I’ve Had Enough – No More Public Behavior Management Systems

When I was a 5th grade teacher, my classroom was the very last one before the buses.  Every day, all of the school’s students would pass by and inevitably some of those students and I would strike up a conversation.  Day after day, a little kindergartener would tell me about his day, his shoes, his new fish, or whatever else popped into his mind.  One day, he saw me and beamed,”Guess what, Mrs. Ripp!”  “What?” I asked.  “Peter was on yellow today!”  He told this news as if it was the biggest gift, excitement spilling from his little body.  Momentarily confused, because wasn’t this child’s name distinctly not Peter, it finally dawned on me; he was talking about another student.  “Oh yeah?” I said.  “Yes, Mrs. Ripp, it’s exciting, he hasn’t been on yellow all year…”  It was November.  My heart dropped.

Here was a kindergarten student who every single day so far of the year had been on red. Who every day had their behavior dissected in front of the rest of the class.   Whose classroom identity was being distinctly shaped by poor decisions and whose biggest identifier was his behavior.  I can only imagine what my kindergarten friend would tell his parent every day about Peter.

And that is the thing.  As a parent, as another teacher, as someone who is outside of your classroom community, I should not be able to see which child is having a bad day.  I should not be able to walk into your room and see the aftermath of something that did not happen in front of me.  That is a personal matter between the child, the teacher, and that child’s parents.  Why do we seem to forget that every time we hang a behavior chart, display our cups, or even use Class Dojo publicly?

Why do we make our classrooms that are supposed to function on trust and support and turn them into halls of public shame for some kids?  Where is the outrage?  Or do parents not even know?

I get that there are kids that need behavior system, I have some of those kids too, but those behavior systems should center on privacy.  Should center on knowing the child.  Should center on the fact that we are dealing with another human being, that yes, may make poor decisions upon poor decisions, but they are still somebody’s child.  If we are looking for long-term change then that will never start with public shame, but it certainly ends there.

When we use public behavior management systems, we tell those children that school will never be a place where they will succeed.  We put them under an unattainable microscope and then wonder why they rebel.  We watch for the smallest infraction and then come down hard, making sure that they know who is in control, who holds the power, but did they really ever forget that?  And sure, for some kids it will make a change, for some kids it will take one down clip, one stick moved, one lost point and they will never do that behavior again because they have been embarrassed sufficiently.  Is that what we want to shape the behavior of our children?  But if we already know by the start of a day, which children will probably be on red or yellow, which child will already have a bad day, then why do we need to make it public?  Why make that a self-fulfilling prophecy?  Instead, we should be wondering how our school seems to not be working, and what do we need to change?

Today I was asked what I would use instead of a classroom behavior system or Class Dojo?  My answer; common sense and kindness.  Patience, communication, and yes, even private plans.  No child deserves to be publicly humiliated day upon day, they deserve better than this.  We can do better.

PS:  Here is a link to all of my posts talking about what you can do instead.

Before You Hang Up That Public Behavior Chart

What-if-we-assumed-that

I have written before about public behavior charts, how I feel about them, what they do to students in my opinion.  And while some seem to have found a way to make them work within their environments, I wonder; what if we assumed that all students would have a great day, a great year, and we started off our year without them?  No behavior chart prominently hanging greeting the students on the very first day of school?

I think of the message we send on the very first day of school and how it can frame the way a child sees us.  I used to go over my behavior chart as one of the very first things of the school year; how to act, what the expectations were and more importantly what the consequences would be.  I assumed that my students would need consequences.  I assumed they would need punishment.  I knew they needed a structure, all people do, but I framed that structure in a negative way hoping for a positive result  Why I didn’t see that oxymoron until a few years in, I am not sure.

I am not saying get rid of your behavior systems, not if you’re not ready, but perhaps re-think the assumption that they need to be present from the very first moment of the new year.  And while we are battling assumptions, maybe it is time to reconsider whether all children truly benefit from them.  Do we really need a behavior chart for every single student in our rooms?  I think of my own daughter who works so hard on being good every single day, proudly telling me whenever she gets a compliment from the teacher, and the devastating effect it would have on her if she had to be on “yellow” or “not so great” for the whole world to see.  She cares so much about others, sometimes to a fault, that it would wreck her if others thought she was “bad.” Some may say that that is exactly the intended response; for a child to be so mortified that they never do that behavior again.  Yet, I wonder if that mortification leads to a break down in relationship?

