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 Full Story

We stood staring at Plymouth Rock yesterday marveling at the history it represents.  At what it means for this nation that I have adopted as my home.  As we turned around we saw the statue of Massasoit, Chief of the Wampanoag tribe, on the hill, peering out to sea.  His image followed me into the car and I finally asked my husband, “Why on the hill?”  Why not right next to this monument that marks what many consider the beginning of America?  How many people miss this part of the story, marvel at the survival skills of those early Pilgrims, and do not think of the rest of the story; the other part of this complicated history of America?  Surely you must understand both sides to truly see the bigger picture…

It reminds me of my own work; how often do we, as teachers, just see the obvious?  The traits that show up on the very first day, that dominate our conversations and we never find the time to dig deeper?  We never “hike up the hill” to take a closer look at what we think lurks right there but that is hidden from view at first?  We don’t have time, we have so many kids, we have so much to do, and so our story continues single-mindedly for many of our students no matter the glimpses we see?

As many of us prepare to hand off our kids to the next team of teachers, may we find the time to tell the full story.  To sure, share the dominant things we have seen, but also the things that may be so easily seen.  To not tell the full story of a child in just data.  To not tell the full story of a child in just their behaviors.  To not tell the full story of a child in just the obvious, but dig a little deeper.  To make sure that our narrative is nuanced, balanced, and hopeful.  To give those teachers waiting to make a difference a chance at who this kid really is and not just the things that may have been the main talking point all year.

I think of the power we hold as the previous teachers of these kids.  Of how we decide what gets shared.  Of how we decide what is told.  Of how we decide what to focus on and we pass that on to the teachers that do not know them yet.  So tell the full story, and if you don’t have the full story yet find it before it is too late.  I know I still have work to do.

If you like what you read here, consider reading any of my books; the newest called Reimagining Literacy Through Global Collaboration, a how-to guide for those who would like to infuse global collaboration into their curriculum, was just released.  I am currently working on a new literacy book, called Passionate Readers and it will be published in the summer of 2017 by Routledge.If you are looking for solutions and ideas for how to re-engage all of your students consider reading my very first 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.

 

 

On Boys Will Be Boys

On Saturday, while at our park, my four-year-old daughter was asked to pull down her pants by a five-year-old boy.  I was 200 feet away and yet I didn’t see it until it was too late.  When I asked her what had happened, she told me he had told her to do it in exchange for the stick he had.  So she had, no big deal.  Even though, her father and I have told her numerous times that her private parts are just that; private.  Even though her father and I have told her that a request like that is not ok.  As I told my husband what had happened and how we needed to speak to the parents of the boy, he hesitated for a moment, “Isn’t that just what little boys do? Ask for stupid things?  Not think about the bigger picture.”  I thought of our own son and how this is not what I expect out of him.  That he better know better because that is how we raised him and so I carefully explained that perhaps that is just what some little boys do, but that does not make it ok.

Because those little boys grow up to be big boys.  And those big boys continue to make stupid comments that we, as girls, as women, have to just shrug off as if “boys will be boys.”  Because those little boys grow up to think that it is okay to say whatever they want, to ask for things they shouldn’t ask for, all because it doesn’t hurt to try.  No harm done.  Just kidding.

I see it with my students.  How our girls are continuously expected to just take the crude jokes.   To be told that they are not as strong as boys, to try so hard to be accepted by the boys they adore and forget about who they are in the process.  I see it when they don’t stand up for themselves.  I see it when otherwise wonderful boys push them out of the way, take their spot, take their things, eat their food, or make a comment about their looks. I see the acceptance when they don’t speak up, when they don’t fight back, when they roll their eyes and move on.  And it is not all of the boys either but only some, those who feel that this is the expected behavior if you are a strong boy.  Those who dole out harsh words when they view another boy as weak and shrug when I get upset that they just used my gender designation as a put-down.  Boys will be boys alright.

I see it my own life, still to this day.  I see it when I think of how many “innocent” comments I have endured.  How many times  I have been subjected to borderline behavior and I was too nice to point out my own discomfort.  I was too worried about how I would be seen.  I didn’t want to rock the boat, because I didn’t want to be seen as an overreacting female and perhaps get a reputation of not being nice.  How I have been told on numerous occasions that it is wonderful to see someone as pretty as me out speaking.  How it must be nice to be chosen because I am female.  How my message may not be that new but people love it because of the whole package I present, how well put together I look.  How big I smile.  How pretty my hair is.  How the work I do, how the truths my students tell me, get dismissed in one comment about how beautiful I am and yeah what I said was nice too.  And I smile, and I thank them for the compliment, rather than point out how dismissive those comments are of all the work I have done.  I hold my tongue because I don’t want to cause a ruckus when it was just one little comment, one little thing, and perhaps they didn’t think about it as much as I now do.

And I look at my daughters and also at my son and I realize that perhaps our focus needs to be on the little things more than the big.  That perhaps female, or any child’s really, empowerment and self-validation are too often damaged in the small every day.  In the comments, in the hallways, in the lunchroom, where we are reminded of what our role should be; pretty, quiet, willing to give up whatever we have.  That all of our children look to us and so it is up to us to figure it out.  To find the courage to speak up, to speak back.  To claim our spot and not stand for being told that we got the spot because of our looks, our gender, or who we know.  Because while boys may be boys, we have to realize that right now, those boys are watching, as are our girls.  They learn from us.  So perhaps it is time we learn it for ourselves.