I stopped using a punishment system in my classroom, when I realized I already knew who would get in trouble.
I stopped using a reward system in my classroom, when I realized I knew who would be rewarded.
Few kids ever proved me wrong, instead they mostly stayed within the track that my management system had placed them in. And those that were always on the board? Who I was always calling out? They didn’t stay there for lack of trying, oh I tried to reach those boys behaving badly(because let’s be honest most of them were boys). I tried to reason with them, talk about the future, praise them when they made better choices, point out their mistakes so they could fix them, help them grow, help them learn. Support them, guide them, punish them when needed.
Sure, there was change. I could usually get them to work after a while. You take enough away and most kids will crumble at some point. You yell enough and most kids will get to it. But their behaviors never changed for good. The next day, the next week,sometimes the next period, the battle started over and sometimes I ran out of punishment options. Where do you go after you have sent a 10 year old kid to the office, had the principal yell at them, and pulled in their parents? Do you start to suspend so that they will work harder? Do you take away every privilige until they break?
It wasn’t until I got rid of my systems and started working on relationships, community, trust, and creating a passionate classroom environment, that the behaviors changed. It wasn’t until I took down the behavior charts, and started to get to know my students better that the kids, those kids, started to care more. As one principal told me, “It is not for themselves they work, it is for you, we will get them to work for themselves later.” So I set out to create an environment where they wanted to be, create a classroom filled with learning that spoke to them. That didn’t mean throwing out the curriculum but it meant working with it in a different way to reignite a curiosity that had been forgotten. It didn’t always work, sometimes kids come to us with bigger demons than we can ever fight, but a seed had been planted in some of these kids that perhaps school wasn’t just out to get them.
I never knew that writing about public behavior charts would ignite a firestorm of comments on this blog. After all, I have tackled bigger topics before. But this one, this seemingly small part of our classrooms, has taken on a life of its own. Some agreed, some discussed, and some simply thought I was crazy to put it mildly. My skin has definitely grown thicker every day. What upset me the most were not the words spoken about me, but rather about the kids we teach and how if we don’t do something like this, they will turn out in a certain way. Here are a few highlights from comments…
” I’m sorry, but being an overprotective, hypersensitive teacher will get my students nowhere.”
“Maybe if we didn’t “baby” kids they would be stronger individuals.”
“…we are raising an entire generation of hypersensitive kids who are unable to behave appropriately, and take responsibility for their own actions. ”
“…is it almost came off sounding like if you use behavior charts you’re a bad, horrible teacher that could care less about the feelings of your students.”
“You want a society of sociopaths? Keep rewarding (or not addressing) bad behavior and failing to teach values.”
“So tired of these parents who want to caudle these disrespectful beings….oh I don’t want to hurt their feelings….please….I seriously would like to see you try to teach a group of children who are quite difficult….making noises, throwing chairs, flipping desks, kicking or hitting THE TEACHER! ”
In the end, what we do is about children, and I chose to get rid of a system that did not work for my students, nor me. It did not promote unity, self-control, or solutions. It was a quick fix that sure let a child know where they stood for the day, but also let the rest of the world know. As an adult, I am given the privilege of a private conversation whenever I screw up. I wanted to afford my students the same thing. That doesn’t mean I baby them, nor that they are coddled. My difficult children, the ones that fist fought, that threw tables, that told me that there was nothing I could do about it. They were the ones that needed me the most. They were the ones that needed some control the most.
You may not agree with me on public behavior charts, you may even want to attack me personally, calling me delusional or worse. But the kids? They are not all bad kids, who we need to toughen up. Some of these kids have had lives that I could never imagine dealing with. They are not all kids that get away with whatever they want. They are not all kids whose parents are not raising them right. They are kids who are trying. They are kids who want to make good choices. They are kids who probably have dreams. They are kids…Let’s not forget that.
I am a passionate teacher in Wisconsin, USA, who has taught 4, 5th, and 7th grade. Proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children. I have no awards or accolades except for the lightbulbs that go off in my students’ heads every day. First book “Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classrooms Back to Our Students” can be purchased now from Powerful Learning Press. Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” can be pre-ordered from Corwin Press now. Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.