We all know that student behavior can get better if a child feels safe within our environment.  That means safe to learn, safe to try, and yes, safe to have a bad day.  When we publicly show the rest of the class that a child is having a bad day and then leave a reminder up, we limit the way a child can process through their actions.  Some students will obviously correct their behavior, whereas others will continue down the path of bad decisions since they have already been called out on it.  So instead of the public behavior chart, how about a private one?  That way a child can still know how they are doing, you can still have the conversations it may spur, but you cut out the public call out, the public humiliation.  And what if on the first day of school we didn’t speak of just our own rules, but had the students discuss their rules for the classroom?  How about instead of consequences, we spoke of the learning journey?

So before you hang up that public behavior chart, even though it may have room for both great behavior and bad, consider whether every child needs one?  Can we accomplish the same privately?  Can a compliment mean more to a child than moving their clip?  Can a hushed conversation be a better consequence for a child who is making bad choices?  Can the same benefits that some see in the charts be reached in a kinder, quieter way?  I don’t think it hurts to ask the question.

PS:  If you want to read more about what I do now in my classrooms, read here 

I am a passionate teacher in Oregon, Wisconsin, USA,  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. 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” is out now from Corwin Press.  Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

So What’s My Problem With Public Behavior Charts?

image borrowed from Kimberley Moran – see her great post on how to move past behavior charts linked at the bottom of the post

 

The day starts out fine, you had your breakfast, you had your tea, you feel prepared, happy even.  You are off to school and ready to teach.  At the morning staff meeting you get so excited over an idea you lean over to your colleague to whisper in their ear.   After all, they really need to hear this.  “Mrs. Ripp, please move your clip.”  Shocked, you look around and feel every set of eyes on you.  You stand up, walk to the front, move your clip from the top of the chart to yellow or whatever other step down there is.  Quietly you sit down, gone is your motivation for the day, you know it can only get worse from here.

Ridiculous right?  After all, how many times as adults are we asked to move our name, our clip, our stick, or even write our name on the board so others can see we are misbehaving?  We don’t, and we wouldn’t if we were told to, after all, we demand respect, we demand common courtesy, we expect to be treated like, well, adults.  So us, moving sticks, yeah right…

Search for “Classroom behavior charts” on Pinterest and prepare to be astounded.  Sure, you will see the classic stop light charts, but now a new type of chart has emerged.  The cute classroom behavior chart, filled with flowers, butterflies, and smiley faces.  As if this innocent looking chart could never damage a child, as if something with polka-dots could ever be bad.   And sure, must of them have more than three steps to move down, but the idea is still the same; a public behavior chart display will ensure students behave better.  Why?  Because they don’t want the humiliation that goes along with moving ones name.  Nothing beats shaming a child into behaving.

The saddest thing for me is that I used to do it.  I used to be the queen of moved sticks, checkmarks, and names on the board.  I used to be the queen of public displays heralding accomplishments and shaming students.  I stopped when I realized that all I did was create a classroom divided, a classroom that consisted of the students who were good and the students who were bad.  I didn’t even have to tell my students out-loud who the “bad” kids were, they simply looked at our chart and then drew their own conclusions.  And then as kids tend to do, they would tell their parents just who had misbehaved and been on red or yellow for the day. Word got around and parents would make comments whenever they visited our room of just how tough it must be to teach such and such.  I couldn’t understand why they would say that until I realized it stared me in the face.  My punishment/behavior system announced proudly to anyone who the bad kids were, so of course, parents knew it too. So I took it down and never looked back.  No more public humiliation in my classroom ever again.

We may say that we do it for the good of the child.  We may say that it helps us control our classrooms.  We may say that public behavior charts have worked in our classrooms.  I know I used to.  And yet, have we thought of how the students feel about them?  Have we thought about the stigma we create?  Have we thought about the role we force students into and then are surprised when they continue to play it?

