This is part 2 of a multi-part series about about how and why to consider removing a chart-based behavior management “system” from your classroom.
To read the introduction to the entire series, click here.
To read part 1, about why behaviour charts are no good for kids, click here.
I know. I promised in the last post that I would lay out a way to talk to you administrators about chucking your chart, but here’s the thing: to talk to anyone (admin, parents, even students) about how to manage a classroom without a chart, I feel like we need to have a shared understanding conceptualization of what, exactly, behaviour is and is not.
For me, running a relationship-based classroom comes down to this: I believe that behaviour is a skill, rather than an innate expression of character. As a skill, behaviour is something that can be learned, and if behaviour can be learned, it is therefore something that can be taught, and, well… I am a teacher, right? TEACHING IS MY JOB.
If we think about behaviour as a teaachable skill, just like reading, it becomes pretty obvious that we can’t expect every child to go about learning to behave in the same way, at the same rate. Just as children start kindergarten (or first grade, or second, or eighth…) with a wide range of reading abilities, so, too, do they start with a wide range of “behaving” abilities.
Let’s look at 3 different examples, to illustrate this:
Hypothetical kiddo #1: Edouardo. Edouardo is a very, VERY, good reader. Reading comes easily and naturally to him. He is intrinsically motivated to read, and makes good progress without a lot of intervention from his teachers or parents. With Edouardo, the best gift you can give him is to get out of his way, provide him with lots of good books, and be there to provide gentle hints if he gets stuck.
Hypothetical kiddo #2: Eloise. Eloise finds reading challenging at times, but she works hard at it. She sometimes needs more than one reminder of the strategies she can use, and occasional one-on-one intervention, but generally, she is on track. She finds some parts of reading really difficult, but others quite manageable. She needs to learn progressively, mastering one skill or strategy at a time. You have moments when you worry about her, but overall, she is on track. Her progress is slow, but steady, and she builds literacy skills at a rate that is perfectly normal for her age group.
Hypothetical kiddo #3: Georgia. Georgia finds reading extraordinarily difficult, and struggles with it every single day. Her progress is much slower than that of her peers, and she has frequent setbacks, suddenly seeming to “forget” a skill that she appeared to have mastered yesterday. She needs lots of individual coaching and intervention. You consult your school’s literacy specialist about her, and you do research on your own time to find strategies that may help. You worry that there may be an underlying issue causing her struggles: a learning disability, a developmental delay, a vision or fine motor issue, or maybe there is something going on at home that is affecting her academic progress. Georgia may also just be a little less mature than her peers, in the areas that are really important for reading.
I’m sure that you all recognize Edouardo, Eloise and Georgia. I’m sure you have all TAUGHT Edouardo, Eloise, and Georgia. Obviously, you would not expect Georgia to read the same books as Edouardo, or even as Eloise, but you hope that she might get there eventually. Nor would you praise Edouardo for whipping through an emergent reader when he is more than capable of tackling chapter books. At least, I HOPE you would not allow Edouardo to stagnate in the world of emergent readers… I hope you would push him to read at his very best, every day. And you would make sure that he feels supported and encouraged, and that he knows you SEE what a gifted reader he is. But I also hope that you wouldn’t repeatedly, publicly, compare your other students’ reading skills to his — how demoralizing for them, and how alienating for him, right?
Now, take a minute and , go back through the descriptions of each of thee three kiddos, and replace “reading” with “behaviour.”
You still recognize them, don’t you?
THINK of the similarities:
A child who struggles to read will figure out compensatory strategies, some of which are adaptive, and some of which are disruptive.
A child who struggles to read is already aware that others can do so.
A child who struggles to read probably doesn’t know WHY he or she is struggling.
A child who is an excellent reader will probably not be motivated by the strategies that are helpful for more typical, or struggling readers.
A child who is an excellent reader may be embarrassed if attention is constantly drawn to his or her strengths.
If behaviour is a skill, like reading, every child arrives with a different level of ability.
If behaviour is a skill, like reading, we cannot blame or shame a child who struggles with it.
If behaviour is a skill, like reading, children’s individual abilities and progress (or lack thereof) have REASONS behind them.
If behaviour is a skill, like reading, it is OUR JOB to figure out the reasons.
(We could go on and on here, can’t we? In fact, let’s do it! In the comments, feel free to add your own examples to the “If behaviour is a skill, like reading…..” or “A child who struggles to read….” lists!)
If we don’t use a “one sized fits all” approach to supporting children’s reading skills, WHY ON EARTH would we do it for their behaviour?
(P.S.: I know. I know many of you following this series ALREADY KNOW THIS STUFF, ALREADY BELIEVE IT. One of my goals for this series is to give you words and examples to share with others, and I think this way of understanding behaviour is crucial as we advocate for classrooms that better meet the needs of ALL our students.)
So: go forth and share. Next up, we will talk to your admins. I PROMISE!!
To find links to all the posts in this series, in one place, please visit my Chuck the Chart page.