Last week, I attended my daughter’s kindergarten parent night.  As a former teacher and principal, I vowed to never be the parent that “attacks teachers” or believes 100% of the stories my daughter comes home with.  So as I sat in the tiny chairs in her classroom (still not sure why we can’t bring in adult chairs for these meetings), I minded my Ps and Qs and made sure not to ask questions or “drill” the teacher.  However, there was another parent that clearly had a different mindset – you all know the type, the parent that wants to know everything about his/her child’s day, that questions everything, although they have their child’s best interest in mind, as a teacher this questioning can feel like an attack and like your expertise is in question – anyways, this mom asked my daughter’s teacher what her philosophy and behavior management strategies were.  I was intrigued, finally a decent question that I would need to know (my kiddo can be a bit “sassy” as she likes to put it).

To my surprise, my daughter’s teacher explained that her behavior management strategy was to find developmentally appropriate work for each individual child.  She went on to say that when kids aren’t challenged that is when she notices behavior issues. When students are challenged, they are engaged in their work and focused on completing the task.  I was speechless! No behavior clip charts, ClassDojo, sticker charts, or PBIS points??? But rather classroom management that actually focused on the learning and not spending time or money on incentives or behavior shaming techniques.

Yes I said shaming, many of these common behavior “strategies” are public.  A teacher verbally asks students to “clip down” or “flip a card”, other students hear this directive and it registered with them as that student is “bad” thus isolating him/her from their peers.  Anyone who walks into the classroom can often see these visual charts and again the visitor in the room now has created first impressions on the students based off of where their “clip” is.

Behavior charts don’t teach students to self-monitor their behaviors, they are set up for teachers to tell students what is and is not acceptable behavior for their classroom. This practice is teaching students compliance,   today, in the 21st century, I can’t believe we would settle for teaching compliance. Don’t we want students to be engaged and excited to work hard as part of a classroom community that supports each other and builds on his/her strengths.  We are supposed to be teaching and supporting the WHOLE child, that means we much teach self-regulation strategies not punish bad behavior and reward the good.

So, here I am begging you to please stop with the behavior charts, clips, points, etc.. You might be thinking what can I do instead?  Well rest assured I have a few suggestions and strategies to help you unlearn classroom management shaming techniques:

  1. Talk to your students – Build rapport with your students.  Greet them as they walk in, spend a few minutes with each child talking with them about their interests.  “When educators build strong, caring relationships with their students, each student naturally wants to protect that relationship and avoid anything that might damage it.  Students’ behaviors and approaches to learning in the classroom are then driven by relationships, not fear.” Ascd. “Tear Down Your Behavior Chart!” Tear Down Your Behavior Chart! – Educational Leadership. N.p., n.d. Web. 
  2. Understand the behavior – Students don’t act out for no reason.  Find out why they are behaving the way they are then address the underlying issue.  Are they bored so they are talking to their friend? Did they have a bad night so they are a bit sleepy and not participating?  Did they get yelled at before school by their parent(s) and forgot their homework at home? Work with the student to find out what is going on that is preventing them from behaving according to your standards and help them work through their emotions and triggers – again we are in education to support the WHOLE child!!
  3. Keep it private – Nobody likes their dirty laundry aired out on public display.  If you are going to use a clip chart or form of behavior chart keep it at each child’s desk/work area as a private check-in for them.  When they need to “clip down” talk to them 1:1 about their behavior as they are “clipping down”. This keeps the child’s dignity in place and doesn’t shame them in front of their peers.  

One thing that has helped me grow as an educator is thinking about how I would want my daughter to be treated, talked to, and respected by her teacher and then talking to my students the way I would talk to my daughter. The students in our class spend more time with us than they do their own families, please take the time to get to know your students, understanding their behaviors and helping them grow socially, emotionally, and academically …a great way to start is by changing your behavior management practices!!

Katie Algrim – Director of Innovative Professional Learning

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