The fastest way to convince a child they are bad is to tell them in front of their peers.  So if that is what we are trying to accomplish, then by all means, display the cute behavior charts. Frame them in smiley faces, hearts or whatever other pinterest idea you stumble upon.  Start everyone in the middle so the divide becomes even more apparent when some children move up and others move down.  Hang those banners of accomplishment, make sure not everyone is on there.  Make sure everybody has been ranked and that everybody knows who is good and who is bad.  Create a classroom where students actions are not questioned, nor discussed, but simply punished.  And then tell them loudly and proudly to move their clip.  After all, if the whole class doesn’t know someone is misbehaving then how will they ever change?

To see one teacher’s journey of how she moved past public behavior charts, please read this post by Kimberley Moran “Moving Past Behavior Charts” 

PS:  As Patrick’s comment wonders, what are the alternatives?  I have blogged extensively about what to do instead, just click the links highlighted in the post or go to this page 

PPS:  More thoughts on this have been posted tonight 

I am a passionate  teacher in Wisconsin, USA,  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. 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.

 

Common Misbehaviors and How I Work With Them

I am editing my book (to be published in mid-July by PLPress!) and while I am taking much out because it seems redundant or unclear, tonight I added more thoughts on getting rid of punishments.  As so often happens my thoughts kept evolving and I came up with this, hope it is helpful


Misbehavior
Old Ways
New Ideas
A child constantly blurts or interrupts
Reprimand, check mark or anything else that signals they were not following rules
  • Partner share – have them tell answers to children at their tables before sharing with you
  • Dry erase board – this way they can flash you the answer rather than blurt it out
  • A tally sheet – They mark down when they blurt out to create awareness of problem, no punishment attached
The child that cannot sit still
Force them to “Pay attention!”

  • Give them a movement break – a quick walk around the school usually helps
  • Allow them to work wherever they choose, at least  then they will not distract their seat mates
  • Change up the way you are teaching
    @Cybraryman1 reminded me of ball chairs – which I actually have in my room and forgot to mention – these are also great for kids that are falling out of their chairs.
The class that cannot concentrate
Yell or raise voice, give them a lecture about importance of information
  • Change the way something will be taught
  • Ask the students how they would like to learn about it
Late or missing homework
Missed recess or phone call home, loss of privileges
  • Ask them how they plan to fix it.  Often students will brainstorm a way to get it done.
  • If they say they left it at home tell them you believe them and that they can hand it in the following day
  • Conference to set up plan for remembering in the long run
Disrespect
Yelling or raised finger, immediate dismissal to office
  • Much of this can be prevented through establishment of community, however, if it happens stay calm and try to joke about it
  • Speaking privately to the student about the disrespect and ask for reasons behind it
Constant chatting between students or passing notes
Singling out students, loss of privilege
  • Recognizing the conversation and asking them to stop then changing how the lesson is delivered  
  • Give students time to discuss or work with partners
  • Ignoring behavior if it is not a big deal
Excessive violation of classroom rules
Loss of privileges, loss of recess, sent to the office
  • Classroom discussion to see if rules need to be changed
  • Asking child why they are doing what they are doing and what you can do to help
  • Keeping it low key to not give it more importance and trying to figure out what is causing it rather than just focusing on the infractions themselves.


The Best in 2016 – My Favorite Posts of the Year

Who would have known what this year would bring, how the world would look so different from the promises we arose with in our minds on January 1st.  We have made it another trip around the sun and tomorrow we start a new year, a new book so so to speak.  Who knows what will grace this blog in 2017.

This was a year of change for my family.  Theadora, our oldest, changed school districts, the twins, Ida and Oskar, started 4-K, and my husband left the construction business after 19 years to become a stay-at-home dad and also go back to school to pursue his dream of being a teacher.  It seems in a family life of change, I was the only constant.  A new book was published, another one almost written and so many opportunities to grow as a teacher.   There were 154 posts published on this post, many of them involving literacy, many of them involving books, so which are the ones that stood out to me?

Broken Child

A post about our oldest daughter and realizing that while she does not learn in a typical fashion at times, she was never broken.  Excerpt:

She’s got my eyes, you know.

Blue mixed with gray depending  on the weather.   She’s got my long legs, arms for miles, and a laugh that comes from her heart.  Her hands look like my grandfather’s who gave her her name.  And those feet of hers are just like mine, growing too fast for her shoes to keep up.

She’s got her daddy’s sense of humor, always ready to make you smile.  And also his artistic eye, declaring one day she will be an artist.  She will paint the sky with every color she knows.

