Thursday, July 23, 2015

Clip Charts Anonymous

EDIT: Disclaimer: Apparently some people are misreading the intent of this blog post. This post is NOT meant to hurt anyone's feelings or advocate the use of a clip chart over any other system. The point of this post is that I love my clip chart...but if you don't like clip charts that's okay. Use a clip chart, Class Dojo, stop light, PBIS or whatever you want - because we should all feel free to do what's best for our classroom without feeling pressured to change because of someone else's opinions.

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
 If misbehavior is treated as a sign of character instead of an opportunity to reflect and adjust; if momentary lapses set the tone for the entire day (or entire week!); if a child isn't given the opportunity to learn  from mistakes; then it doesn't matter what system you use.

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. 

So please, lay off the clip chart. I promise you, it is not used to shame children in my classroom. It is used to uplift them and urge them to strive harder. If someone does "clip down" it is done with love and understanding. I conference with the child. I let them know what rule they have broken. We talk about ways to make better choices, ways to make amends to friends and ways to "clip back up".
Because that's what my clip chart is all about. It's there to tell the children that no matter what happens, there is always the opportunity to turn their day around and make better choices. Each child leaves my room at the end of the day knowing that the slate is wiped clean. They each get a hug and the chance to pick a "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.
 So please, teachers, bloggers, admin...don't judge me on my clip chart. Judge me on my relationships with my students, the hours of love and care I put into making sure my classroom is warm and welcoming. Judge me on how I get to know my students and work with them where they are at. Judge me on how I speak to them, how I interact with their parents, judge me on whether I give second chances (or fiftieth!) judge me on whether I wipe the slate clean each day or hold a grudge.

But please, don't make me feel guilty because of a classroom management choice that works for me.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Sub Plans, Lost Children, Books, Wonderful Ideas and Linkys!

I'm hitting 2 linkies in one post today, but they go together really well so I had to! Today I'm talking subs, lost kiddos, books and wonderful ideas!

First I'm linking up with Tiffani over at Time 4 Kindergarten to talk about substitutes!
I have to say, that after being horribly, constantly sick my first year of teaching, my immune system is now like titanium - I rarely get sick - in fact, I think I took only 1 sick day for myself this year and that was because of a migraine.

On the other hand, I'm the mom of 5 kiddos - and my youngest has severe food allergies to pretty much everything AND severe eczema. Between the 5 of them, they manage to make me use up my sick days every year - and that's with my husband splitting the load and taking his own share of days off to ferry kids to doctor's appointments or stay home with the youngest ones.

At our house, when someone gets sick it goes like this:

Thankfully, I don't have any personal stories of bad substitutes. In past years I always maanged to luck out and get the retired teachers or teachers who had just moved to the district and were subbing to get a foot in the door. This year my assistant was awesome and usually had the class running smoothly - the subs loved her lol! She would take pictures to text to me, and the kids always wanted me to be proud of them, so the pictures worked like a charm at keeping behavior in check :)

My first year of teaching though, the sub in the class next to mine decided not to read the Bus List and just ask the students who rode the bus. There was one little guy who saw this as his shining opportunity to get a free bus ride and lined right up even though his mother picked him up each day! He sauntered right down the hall and onto a bus and meanwhile his mother showed up looking for him. The sub couldn't remember if he had gone a bus, walked home with someone else or was abducted by aliens - and didn't seem to care. Meanwhile mama was getting frantic. 

I noticed something was wrong so I walked over and realized we had an emergency situation on our hands - missing 5 year olds are no joking matter! So we called Transportation to contact all the bus drivers to see if any had an extra kiddo. We got all the teachers to start combing the neighborhood - enlisting the older students to help us search. The police were called and it was turning into a BIG DEAL. Meanwhile, that sub packed up her bag and drove off in her car - totally unconcerned that she had lost a child! 

We're talking wailing mother, frantic grandparents, police officers starting to set up a command center to coordinate a search, phone trees activated to call all of the other parents in the class to see if he went home with a friend. Nearly every teacher was in tears, praying desperately. 

