behavior, punishment, students

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.

Be the change, classroom management, punishment, reflection, Student-centered, students

Do We Really Need the Public Call Out?

When I moved this blog to WordPress some posts did not survive, so in an effort to move some of my favorite posts with me, I will be republishing them here.  This one was first written in April, 2011.

“Joe, you need to pay attention!”

“Sit up, Peter!”

“Lisa, what happened there?”

 All day and every day, we use our students names when they are off task, when they are fiddling, sleeping, or simply not performing to the high standard we have set for them.  We see something out of sorts, judge their action, find them guilty, and deliver the verdict all within a few seconds.    As our lesson continues, we don’t always have the time to dig deep so we assume instead that we know why they are fiddling, why they are not paying attention, and so we correct, coerce, call out their names until they are with us again.  

Their names.  Something that is so intricately linked with who they are as a budding person.  Their names so linked with their identities.  And yet we use them to our advantage, without a second thought as a way to maintain control, as a way to punish. 

This week I asked my students to finish the sentence: “Being a good teacher means…” and what Nathan wrote really made me think: “Don’t yell out the kids name that does something wrong.”  At first, I scoffed at this notion, after all, what else are we supposed to do as teachers when our students are off task?  Calling out their names is one of the most efficient ways to re-direct them quickly.  And yet, as I thought about it more, I understood his thoughts.  Calling out a student’s name in front of the whole class means that the whole class knows that the student is not doing what they ought to.  Some teachers use it specifically for that purpose; the public enforcement of expectations.  And yet, calling out a name means that what one student is doing (or not doing) becomes the focus of the entire class.  Yes, you achieve your goal of attention redirection, but you are directing everyone elses’ attention to that child without fully knowing what is going on.  So I make it my mission to reduce the public negative call out.  

So what can I do instead, because we all know, there are times when even the most attentive student gets off-track and I would otherwise use their name to re-direct right away,  

I could take a breath, hesitate, and see if another strategy can grant the same outcome.  Can I redirect them silently?  Can I signal them?  Can I tap them on their shoulder, or pass by their work area?  Do I need to shout out their name?

I could also re-evaluate, do a quick scan of the room, is this the only child off-task?  Is the whole class really not interested anymore? Did I speak too long, do we need a break or to do something student-directed or hands-on?

Yet, sometimes, it is not me or the students that are the problem.   I am reminded that my students live full lives that sometimes interfere with our school day.  This is when I take the time to stop and talk and ask if everything is alright, is there anything I need to know?  Sometimes they are just so excited about something happening that they cannot focus, other times it is lack of sleep, of food, or they are distracted by life situations.  Sometimes, they will just tell you they are having an off day.  That is alright too, after all, we all have off days.

This isn’t a perfect system, nor is it intended to be.  It is rather one more step in learning how to be a better teacher, one that doesn’t cause embarrassment for the students because I don’t need to embarrass them into behaving.  One that takes the time to figure out the real reason behind distractions and then works with the student rather than just dolling out punishment.

So once again, my students teach me how to be a better teacher.  I should be using their names wisely, reserving the public call out for when it is truly necessary.  Nathan taught me that and for that I am thankful.  He had enough courage to tell his teacher the wrong of her ways, and lead me to deeper reflection.  When we ask our students questions, we may not like the answer, but there is always a great reason for that answer.  A reason that should not be taken lightly, but rather explored, reflected upon and then acted upon.

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.

being me, punishment, reflection

When Students Go There

image from icanread

It’s 12:38 AM.  I have been up for the past few hours, bouncing between sick children who want to sleep in my arms.  Quite a feat when there is 4 of them, all sad, all needing so much from me, especially as I battle the virus myself.  I finally look at my little boy and tell him to go night-night.  That he has to get some sleep to feel better, that as much as I wish I could sleep in his crib, I just can’t.  He’s two, he doesn’t understand and instead cries as loud as his little lungs will let him.  I give him one last hug, tuck him into bed and then walk out.  I hate this part of being a parent.

I don’t even make it in to bed before he stands at the gate to his room, crying and loud!  When this doesn’t work he yells the one thing that he knows will make me come.  Not “Mom.”  Not “Help.”  But “Poopy!”  This little word, that we have been working on saying as we potty train tells him he will get a reaction.  That I will come, because I always come running when he says it.  Sure enough, I go against my instinct and go to him, only to find that there was no real reason for the word.  It was just a tool to use to get me to come.  And it worked, I came, and our cycle starts over again.