But she doesn’t have my skills of sitting still.  Of staying quiet.  Of focusing in.

She doesn’t smile easy or understand when others are kidding.  Friendships are sometimes hard to find.

Some would say she is a broken child.  Some would say she is a broken child.

12 Ways I Got My Life Back in Balance As a Teacher

A post I needed to remind myself that while teaching is an incredible job it is not the only thing I want my life to be consumed with.  Excerpt:

I get asked often how I do it all.  How do I teach full-time, have 4 children, a happy marriage, and also write, speak, and all of those other things that I am so lucky to do without losing my mind.  And the truth is; I don’t know.  There are good days where I feel like I have succeeded in most things and there are days where I feel woefully overworked.  There is definitely a chase of balance always going on.  Yet, there are some things that have simplified my teaching life that I now take for granted.  Things that used to take up a lot of time that I no longer do or have changed to allow me to not work as much as I used to.  Because the truth is; being a teacher is a never-ending job.  Your to-do list is never done.  There will always be one more thing that should get done, one more idea to try.  Knowing that, I knew I needed to change a few things, in and out of the classroom in order to save my sanity and have a life.

On the Need for Classroom Libraries for All Ages

A post to remind ourselves that the need for classroom libraries coupled with a school library (and librarian!) does not end after elementary school.  We need classroom libraries in all of our classrooms, no matter the age.

It took me 3 seconds to decide that I was going to move my entire classroom library into my 7th grade classroom.  Coming from 5th grade I wasn’t quite sure what the use of a classroom library would be on my new adventure, after all, we would only have 45 minutes together, but I couldn’t leave my books behind.  I couldn’t leave them in boxes.  Even if we didn’t need the books as a class, I needed them.  My books were home to me and when you change schools, when you change districts, when you change grade levels, you need all of the pieces of home you can find.

My husband carried every single box of books into my classroom.  There were more than 100 and they took up an entire wall as I waited for my bookshelves to arrive.  He didn’t mind too much, he has realized a long time ago that I my obsession with books is part of who I am.  As I opened each box and shelved the books in their new home, I couldn’t help but wonder if any child would ever read them?  If dust would soon become their second skin rather than the hands of children.  Was there any point in my meticulous placement of books?

Reading Conferences Within the 45 Minute English Classroom, Yes, It Is Possible

I have tried for the past three years to find time to confer with my students within the 45 minutes that I teach.  It is so hard, but here are the ideas that have helped it become more of a reality.

Confession time; I am terrible at conferring with my students.  This once proud foundation of my elementary classroom is now a crumbling pillar in my 7th grade English class.  Call it a victim of the 45 minute I have to teach everything in.  A victim of the so much to do.  A victim of not quite knowing how to make it productive.  Whatever it is, the conferring that I know I should be doing has simply not been getting done.

Yet a few weeks ago, I realized that the one thing I needed the most (besides more time, more books, more knowledge) was the simple conference.  The one to one interaction with every single one of my students if even for just a few minutes.   Because conferring is the one way I can really reach all students.  Is the one way we can connect the best.  Is the one way that I can really see what each child needs.  Conferring is the best way for me to be a better teacher to all of the needs must of us are faced with.   So even within the 45 minute English class, with almost 120 students spread over 5 classes, there had to be a way.  There had to be tweaks that could be made to make it work so an experiment began.

The Test Does Not Care

Every spring I am confronted with the hours of tests my students have to take, this year was no different.  I have realized though that the test does not care about my kids and it never will.

We teach our students to ask questions, to share, to discuss.  We teach them to find help when they need it, take their time when they can, and to always use their tools.

They sit where they are comfortable in order to access the learning best.  They reach out to those they trust and they use us whenever they are lost or just want to make sure that the path they are headed down is, indeed, the right one.

We try to create learning environments where discovering facts is only the first step of the journey, using them as a way to further understanding is the next.  We use our shared ideas to further the knowledge of others.  Where mistakes happen and we try again.  We try to create learning environments where students have a voice, where they have choices, where we try to make it personal so that the experience they have makes sense for who they are.

What Every Teacher of Reading Should Do According to My Students

Besides my own children my students have always been the biggest professional development I have received.  So it made sense to share their truths as they told me what made them love or hate reading with the world.