Suddenly, a 5th grader ran up - the daycare down the street had an extra child! Turns out the little guy HAD been on a bus, but didn't answer when the driver called his name for fear of getting in trouble! Luckily he got off the bus at the daycare and not on the street somewhere. I have never been so relieved!

Needless to say, that sub was never hired for our building again! 

I did learn a valuable lesson from that experience though - it's not enough to have a bus list in your sub plans or have a sign by your classroom door - you have to make sure that your students know that taking the bus is not okay! Each year I make sure to talk with my students about how the bus drivers take kids home - but only the kids who have signed up for it. If another kid gets on the bus, the driver won't know where to take him and will end up driving him to the wrong home and it will be a very scary situation. Since I explain the bus system explicitly to the children in this way I've never had a case of a child wanting to ride the bus when he isn't supposed to!

So that's my tip for "Wonderful Idea Wednesday" over at Freebielicious today! Make sure your students know how they're supposed to get home - and why it's important not to go home any other way! I always make time for this sometime during the first week of school and I try to do it in a fun way that gets the point across without being scary.

First, I read a book about being lost. There are several wonderful books that tell about being lost in a way that children can relate to with being too scared:
Beaver is Lost is a picture book detailing a beaver's journey after being separated from his family. He eventually finds his way home after several adventures!
Carl and the Baby Duck is about a mother duck asking Carl to help her find her missing duckling. I love the Carl picture books, and this easy reader has great illustrations!
Lost! is about a Bear who gets lost in the city and the boy that helps him find his way home - but when the bear gets home they soon realize that now the little boy is lost!
When Lyla Got Lost (and Found!) is a new story that I just ordered! I ordered this one because it talks about what a child should do if they become lost.
Little Owl Lost is a good one for teaching important details! Little Owl falls out of his nest and his new friend Squirrel tries to help him find his mother. Unfortunately, every time Owl describes his mother, it leads them to the wrong animal - "large" leads to a bear for example. This is great for teaching children they need to know their parents' names and their own full name to help them if they get lost. 

I also play this Learning Station video of "5 Little Ducks". My own little guy, Sullivan, loves this video - he always gets sad with the Mother Duck, and cheers when the ducks come back! I pause the video when all of the ducklings are gone and the Mother Duck looks so sad so we can talk about how parents would feel if a child was a lost and how the ducklings might be feeling. Then I play the ending and the children are relieved! 

We have a discussion about getting lost, how to avoid it (hint: Don't go home on a bus if you're not a bus rider!) and what to do if you do get lost! I usually do an anchor chart with all of our ideas and discussion points to serve as a visual for a few days too - you'll find the children want to reread the stories again most likely - there's something so relieving about reading about someone being found!

So there you have it - a Wonderful Idea to help you avoid the most horrible feeling in the world - losing a student! Head over to the two linky parties for more great posts!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Tell Us About You Tuesday Linky

I'm linking up with Freebielicious again today - they have a whole week of linky parties planned! Today's theme is:

This feels like one those "ice breakers" where you have to walk around the room and find someone you don't know to tell them about yourself - not the most comfortable thing in the world (and a waste of PD time imo!)
Here are my basic stats:
Married to a soldier
We'll celebrate 17 years of marriage in September! Not bad for a courtship that was only 3 weeks before he popped the question! And the Drill Sergeants said it would never last!

5 kids
3 brunettes and 2 redheads! And yes, the older Red was trying to be funny by crossing his eyes...I had to take a dozen pictures to try to get one that was useable...trying to get all 5 of them to sit up, look at the camera and smile is like trying to put rain back into a cloud.....
The oldest is Moira, she's 16, then Robert is 13, Thomas is 11, Joshua is 8 and Sullivan will be 2 next month!

Teaching is my 5th "career" after nanny, U.S. Army soldier, TSA Security Officer, stay-at-home mom.

I'm passionate about play-based learning, free choice centers, and filling our day with lots of singing and dancing!

Thanks for wanting to learn a little about me, I hope you'll stick around and follow my blog as I document my time Herding Kats! Head back over to the linky to learn about some other bloggers too!
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