I get asked a lot about my feelings about Class Dojo and whether or not I use it. I think it has to do with my very public stance on the use of public rewards and public punishment, which can be a component of this program. So I am finally taking the plunge; let’s discuss Class Dojo for a moment.
I have never used Class Dojo, which is why I hesitate to give my opinion, yet that very opinion is why I won’t use it. My first hesitation is cemented in the public ranking system that it uses. As a parent of a child who often has more energy than her peers, I can only imagine how she would feel if her name was constantly shown to be on the bottom because she is that kid that talks out of turn or gets out of her seat. Ranking her would not help her curb those behaviors, nor make her more aware, she knows already, she works on it every single day, and yes, she feels bad. She is also 6 years old and can only focus on so much at a time. As a teacher who gave up public punishment and rewards five years ago, I don’t see the need for any child to know how another child is doing in a class. I don’t think it fosters community. I don’t think it makes kids feel good about their role in the classroom. I know that some will argue that having a visual reminder of how they are doing, much like a public behavior chart, is just fine, yet the parent heart in my breaks. Visual reminders of consequences is one thing, but having students names attached to the levels of behavior is another. Yes, kids should be held accountable for their actions, but if we use a system that often ranks children and we don’t see a change in their behavior then that ranking does not work.
My second hesitation is the time factor. I cannot imagine spending time in my day entering in behavior information for every child and handing them points for both good and bad behavior, even if there is an app for my phone. I cannot imagine trying to track student engagement through a program, I track that through my eyes and my reading of the classroom all the time. I teach 130+ students, if I had to enter points or take them away every time they did something good or bad, that is all I would do. Plus, in my own experience with point systems, I almost always forgot to award good points which meant that once again my focus was just on the negative behaviors. Praise, in my opinion, should be delivered immediately and be sincere, not entered on a computer. I have seen kids light up because I noticed something they did, and I have seen praise spread from child to child just because someone said something. While behavior is an essential part of our day it should be an undercurrent, constantly running, not a major focus all day, every day. I wonder, does this program bring behavior into the spotlight so much that it takes up more time than it needs to?
My third, and final, major hesitation is the direct communication to parents through the reports. I am a huge believer in thorough parent communication, but I wonder whether parents need to be able to check on their child’s behavior every single day, every single moment. I think back to my own school days and my “off days,” where I was glad that my mother didn’t always know. Not because she would punish me if she did, but because it gave me a chance to have an off day and still be ok. To change my behavior because I wanted to, not because I was told to do so by my mother. I also worry about those few kids that do face major consequences from parents if they are seemingly misbehaving. Those students where any small infractions causes physical harm or deprivation in their home environment. Sure, this does not happen with every child, but for some it does. Class Dojo highlights it product with this line “Get parents informed and on your side quickly and easily.” Yet, I didn’t know parents weren’t on our side, or that sides even had to be taken? If parents are on our side, who are we fighting against? The kids? Finally, as a parent, I would not want to know how my child does every single day. I trust that she is having good days unless I am told otherwise. She is often the first one to tell me if she gets in trouble, which leads to a good conversation about choices. If I knew every single day about every single thing, I wonder how hyper-focused I would become? What would my focus be when my kid came home from school?
Yet, within my doubts about the positives of this program, I have also met good teachers that have implemented it in a meaningful way, where they have not used the ranking, nor made it public, but rather used it as way to track behaviors within the classroom. I have discussed it with teachers that have made the program their own and swear by it. I am not here to judge those teachers, but instead start a discussion. So if you are one of those teachers, please add your voice, because in the end, I wonder whether a program like Class Dojo is good for students? Not for teachers or for parents because that is not who school is for, but for students? Is this program, or something similar, re-engaging students in their classrooms, creating positive learning environments for all, and creating permanent changes in behavior? Or is it one more tool to punish those kids that already have enough negativity associated with schools? What do you say? What is your experience?
I am a passionate teacher in Oregon, Wisconsin, USA but originally from Denmark, who has taught 4th, 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. The second edition of my first book “Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classrooms Back to Our Students” will be published by Routledge in the fall. Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” is out now from Corwin Press. Join our Passionate Learners community on Facebook and follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.