Ask the Teacher: Interrupting Kids

Ask the Teacher is a monthly column from our magazine, written by Deb Krupowicz, a mother of four who holds a Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction. Deb has over twenty years of experience teaching preschool, elementary and middle school students. Please send your questions to her at [email protected].                        

My husband and I attended parent/teacher conferences for our  fourth-grade daughter a few days ago. Our daughter’s teacher said that our daughter was in the habit of interrupting while she was teaching and when she was working with other students. We realized that the same thing happens at home. How can we help our daughter to be more respectful? 

Begin with a conversation, asking  your daughter to explain her understanding of interrupting.  Share openly what her teacher said at the conference. Have her think of any examples of times when she may have interrupted someone at school or at home.  You may have to coach a bit here!  Make it very clear to her that you understand her need to ask a question or to share a thought, but that others also have that same need. State your expectation very directly: She must not interrupt others except in the case of an emergency.  

More than a clarification of expectations is required. Develop a specific game plan. Instruct your daughter to do the following when she has something to say: Stop first and take a few seconds to look around and observe what others are doing. If the teacher is talking to the class or to another student, or if you are talking with someone else, she should write down her question or a few key words of what it is she wants to share so that she doesn’t forget it. While she is waiting for her opportunity to talk, she should do something else constructive.  

Your daughter’s teacher and both of you should use a coordinated strategy to help your daughter correct this behavior. Agree on a hand signal that you will all use if your daughter starts to interrupt. Maintain your focus on the person with whom you are talking; do not make eye contact with your daughter. Simply hold up your hand, using the established signal. As soon as you are able, initiate discussion with your daughter.  

Because this has become a habit, it may take a while to change this behavior. Be patient and consistent.    

I always have a hard time coming up with gift ideas for my children’s teachers. Whatever I think of seems to be such an inadequate way of showing what we think of their dedication. What do you suggest? 

Most teachers do what they do because they love kids, and they take great pleasure in helping them learn. Knowing their efforts are noticed and appreciated is a great boost.  

Every  teacher  wishes he or she had more time and more opportunity for  relaxation. Consider ways your gift can provide that: a gift card for a cup of coffee, a  movie, dinner, a manicure  or a bookstore. Put together a gift bag with a magazine or  a puzzle book, a few chocolates  and some warm socks. Make a coupon for a soup supper that you prepare and deliver after school for a date to be determined.  Add a note from your child and from you that expresses your thanks.  Anything that provides a teacher with a few minutes to unwind will send the clear message that you value all of the time dedicated to your children.  

My third grade son seems to spend a lot of his time in STEM class “coding.” As he describes it, it seems like more computer games than anything else. I am just not sure I understand how putting things into code helps him in any of the areas of STEM focus. What is the point of it? 

When students are “coding,” they are doing what much older students of the last generation called “programming.”  Current technologies offer opportunities for even very young students to “code.”  This experience helps move them from the role of a passive  technology  participant to the role of creator. It integrates  not only mathematical concepts and  logic in sequencing and design, but also  collaboration  and communication  with  assessment and evaluation. The insights in evaluation lead to an understanding of identifying errors and  a desire to work to rectify them for a successful result.  

Coding provides an authentic means of practicing problem solving. Patience and perseverance are needed to re-think and re-create components that are not working as intended. The activity promotes genuine confidence building as students attain success using their own creative thinking, hard work and problem-solving skills.   

Often students who struggle in traditional academic endeavors find a sense of success with coding.  

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