from teachers with far more experience than I
had.I gave my kids clear limits and time outs.They received praise when they behaved
and stern words combined with “the look”when they did not. I saw, I tried, I con-
quered. It was the year of stickers, a student-of-the-week phase, and gold tokens for
good nappers.With each management technique,I gained more and more control over
the children in my care.
In my opinion, Lizbeth was a stubborn, spoiled, headstrong girl who needed to
learn that she wasn’t the boss of the universe, and I was determined to be the one to
teach her that lesson.I reached deep into my bag oftricks and techniques in an effort
to control and manage her.When she crashed a bike,I made her lose outside time.She
demolished the class gingerbread house, so I forced her to sit in the time-out chair
until she apologized to the other children. When she bombarded an innocent boy
with her infamous profanity,I took away her right to go on the zoo trip.As she esca-
lated her behavior, I escalated the consequences. But Lizbeth only became more dis-
ruptive and defiant.