What She Said….

I recently read this post from Germantown Avenue Parents’ blog. Those behavior management tools – like the mentioned stoplight? Do they really help kids get behaviors on track?

In my school, we are required to hang a pocket chart. Each child has an assigned number and flips cards through a series of colors – green to yellow to blue to purple to indicate the kind of day they are having.

Who are we kidding with the numbered pockets?  It takes kids about an hour to know who is who.

While I agree with giving students a visual reminder of their behavior accountability, I dislike having behaviors displayed publicly. Besides taking up valuable bulletin board space, it seems self-defeating.  And disrespectful.  Would you want YOUR bad day posted for all to see? Me either.

What’s a solution to this dilemma? I have a small, portable pocket chart that served the same purpose as the bulletin board display, but in a less public way. For my more challenging students, I maintain a periodic behavior chart which gets reviewed daily (or hourly sometimes). And for the status of the class – we can still hang out our class sign indicating our classroom community is having a ‘great day’, ‘not-so-great day’, or ‘wish we could do-over’ day.

We can still help students get behaviors back on track. We just don’t need to do it publicly.

Not everything is academic

School started a week ago.  I can already see the work ahead of us – and that is NOT a reference to academics. This group of students has lots of trouble transitioning, especially outside of the classroom. And there are a lot of them this year – my class size is at what used to pass for the maximum in this district. Any wagers on when it surpasses the maximum? I’m thinking maybe tomorrow is the day.

In the mix this year – 2 students who are living at shelters for a variety of reasons. I guess given the economic conditions, this should not be a surprise.  One parent that I have been able to conference with told a heart-wrenching story of being forced to move from another state, being forced out of an apartment, losing furnishings…. matter-of-factly, the parent revealed that the family was on the way to pick up furniture from our local WISH foundation (a group providing furniture to transitional families). In another place and time, would picking out your new sofa from cast-offs have been so nonchalantly revealed?

Domestic violence and the trauma resulting from students who witnessed this violence also impacts a couple of my students. Sign of the times? Another parent reveals the story behind her son’s acting out – the grief in this woman’s voice is palpable.

And of course there are the “usual suspects”. Students for whom academics are challenging, for whom language acquisition is in the beginning stages, students whose self-worth has been wounded nearly beyond repair.

This is the group that has been thrown together. We are working at attempting to become a community – a caring, sharing community of learners.

So far figuring out the puzzle has been more than a bit challenging for me; the pieces that need to be in place are not there yet. We are working on it, but it will take time. Before we can begin our work on the curriculum, we need to build our community. There is simply no other way.