Miss Night's Marbles

Musings, mumbles, marvels, and sometimes mockery, live from kindergarten.

Chucking the Chart: The Introduction

(A little background: two years ago, I wrote a post about why I do not use behaviour charts in my classroom, and it went nearly-viral. To this day, it remains the most popular post on my blog, and it generates the most questions, the most discussion, the most debate, of anything I have ever written.)

Ever since I started the “Ask Miss Night” feature of my blog, a significant majority of the questions I get are about HOW, EXACTLY, teachers can go about getting rid of their behaviour charts or systems. I am so grateful to those of you who have sent in your questions, because you have helped me understand that there are more barriers to “chucking the chart” than I ever realized. I am also SO THRILLED that there seem to be a large number of teachers who are willing to consider getting rid of their charts, and managing their classrooms in a way that better honours children’s dignity.

So. I started off to write one big giant post: The Ultimate Guide to Chucking the Chart. But the more I wrote, the more I realized: this needs to be a SERIES of posts, and the comments from one section may help inform the next sections. I want it to be like an FAQ about chart-free classrooms, and I want to do the best possible job of answering your questions.

SO, please be patient. I promise to get each post up as quickly as possible (and I’m so excited about this that they are coming together pretty darn quickly!). I’ve started working on all of the following questions, which have come from many of you:

  • Why should I take down the chart? (This is, in large part, answered in my original post: Too High a Price, but I will flesh out the 3 specific reasons you should re-consider chart-based classroom management.) Update July 15 – This has been posted under part 1 of the series: Chuck The Chart: But Why?
  • How do I go about removing my chart from my classroom?
  • What do I do INSTEAD of a chart system? (This, also, is largely answered in Behaviour Management: Not Systems but Relationships, but I’ll share a few more tips and tricks, too.)
  • My administrator/district requires a publicly posted classroom management plan. How can I persuade them that there are better alternatives?
  • Without a chart, how do I keep parents updated on their child’s daily behaviour?
  • My report card has a mandatory citizenship/behaviour section. How do I assign a grade without keeping track of how often a child is on red/green/purple/happy face/sad face?
  • How do I respond to colleagues who think that charts are the bees knees?
  • This is really scary for me. Do I have to go “all out” right away? Can I ease into this chart-free business?
  • How does a chart-free classroom work with special populations? (If anyone out there would like to collaborate with me on this section, please let me know, as my experience base with special populations is pretty limited.) 

Are there any more sections i should add? Are there other questions I am missing? PLEASE share them in the comments, and talk to one another, too!

In the meantime, in case you missed them the first time around, please re-read (and SHARE!) the posts that started it all, and which remain the most popular pieces I have ever written:

Too High A Price: Why I Don’t Do Behaviour Charts

Behaviour Management: Not Systems, but Relationships

Update, July 17, 2014: The series has started, and you can find the links below:

Part 1: But Why?

Part 2: Behavior is like reading

I’ve also added a page completely dedicated to this series: Chuck the Chart. 

I am so excited about this project, and I love the idea of this blog becoming a go-to place for relationship-based classroom management.

Because our kids deserve better than colour-coded clothespins.



Chewing on the fish out of water…

This post is my inaugural post for this year’s #kinderblog summer blogging challenge, which I host over at the #kinderchat site. The first assignment:

Write the post that has been in your head (or your drafts folder) for a while now. You know the one. The one you write while you drive to work, or while you are in the shower. What is the question, or issue, or opinion, or emotions, you have been chewing on for a while now? Alternatively, what is the post that you have started a million times, picked away at, edited and re-edited, and almost trashed?  Did you read an article or a Facebook post that provoked a reaction, and that you can’t stop thinking about? THIS IS YOUR CHANCE.
Be Brave. Write it.

So. Here it is. The truth is, I have about 49 posts in my drafts folder, but this one has been there the longest. Almost exactly a year, in fact….

I started it last July, after returning from a conference:

I was recently in a situation where I was surrounded by teacher bloggers. Not teacher bloggers like me. Teacher bloggers with really cute sites with lots of clip art and custom site designs and handwriting fonts and polka dots. And owls. And chevrons (which, I have learned, is the correct word for what I have always called “zig-zag stripes). And blog buttons, and linkys (linkies? Will someone PLEASE tell me what a linky is? Seriously. I am NOT being snarky. I really don’t understand what a linky is. I know, my teacher blogger card is totally going to be revoked, isn’t it?)

Polka Dot Owl

Polka Dot Owl. Alas, no chevron available.

They were, mostly, girly-girls like I have never been: a room full of VERY shiny hair and VERY white teeth, and manicures, and I’m pretty sure there were some pantyhose and some pearls. It felt a little like what I THINK a sorority would feel like. And I’m not exactly a sorority sort of girl. In fact, until I actually LIVED in a US college town, I sort of thought that sororities only happened in movies.

LORDY, was I a fish out of water. I was literally itchy-on-the-inside. All of my long-lost junior high girl angst was suddenly right there at the surface.

I am not that kind of teacher blogger, but I was in a room FULL of them.

These were NOT My People.

