You know how moms are always made to feel guilty? It starts right at birth - whether you go for a natural birth or get an epidural...actually it starts even before then - people eye pregnant women's food choices as if that one cup of coffee is bound to cause the child to come out as a sociopath! Once that child is born there's more judgement - pacifier or not, breastfed or formula, stay at home or have a career. It doesn't matter what you do, someone is always going to judge your choice and try to make you feel guilty.
Unfortunately, I see that happening in the education blogger community now too. Classroom choices are being judged and teachers are being found guilty. There seems to be a bandwagon going around, collecting bloggers. Blog posts titled "Why I got rid of my clip chart and you should too!" seem aimed at making a large segment of teachers feel ashamed of their classroom management choices.
Today I want to say this:
Hello, my name is Jennifer and I use a clip chart.
It's what works for me. I'm required to have a posted classroom management system with clear rules, consequences and rewards so I choose the clip chart. I use it mainly to reward good behavior and hardly ever to clip down, but still, the clip down choice is there. It's not my only means of behavior management - for some children, I do an hourly personal sticker chart - but it is visible in my classroom. And it works for me.
And that's what is important. That it work in my classroom, for me and my students. You can have a classroom management system developed by teams of psychologists, field tested and amazing in every way, but if it doesn't work for the teacher who has to implement it, it's useless. Because...
The system doesn't matter.
It's the teacher's heart that makes or breaks a system. It's the teacher's heart that turns a behavior reminder into a shameful moment. It's the teacher's heart that makes students feel like their behavior defines them. It's the teacher's heart that makes some children give up and stop trying.
It doesn't matter whether you use a stop light system, a clip chart, Class Dojo, PBIS, school wide currency, Brag Tags or nothing. Every single one of those systems can make a child feel ashamed and damage their self esteem if that is the climate of the classroom.
In my career I have seen children decimated by harsh words. I've seen children greeted at the door with "We better have a good day today because you're not behaving like you did yesterday!" I've heard teachers say things like "I've had it up to here with you. I can't believe you did that! What is wrong with you?" and not one of them had a clip chart. Because it's totally possible to be a great teacher with or without a clip chart. Just like having a clip chart doesn't automatically make you a teacher who doesn't care.
It's not the system that is evil.
It's not the clip chart that's the problem.
It's the teacher's heart.
Fun Farewell", whether they're walking out the door wearing their clothespin because they got to the top of the chart and earned a new one, or whether I've called a conference with their parents. Because my heart is with my kids, and I want all of them to succeed, and learn and grow....and they know that.
But please, don't make me feel guilty because of a classroom management choice that works for me.