I think of this clever interaction and realize how often this trick is used in our classrooms.  Not that children yell that word or wake me in the middle of the night.  But they do the one thing that they know will give them our attention.  They act out in such a way that we have no way of ignoring it.  They go there, to whatever thing is their most extreme way of getting our attention and then they use it.  Whether it is screaming at another student, slamming the door, throwing a chair (all has happened within my room) or even screaming threats at us, they are going there, asking for attention, hoping for us to react and notice them.  It doesn’t make it right, or even show rational thinking, but in the moment, when they need us the most, they know it will work.

That’s why I don’t punish relentlessly.  That is why I focus more energy on building community, establishing trust, and opening up communication before we get to that point.  That’s why I try to be there for every kid, no matter how hard they push me away, no matter how many walls they construct to keep me out.  That’s why I try to show each child that they matter.  That’s why I try to not give up even when I am at my lowest point, with no energy left.  That’s why I keep trying day after day, sometimes moment after moment to make a connection.  To let that kid in, even if they don’t want me in their life.  So they don’t go there.  So they don’t get to that point.  But even if they do, then we have something to build on and get us out of it again.  That’s why every kid that walks into our room has a chance every day to change, to start over, to show their dreams, and not just their anger.  That’s why I teach the way I teach.

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.

being a teacher, being me, classroom management, new year, punishment, Uncategorized

So How Do You Manage Your Classroom When You Don’t Punish?

image from etsy

 

Following the debate over public behavior charts, many people wondered what they could do in its place to still keep students engaged and on track?  I referred to a few posts but then realized that I did not have just one post that laid out exactly what I do in my own room, tips and ideas are in many different places.  And then I realized, I don’t really have one system because my approach changes every year depending on the needs of the students and the type of community we strive to make.  And yet, there are threads that run through every year with my students of what we do.

  • I don’t set the rules.  The students know how to do school, in fact, by 5th grade they are experts at it.  So instead of me telling them what the rules of the room is, I ask them to make them.  They discuss expectations in their table groups and then share with the class.  Nothing is written down on paper but instead we get a feel for what type of classroom we want.
  • We create a vision.  Every year, I ask the students to create a vision of the room.  Sometimes a theme emerges and other times it is just our hopes and dreams.  This is one of the first steps in our community building.
  • We do community building all year.  Even on the last day of school we are trying to create family, and so we do challenges throughout the year, we have “huddles” (meetings led by me or students), we discuss how our room is doing, we change our rules, we set up new expectations, we sometimes even call people out.  Building community is not a beginning of the year thing, it is an all the time thing.
  • We do challenges together.  The very first day we do a bloxes challenge simply so I can get the students working together, this has to do with seeing them grow together and how they function without my guidance.  I love what this simple challenge shows me about the students.
  • When a problem arises, I consider my option before speaking.  Rather than call out a student for misbehaving I often pull them aside, ask them to leave the room to think about it, or do a quick check in.  Humor also gets me far in many situations.
  • When a larger problem arises, I stop if I can.  Often when a students is very, very angry, it needs my intervention or if more than one student is involved.  There is a root to the anger and something needs to be done to uncover it.  While it is very hard to stop what you are doing if you are the one passing out the information, often my students are engaged in a self-driven project r investigation.  This therefore frees me up to discuss/deescalate situations.  Not always, but often.
  • Engagement matters.  If my students are engaged, they misbehave less.  So if behaviors seem to be out of control it is often because of what we are doing.  If we need to stop, reevaluate, and re-think whatever we are doing then we do just that.  Yes, there is curriculum we need to do, but there are many ways to get through it.
  • I ask the students point blank what is going on.  I used to assume I knew why a child was misbehaving, now I ask them instead.  If its because they are bored, I dig deeper.  If it because of some other reason, we find the time to figure it out, even if it means for now they sit and take a breather for a bit.
  • I ask the students how they think their day is going.  If a child seems off, I can guarantee I am not the only one that notices.  That child, more often than not, is acutely aware of it as well.  So why not take this opportunity to build a deeper relationship?  If a child is acting out, there is a reason, we have to try to find the time to work with them and uncover it.
  • I look for the good.  I used to get so fixated on all of the things that were going wrong in the room, all of the “naughty” things a child kept doing that I forgot to see all of the good.  I now remind myself to look at the moments of kindness, the hard work, the laughter and learning that happens within a room on a daily basis.  I hold that up higher in my mind than the bad.  Sometimes it is all about mindset.
  • Every day is a new day.  Rather than label my students, I try to wipe the slate clean every day (of course, this is easier said than done).  Just like I want a new chance every day, I afford that to my students as well.
  • There are consequences, but they make more sense.  When I tell people I don’t punish they assume kids get away with whatever they want in our room, but that is not it at all.  There are consequences yes, but they are not meant to publicly shame a child, but rather to have them reflect and work on their behavior.  This can certainly still be viewed as punishment in the eyes of the child, but I do try to have a growth opportunity for them instead of just a  one action fits all solution.

