Clip Charts Anonymous

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.
I've made clipcharts for many of the themes I've used in my classroom over the years. 
Click the picture to see them all!

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.

My friend Kaci over at Mrs. Hoffer's Spot shared how she got rid of her clip chart in favor of a Great Expectations system. I love G.E and use many of their tenets daily in my classroom - including the 8 Expectations! Go check out Kaci's post for more info!

18 Rustle Up A Response!:

Lori Rosenberg said... Reply to comment
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Kinderkay said... Reply to comment

I totally agree with everything you wrote! I, too, have been feeling guilty about my clip chart, but it works for me and I KNOW it is because of the way that I use it - with HEART; not with anger or annoyance.

The clip chart is not for everyone, of course. When I talk to new teachers, I always tell them to be real and find systems that work for them; not just to follow the herd because that seems to be the thing to do.

Thank you for writing this..... We all need to feel free to handle our classroom climate in a way that works for us AND in a way that makes all children feel special and important!


Melissa Glenn said... Reply to comment

Yes, yes, yes!!! I agree with you 100%! While it's important that every teacher find his or her most successful classroom management system, for me a clip chart works wonderfully (when used in conjunction with consistent rewards and consequences). I believe in a providing students with tons of positive reinforcement- but accountability goes two ways. It's important that children understand they need to be accountable for the poor choices they make as well. These are life lessons! :)

Thanks for sharing this!

Real Life in First Grade

Heather's Heart said... Reply to comment

This post comes from YOUR heart and I love that! I have never used a clip chart and we are not allowed to. If somebody told me I had to, I would but like you said, do it with heart. You do have to use something that works for you. Teachers know that they have to use a variety of teaching methods to reach all of our different learners so why should we expect one plan to work for ALL kiddos...It doesn't and it won't!!! Our kiddos need to know we love them and are there to help them be the best they can be especially through behavior struggles...and you CAN do that with a clip chart too! Thank you for reminding teachers that there are all different ways to manage your classroom and what matters is if you do it with LOVE.

Love you friend. :)
Heather's Heart

Jennifer Johnson said... Reply to comment

Thank you for posting this!! I was really starting to feel bullied and was thinking about getting rid of my clip chart even though I don't want to!

Mrs. Saoud said... Reply to comment
This comment has been removed by the author.
Laura Starnes said... Reply to comment

I'm like Lori. My name is Laura and I use a clip chart. I've tried without and for my style, it doesn't work. I need my clip chart. And yes, it's all in HOW you use it and your TONE. The teacher is in charge and I have even been guilty in saying some not nice things but that is something else that I strive to work on. Thanks for opening up about this and I plan to share it.

Kinder Kraziness

Cassandra said... Reply to comment

Amen Sister and teach on with your clip chart! It starts with the heart and what works for each class. Have an awesome year...guilt free!

Andrea McEvoy said... Reply to comment

Well said and thank you for your post!

Ellen said... Reply to comment

Well said!

Anonymous said... Reply to comment

I don't understand why people would care about the clip chart? I have used one for 8 years give or take and LOVE IT. The kids love it and the parents love it. I may have to give it up at my new school, but I felt it was better than the stoplight where once a child turns their card they can't 'change" it up no matter what! If at 10 AM a student pulls the yellow card then why bother behaving the rest of the day if that is the best they will get?? I was never critical of that but just didn't like it for my kiddos. I have NEVER had anything but positive comments from others- and some colleagues tried it and went back to their card system. It was what they were used to.

Bonnie B. said... Reply to comment

This post was a breath of fresh air for me. I've been successfully using a clip chart or something similar for 30+ years in my kindergarten class. I agree with the idea that we need to be teaching children LIFE skills, and that includes sometimes having negative consequences for our actions. If I don't show up for work, I'm going to get fired. If I speed, I'm going to get a ticket. Sometimes I feel like we as teachers, parents, adults, are too afraid of children being upset for awhile. I never raise my voice in my class, my kiddos know that I love them, and we have a positive, happy classroom. Thanks again for making me feel less guilty about using the dreaded clip chart.

Meghan said... Reply to comment

Yes!!! Thank you for your post! :) This is exactly what I have been thinking this week reading all of the "Down with Clip Charts" social media/blog madness!

Nancy Messenger said... Reply to comment

I completely agree with you!! There isn't one right way and different methods and strategies are what make us unique as teachers!! It all comes down to what method works for this group of students this year. I appreciate your view!! :)

Miki said... Reply to comment

I appreciate your comments. I have been teaching for over 20 years and have watched many different behavioral systems hailed as the answer to all of your discipline problems, only to be cursed later on (yes, this happened before social media, blogs, and even the internet!). I have tried different systems but they always seemed to leave out the important concept of, What happens if the child's behavior changes during the course of the day? The Clip Chart has addressed this issue in a very easy manner to implement. Is it the answer to all issues? No! Is it terrible to use? No! Clip Charts are inanimate objects and as such, they do not have the ability to 'do' anything. It is the teacher that makes the difference. Thank you for your comments.

lizC said... Reply to comment

Major props to you for writing this! I can totally relate to the guilt and embarrassment you felt... I've been seeing so many posts about why I should get rid of the clip chart, and I was really second-guessing myself...but you are right...It's about the teacher's heart and the way the system is used that makes all the difference in the world. Thank you for this dynamite post! I'll be sharing. :)


Deirdre Garcia said... Reply to comment

Thank you for this! I've been seeing those posts too, and was second guessing what has worked well for me for years. I completely agree that it's all in how you use it, and where your heart is.

My clip chart is a visual reminder for ME to look for those positive behaviors. When Bobby walks in with a scrunched up face, I look for something amazing and get his clip moving up right off the bat, preventing what could have been an awful day. When I make a mistake (I am human!), my clip moves too. My kids see me thinking about my behavior, fixing it, and they forgive me. If they can forgive me for whatever infraction, they know that I will always forgive them for a mistake they make. If your class is positive, the chart will be positive.

Mrs. Garcia's Super Scholars!

Heidi S said... Reply to comment


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