I have watched in amazement day upon day as our 7th graders have fallen into reading.  Have become still.  Have been whisked away to other worlds with their books in their hands and nothing to do but read.  I have listened as they have spoken of books, have handed them to each other, have recommended and requested.  Have been in competition with one another to read the book first, have asked me for that one book that they just can’t seem to find.

I have watched as my 118 learners became readers.  Not that they weren’t before, well some weren’t, but now; books are a part of who they are, at least in the 45 minutes we share.  Readers who were dormant are now awake.  Readers who were resistant are now in a fragile dance with books that entice them to keep reading.  Readers who already read have found bigger challenges to keep themselves engaged.  And I am so grateful.  Because these kids gave me a chance  and I now see the difference as we race toward the end.

So today I asked them; what do you wish every teacher would do for you as a reader and they told me, and then they told me to tell the world.

I’ve Had Enough  – No More Public Behavior Management Systems

For years I have fought against the use of public behavior management systems for kids and yet I still see, hear, and read about them every month.  Our job is not to publicly shame children, it never was, why do we seem to forget that?

When I was a 5th grade teacher, my classroom was the very last one before the buses.  Every day, all of the school’s students would pass by and inevitably some of those students and I would strike up a conversation.  Day after day, a little kindergartener would tell me about his day, his shoes, his new fish, or whatever else popped into his mind.  One day, he saw me and beamed,”Guess what, Mrs. Ripp!”  “What?” I asked.  “Peter was on yellow today!”  He told this news as if it was the biggest gift, excitement spilling from his little body.  Momentarily confused, because wasn’t this child’s name distinctly not Peter, it finally dawned on me; he was talking about another student.  “Oh yeah?” I said.  “Yes, Mrs. Ripp, it’s exciting, he hasn’t been on yellow all year…”  It was November.  My heart dropped.

Here was a kindergarten student who every single day so far of the year had been on red. Who every day had their behavior dissected in front of the rest of the class.   Whose classroom identity was being distinctly shaped by poor decisions and whose biggest identifier was his behavior.  I can only imagine what my kindergarten friend would tell his parent every day about Peter.

The Reading Rules We Would Never Follow As Adult Readers

Written as a reminder to myself, this post resonated with many when we spoke about the insanity of reading rules we sometimes create in our classrooms.  I am grateful for the discussions this one continues to generate.

Choice.

The number one thing all the students I have polled through theJust an ImmigrantJust  years want the most when it comes to reading.  No matter how I phrase the question, this answer in all of its versions is always at the top.  Sometimes pleading, sometimes demanding, sometimes just stated as a matter of fact; please let us choose the books we want to read.

Yet, how often is this a reality for the students we teach?  How often, in our eagerness to be great teachers, do we remove or disallow the very things students yearn for to have meaningful literacy experiences?  How many of the things we do to students would we never put up with ourselves?  In our quest to create lifelong readers, we seem to be missing some very basic truths about what makes a reader.  So what are the rules we would probably not always follow ourselves?

Just an Immigrant

Many people are not aware that I am not an American and this year I became even more aware of the privilege my origin and skin color carries.  I had to write about it.

Eighteen years ago, almost to the day, I stood in a small office in the Logan International Airport, Boston, Massachusetts clutching a sealed envelope to my chest as I tried to slow my galloping heart.  In the envelope was a copy of my chest x-rays, not seen by anyone until the official in front of me would open them up.  My pile of papers had been handed over and he riffled through them, tossing those aside that seemed unimportant.  I am not sure I took a breath at all.  I knew that if he found a mistake, if something seemed out of sorts, if something was missing, or a box was not checked, that was it.  No questions, no explanations, I would be back on a plane to Denmark and all of the time, money, and hoping would have been for nothing.  Standing there as an eighteen year old, I remember feeling so little, so scared, and so unsure of myself.  My fate was in the hands of a stranger and all I could do was smile.

“What are you doing here?” or something similar is all I remember being asked.  I must have answered correctly, in my perfect English, because he finally stamped my passport and handed it back to me.  “Welcome to the United States of America…”

The Worst Class in (X) Years

What do we do when a class’ reputation defines them as a group?