In the end, I believe student motivation is a huge part of why students behave in a certain way in our rooms.  In fact, so much so, that I wrote about it in my book, “Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classrooms Back to Our Students.”  I therefore leave you with an excerpt from the book to help you peek into my brain some more.

Not punishing students does not mean letting things slide or letting them walk all over you. It simply means handling situations calmly and figuring out the “why” behind the behavior and then working on that rather than enforcing a set of rules. How you react changes from situation to situation — something that’s much more difficult to do when you have cut rules into stone the first week of school.

Much of misbehavior comes from students’ perception of control within the classroom. That perception also affects their intrinsic motivation for wanting to be successful participants. A problem with punishment and reward is that it often only motivates in the short term. And yet many teachers do not know how else to get students to behave. I certainly was not consistently successful until I realized that the problem wasn’t the students, it was more often the curriculum and how I taught it. Meaning, it was really me. While I may not be the one who decides what to teach, I am most certainly the one who decides HOW to teach it. If I thought that mostly lecturing (which even put me to sleep in

college) was going to capture the imaginations of 9-year olds, then I was in the wrong job. So I began to think and learn a lot more about motivating learners.

My lessons in motivation

Here is what I know about motivation from shifting my own teaching practice:

  • Choice matters. When students choose not just what they will do for a project but also what they would like to learn about (within some boundaries), you get buy-in. This continues to be one of the most simple and exciting realizations I have experienced.
  • Motivation is contagious. When one student gets excited and has an opportunity to share that enthusiasm, the contagion spreads. My students get to blog about projects, we have huddles where we share, and we are a bit louder than we used to be. But guess what? Those loud noises are usually indicators that my students are super excited about something inside those boundaries I mentioned.
  • Punishment/reward systems stifle learning. This short-term approach to motivation proved to be more harmful than helpful. It created a toxic learning atmosphere. Now we have class parties when we feel we want one. I have lunch with all my students several times a month because they ask me to. No one is excluded from anything. When homework doesn’t get done (I have limited homework when kids don’t get enough time to do it in class or they don’t use their time well), I ask them how they plan to fix it, and most students choose to do it at recess. This is fine by me; they are free to go out and play if they choose.
  • Be excited yourself. The fastest way for kids to lose interest is if you are bored. I faced up to the fact that I hated some of the things I taught and how I taught them (goodbye grammar packets). Something had to change. Now my students joke about how I almost always introduce something new with “I am so excited to do this…”
  • Consider outside factors. Some students have a lot more on their plates than we could ever fully imagine. We need to ask questions, get to know our students, and be a listening ear. When my husband lost his job, it was hard for me to be excited about everyday life. I was too busy worrying. I understand how outside worry can influence the way we function within our school. I’m sure you do, too.
  • Manage and guide what’s in front of you. We will never be able to control what our students go home to, but we sure can guide what happens in the room. Good teachers choose to create a caring environment where all students feel safe. Students let their guards down and feel it is okay to work hard and have fun. It’s the first essential step toward building a learning community.

And finally, read more about old and new ways to deal with common forms of misbehavior in this chart I’ve put together.

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.

being a teacher, classroom management, punishment, reflection, students

Call Me Crazy But It Is Still About the Kids…

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.

being a teacher, punishment, reflection, rewards, students

Please Don’t Tell Me to Pick

image from etsy

“…Please pick one or two students…” my heart freezes as I read the email.

Don’t make me pick, please.  Don’t make me single out one or two students, even if it is for recognition.  Why?  Because I don’t just have one or two students who deserve to be recognized.  I don’t have just have one or two students that have been representing our classroom well.  I don’t just have one or two students that are above the rest.  I have 27 students that all through the year have proved people wrong.  I have 27 students who all through the year have given me their best, even when they had no energy, even when they were lost, even when life threw one obstacle after another at them.  I have 27 who deserve special recognition, maybe not for the same things, but they all deserve the praise.  they all deserve the acknowledgment that their journey through 5th grade has mattered and has made a difference.

So please don’t ask me to pick just one or two students.  My mind cannot do it.  And neither can my heart.  These kids all deserve to be recognized, all for many things.  So please don’t tell me I have to pick, I won’t do it.

I am a passionate (female) 5th grade teacher in Wisconsin, USA, 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.   Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.