When I was a student teacher, I remember being asked what my classroom management would be. Having little to no experience at the helm, I looked around the room, fixed my eyes on the famous stoplight and uttered the word “clipchart.” It just seemed like the natural (popular) go-to. It’s concrete. It’s an easy way to communicate an overall snapshot of a day.
But it didn’t sit right with me. The tears when a child made it to red were upsetting (deserved or undeserved) and distracting. The stagnation of the child that sat on green all day even though he or she was an exemplary student was frustrating. The public nature of it all felt like shaming rather than shaping.
So I added colors up top. And then I started moving clips “off the chart.” That made some kids happy — their consistent good behavior was finally recognized by a purple smiley in their agenda. But still… there were my kiddos on yellow. Or red. Always.
I asked myself what I was doing wrong, because it was me, not them. I felt that there had to be a better way.
I believe that my goal for behavior management should not be to manage student behavior; it should be to shape it. I cannot shape it if I am not providing students with effective examples, opportunities to reflect, and praise.
There is no better way to praise a child than to say, “I saw your character just then. You displayed respect when you worked out your disagreement with your friend. You are a respectful kid.”
“Clip up to purple for your awesome behavior!” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.
This isn’t to say your clipchart doesn’t work for you, or for your students. It may. It just doesn’t work for me, or my kids. But I needed something. Some visual — some concrete experience, some way to track, to communicate… all while praising effectively and shaping character.
When I return in a few short weeks, I’ll have a clipchart at the front of my room. But it won’t be about behavior. It’ll be about character.
We’ll read books, model each character trait, and reflect.
We’ll celebrate the small acts of character —
… and the bigger ones.
I’ll track — privately — to see where I need to shape.
The kids will celebrate themselves and each other. They will recognize one another’s character. They will write about how their neighbor showed compassion, or grace, or was honest, or a team player.
They will run home to share that today — today red means they cared.
That they made a difference.
They showed their character.