My last year as a 5th grade teacher we were warned, in a friendly way ,of course, as these warnings tend to be.  “Oh, you will have your hands full…”  Oh, THAT group is coming up.”  My team and I had seen these kids come up through the years, that is the beauty of elementary school.  Yes, we had seen the tantrums, the fighting, the crazy behavior that made many label this group as the worst in (insert however many) years.  But we also had seen the kindness, the energy, the fun that these kids projected and knew that while we may have our hands full, the year with them would be a year where we would always strive to look for the good, rather than the bad because although the bad was so easy to spot, it should not define a group of kids.  Sure there were days where we could not believe what was going on but what I remember most about that year was how incredible the kids were.  How much fun we had.  How there were these incredible lows but also days that were some of the best of my teaching career.  My team would agree with me on this.  Yes we had THAT group but also loved THAT group.

Every year since then I have taken that same pledge; to always look for the good first.  To always praise, to always point out how great of a group this group is.  To change the group narrative in some small way.   To always assume that this will be an incredible year no matter the reputation of a group.  I think it is so easy to fall prey to the notion of the worst class ever.  I think it is so easy to just want to get through a year as quickly as possible, I know there are days that seem never ending where we question everything we do.  Yet when we do, we forget something very important; not every kid is going to have a bad day every day.  Not every kid is going to have a bad class every class.  Sometimes it may seem like this is the toughest day yet, but that too shall pass and just like we hope for a better day tomorrow, so do the very kids we teach.

 

The Least We Can Do 

I was asked to do an Ignite at ITEC, I realized that there was one story I wanted to tell above all; the story of Augustine and her much too soon arrival and how it reminds me that the least we can do is love the kids who show up.

On December 19th, 2013, our youngest daughter, Augustine, was born almost 10 weeks early.  She came so fast that there was no doctor in the room, just the nurse.  She came so fast that I now know what the big red emergency button in a hospital room does.  She came so fast that I did not see her.  I did not hold her.  She did not cry.  For the first minute of her life, I did not know if she was alive.  It wasn’t until my husband, Brandon, told me she was breathing that I think I took a breath.  That life started up again because for that longest minute of my life, with no wailing to calm me down, I had no idea if I was still the mother of three or the mother of four.

They whisked her away from me into their machines, into the equipment that would help her tiny body breathe, stay warm, and her heart keep beating.  See when babies are born that early they need help with everything.  And we can prepare all we want but it is not until they actually arrive and we see how much they need us that we realize that all of a sudden we have started a new journey, one that will take us down a perilous path where we might not be able to see our destination for a long time.

Dear Dav Pilkey

I have long chronicled Thea’s reading journey on this blog and how it has shaped me as a teacher and as a human being.  This letter of gratitude to Dav Pilkey sums her journey up to now.

Dear Dav Pilkey,

You don’t know me, not unless you count the every brief moment I stood in front of you a few hours ago in your book signing line.  Yet I feel like I know you, perhaps that is what happens when your books have shaped the reading lives of so many of my students, I have seen the power they hold to transform children, I am grateful.  But just recently your books have taken on a new meaning for me.

You see, our oldest daughter, Thea, is what some would define as a struggling reader, we choose not to but instead just see her as a child who has not yet found her place in the world of reading, who so desperately wants to belong but still feels like she is on the outside looking in.  Who is developing with every book encounter she has.  Who has to work so hard when it comes to something that others find to be so easy.  Who for all of the years of her school experience has been given support by extraordinary teachers who have helped her believe that one day those words will come off the page and come alive.   Just not yet…

A Quiet Moment

These kids we teach and the books we read, oh what a combination it can be at times.

Life is full right now.  Full of so many wonderful things.  Full of so many privileges, but also challenges, things that will make me grow as a person, as a teacher, as a human being trying to be a better human being.  One of my privileges is to get to teach a class with some pretty incredible kids in it.  They are bouncy, creative, loud at times.  Sometimes they need reeling in that can take more than few minutes and yet every day as they walk out, although I am a little bit tired, I cannot wait for them to come back.

Today, the day after Halloween, I did not know what to expect.  After all, one child had declared to me the day before that really all school should just be cancelled the week of Halloween.  As a mother witnessing my own children’s lethargy this morning, I had to wonder what the day would bring.  Would these boys even be ready for anything?  Would it be a day of wasted time?  As the day grew on and the kids seemed to wake up from their tiredness, I started to ponder just how loud the end of the day would be?  Where would the crescendo hit?

