I love it when student teachers are thinking about their own future classroom. So, kudos to you for trying to decide, philosophically, how you want to manage behavior in the future.
And now, for an opinion that is sure to generate plenty of negative comments!
Here it is: I personally have a large issue with public shaming of student behavior and that’s what I call most of these systems. Clips, pluses/minuses, smileys, charts, online/offline, whatever – if you think you aren’t permanently branding some kids in your class and encouraging them to self-label as “bad students,” then you are fooling yourself.
And if you think a naughty kid won’t be naughty because their clip is at the bottom, well, good luck with that.
Sure, with the perfect group of kids, in the perfect setting, with no diagnosed behavioral issues and a very skilled teacher, such systems can work. I hear about that all the time and many educators rely on these systems. But out-of-the-box, in the hands of some teachers, they can be school-sponsored, systematic bullying.
And your at-risk, economically- and socially-challenged students are going to feel the full impact of it.
Do you really want your little fetal-alcohol girl who simply cannot stay on task to be diminished in her own classroom every single day? Your semi-homeless boy, embarrassed by his dirty clothes and acting out as a result, to not find a safe, judgment-free refuge at school? Your ADHD girl to not get a tailored behavior plan so she can be successful?
Not the way to start a child’s school year
I recently witnessed an online behavior management system being introduced to a class of first-graders. The first time the teacher put a less-than-smiley icon by a student, the rest laughed. She was held up for ridicule by the group. A caring teacher will of course set expectations that laughter is not appropriate and the kids will stop… but the thought and the branding remains.
They come to school knowing that they will be on permanent public display as not meeting expectations, and consequently make no effort to improve. Worse, their teacher may be simply washing their hands of any effort to help them improve “because they aren’t trying hard enough.”
These systems are one-size-fits all approaches to behavior management when what is needed – just like instruction – is an individualized approach.
Behavior management systems: “easy” doesn’t equate to “best”
So, what do you do instead? Well, first off: Engaged kids don’t get in trouble.
So you better be teaching content in an engaging manner that kids want to be involved in. That’s the foundation. Will there still be students with behavior issues? Absolutely.
Are there easy answers to addressing this? No. I have two full sections of my website – dozens of pages and videos – dedicated to behavior management. It’s not easy. This page in particular applies to this situation: Managing behavior consequences
But just as you learn over time to differentiate for spelling, math, reading and writing, you will have to learn to differentiate your approach to talking, being off task, blurting and even swearing. This is harder than moving a clip or clicking an icon, I know, but it’s what’s best for helping kids learn to manage their own behavior because they are getting a tailored response, not a one-size-fits-all response.
I know that classroom management is rarely or barely taught in university. You have a lot to learn on your own. But know that shaming children into behaving is not going to work out best for you – or them – long term.
You’re on the right track, and I wish you the best of luck.