Saturday, October 10, 2015

A dash of professional reading

I'm in the midst of another graduate course, so I've been doing a lot of professional reading lately.  I'm a life-long learner (as I think educators should be) and wanted to take a minute to share two articles that have been rattling around in my brain this week.

Article {One}: Boo the Long October

Preach it, iTeach Fourth!

I feel like I could have written this article myself.  I liked it so much I took the time to comment, instead of just trolling through and remaining anonymous online.

Basically, October is a long, weird month.  Students are out of the beginning of the year behavior honeymoon, meetings seem to be multiplying, and first quarter grades are due soon.  I'm almost a fourth of the way through the year, how did that happen?!

Instead of griping about this, the article focuses on a cute Halloween tradition of "booing" your fellow teachers.

Images are all over TpT and pinterest, but one person starts by secretly leaving treats in another coworker's mailbox.  That coworker has a limited time (usually 2 days) to reciprocate by "booing" another colleague.  Ghost or pumpkin dicuts are usually put in mailboxes to indicate that one has been booed, and a witch or goblin could be posted if someone does not want to participate.

It's a fun little way to add some festive fun into the month of October.  Plus who doesn't love surprise treats?!

I'll be starting this round of boo-ing at work this week (ssh...don't tell my coworkers!)  I've got two black and white polka dotted tins (obviously) from the dollar section at Target (again, obviously).  I'll fill them with candy and print some boo instruction sheets. 

What fun fall traditions does your school have?

Article {Two}: Rip those behavior charts off the wall and burn them

While this was written with a tad too much angst in my humble opinion, I agree with the underlying message.  The traditional "clip" or "chart" system no longer serves a purpose in classrooms. 

 I will be the first to admit that yes, I used this system for way too long.  I started it my first year as a teacher because that's what I thought I was supposed to do.  I thought every elementary classroom needed some sort of (very public) way of displaying behavior.  I thought this truly kept kids accountable for their choices and was a motivating factor.

But then I realized how wrong I was.  This isn't really motivating, it's demoralizing.  {Last summer}, I decided to discontinue the use of this system and I haven't looked back.  I know there is some resistance, especially in lower grades, about getting rid of this trusty security blanket.

What good does this behavior tracker actually do?  Almost immediately, your eyes zoom to those kids on red.  We all know what red means.  Tsk tsk Max, Jared, and Brendan.  

How demoralizing.

Did they truly make poor choices all day long?  Or did they simply have one or two "oops" moments throughout the seven hour school day?  Chances are, it's the latter of the two scenarios.  To be fair, what human goes all day long without making an oops moment?  

If a child is truly struggling to make appropriate classroom choices, how does this reinforce doing the "right thing"? 

...It doesn't.

This article goes on to state that as educators, part of our job is preparing students for coping with future demands.  This includes helping them take responsibility for their actions and utilize techniques to cope with mistakes.

As a teacher, I wouldn't if a behavior chart was used to publicly broadcast my performance to the entire staff.  Oops, Ms. Vice left her copies on the machine in the lounge!  Uh oh, she forgot to take afternoon attendance and now she's on red.  (These are common situations for me.)

How humiliating to have one's behavior broadcast for the world to see.  

But instead of continuing to gripe upon problems, I propose a counter solution: Class Dojo.

It's by no means a new teacher tool since it's been available for several years at this point, but it's new to my classroom.  Seven weeks in, we're loving it.  (Bonus? It's free.  That's a must!)

I have the opportunity to recognize students for both positive and negative behavior.  It's easy for me to see if I'm reinforcing the 3:1 ratio (three positive interactions with every negative redirect) with every child...especially the ones that struggle with behavior.  Parents are able to see all the great choices their students make and it's a quick and easy way for me to communicate with families.

The behavior categories are editable, which means I can give more weight to behaviors that are desirable (like meeting a personal academic goal).  

My favorite part? I can send out messages to all the families at once and see who has viewed my message.  This has replaced the Remind app because it's already built in to what I'm using and parents don't have to download two different things to stay connected to our classroom events.

What are your thoughts on behavior charts? 

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