A Story of A Child That Can

Rather than viewing our children through what they cannot do, we need to view them as they are now; capable, changed, and facing a whole life of possibilities ahead.

For the past three years, on December 19th, I have written about the miracle that is our youngest daughter, Augustine.  About her much too soon arrival.  About the fear.  The uncertainty.  The guilt…

I have written about my hope for others to see how a child’s start in life may still haunt them many years later when they show up in our classrooms.  I have written about how the very least we can do is love them when they come.  How we can prepare all we want and yet never be fully ready.

Augustine’s much too soon arrival has shaped our lives in many ways, and yet…last night when I came home from school I did not see a baby that arrived too early.  I did not see a 4 pound miracle.  I did not see a child wrapped up in long nights and frightening futures.  In machines and medical personel.  I saw an almost three year old showing me her pig, Pua.  I saw an almost three year old that wanted to watch that monster show.  I saw an almost three year old that kept her siblings awake by making cat noises.

As I look ahead to 2017, I cannot wait to see what I will write about.

 

 

A Few Tips From a Parent for Better Parent-Teacher Conferences

‘Tis the season of parent teacher/conferences, not just for me as a teacher, but also for our three school-aged children.  Having been on both sides of the table now for a few years, I have been thinking about how we as teachers can use the parent perspective to prepare well.  So here are a few tips for better parent/teacher conference from a parent’s perspective.

Send home a questionnaire beforehand.

All three of my children’s teachers did this and it allowed us to really think about what we were hoping to hear about at their conference.  We knew that my husband would be the only one present and so we could discuss beforehand what was important to both of us.  We then sent it back a few days before so the teacher had time to prepare.  Simple questions such as; what would you like to know more about or what concerns do you have if any will do the trick.

Have the child evaluate if they are not present.

While I am a firm believer in student-led conferences, if that is not a possibility have the children self-evaluate beforehand and also invite them along.  Thea had circled her answers on her own behavior and work habits and it was great to see the self-reflection.

Start with the praise, sure, but be realistic too.

While I would love to know all of the great things about my child, I certainly need to know where their areas of growth are, even if it as hard conversation to start.  More than likely the teacher will not say something surprising.  We know children act differently often at school and home, so let me know what the school version of my child is, even if it is a kid that does not make the best of choices.

Give us specific things to work on with them.  

While there may be many things our child needs to work on, give us a few specific things.  We know that one child really needs to work on his pencil grip and his letter recognition, while another needs to work on chunking and handling frustration more easily.  While we know there are many goals we can work on with them, these are the ones that take priority right now.

Give us tools.

I was so impressed with the tools we were handed by our children’s teachers.  From math program logins to the computer, to cut out letters, we now have specific tools we can use with our children as we support their further learning.

Allow it to be recorded.

Our children’s conferences were on the days that I had to give conferences so my husband asked if we could record the conversation on his phone.  That meant I did not have to rely on his retelling but instead could hear the whole conversation.  While I wish I could have been present to be a part of the conversation, this was the next best thing.  I was so grateful to hear the whole conversation and not just the big parts.

Show us that you know our child.

This is something I am still working on with my many middle school children, but I try to show parents that I actually know their child just a little.  Again, we were impressed with the care that our childrens’ teachers took with how they interact with them.  It was clear that not only are they great teachers, but also great human beings that truly care about the kids they teach.

Let your enthusiasm shine through.
Even when we had to discuss a few not so great decisions or things to work on, it was clear that these teachers love their job and the kids they teach.  Leaving a conference feeling like your child is in the best of hands is an incredible feeling.  It also means that if  these teachers have to have harder discussions with us about things our kids may have done or not done, we know that they are coming from a place of love.

I am so grateful to the stellar education all of my children are receiving and also to the way that their teachers communicate with us.  While our children are by no means perfect, we know that every day they are in the best of hands; caring teachers who will challenge them and also be partners as we try to help them grow into even better human beings.

I am currently working on a new literacy book.  The book, which I am still writing, is tentatively Passionate Readers and will be published in the summer of 2017 by Routledge.  I also have a new book coming out January, 2017 called Reimagining Literacy Through Global Collaboration, a how-to guide for those who would like infuse global collaboration into their curriculum.    So until then if you like what you read here, consider reading my book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students.  Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.