But, there was also: a warm welcome, openhearted generosity, big smiles. Encouragement. Laughter. Curiosity. A person I had never met handed me a gift card when she realized she had two.

There were cookies. Did I mention that? Cookies always help.

But: I squirmed and wriggled. I am not, I was not ever: that kind of girl. I was a HUGE bookgeek (to be clear: *I* was not huge, but my bookgeek-ness was), I was a bunhead (not a studio dancer with competitions and sequins. A Ballet Student, at a Ballet School. Bun and tights and pointe shoes and turnout and class EVERY day and bleeding toes and broken knees.) When other girls starting sneaking into bars, I was at the barre, or too tired from the barre to go to the bar. (Barre/bar puns NEVER STOP being funny, it seems…)

Some of it is cultural – between being a Canadian girl and a West Coast girl, I tend to be an altogether more casual kind of girl than they were.

Some of it is temperament: I am, down to my very toenails, an introvert. Friendly, socially capable, but still: an introvert. And I am TERRIBLE at getting-to-know-you small talk. (This may be why I am also terrible at dating, but that is another story…). These girls (and they were ALL girls, because the only two dudes in the room were my buddies, who were even more out of their element than me): clearly extroverted, most with that very specifically American, even more specifically Southern, gift of being able to strike up conversation with ANYBODY. Seriously – do your moms TEACH you that? Because: wow. It’s amazing. (Again, I’m not being snarky; I sincerely wish I was better at chit-chat, more like some of those girls.)

And then, a very short while after that event, I stumbled into a blog, written by a kindergarten teacher, about a product she had tried in her classroom. I had a question, about a dissonance between two points she made, and I asked that question, in the comments of her blog. Because that’s what I do, on the blogs I read, and that’s what you guys do, here. I ask questions. You ask questions. Sometimes, hard questions. But we ask. And we answer, and we all become better because of it.

But this  time… my question hurt her feelings. Not just the content of the question, but the very act of questioning. She was hurt, felt attacked, by a member of her own profession. I…. was shocked, a little angry at first, and then oh-so-dismayed. I hadn’t intended to hurt, hadn’t wanted to hurt, hadn’t DREAMED that it might hurt.

To her credit, that blogger contacted me, in anger at first, but I responded, and we, slowly, found a place of acceptance, if not quite understanding.

And now, a year after that particular situation, I still find myself bumping into these spaces – virtual and “real” where I am surrounded by people who do what I do, and yet… we may as well be from different planets. It’s like there are 2 kinds of Teachers of Young Children who are active on social media, and we just can’t find a way to HEAR one another.  And it is so easy: SO EASY, when we find ourselves butting heads, to throw our hands up and just walk away because “we are from two different worlds.” It is so much more comfortable, to go running back to Our People, who know us and get us and validate us and speak our language.

But that is not how we grow, is it?

And, after a year of reflecting on this, I truly believe: we have to find ways to bridge these gaps. We all go to the same conferences. We do the same job. We teach the same children, with the same love.We have to find ways to understand each other, to question ourselves, to dig deeper into the uncomfortable conversations, because the uncomfortable conversations make us all better, and US BEING BETTER is only going to help the children we reach and teach and love.

So. I’m going to go first. I’m gonna own some “stuff:”

Hi. My name is Amy, and I teach kindergarten. My classroom does not have a theme. I don’t know what a linky is. I don’t spend all summer re-decorating and re-organizing my classroom. I don’t hand-sew matching cushions for my reading corner every year. I don’t have a TPT account.

I don’t understand why you would blog if it was not to have great conversations; and great conversations include hard questions.

Maybe you don’t understand why I blog with so much… opinion.

I don’t understand why you would blog but not tweet.

Maybe you don’t understand how I have time to tweet SO MUCH.

I don’t understand why having a matchy-matchy colour-coordinated classroom matters SO MUCH.

Maybe you don’t understand how it DOESN’T matter to me.

I think that having a “theme” for your classroom setup and decor, before you even meet your students, is not such a good idea. What if they don’t LIKE owls? Or alpacas? Or baseball? Or cupcakes? (No, wait. EVERYBODY likes cupcakes, right?)

Maybe you have an awesome story about how having a classroom theme helps your kids.

I think that blogging about the many many many hours you spend decorating your classroom puts enormous pressure on new teachers.

Maybe you think that sharing your classroom set up process is your way of helping new teachers.

I don’t understand how you plan a year before the year even starts.

Maybe planning your year in advance is required by your district? Maybe it is what helps you have balance in your life as a teacher? (This is a tough one for me. Planning without knowing your kids seems so, so, questionable, but maybe we should talk about that…)

I think worksheets are ethically questionable, and behaviour charts hurt children.

Maybe you… Ok, I’m really not sure how we find common ground on this one. Maybe you can help. Or maybe we can just have a conversation that will make us both more articulate about our practice, and give us something to “chew on” for a while.

And I’m willing to chew, if you are.

Maybe we could start with some cookies…



Because of ballet…

(This is my day 4 post for the #kinderchat post-a-day challenge. The question: When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?)

Ballet was always my thing.

I started when I was 2. (Yes, for real. I was verbal enough, and coordinated enough, that the neighbourhood dance teacher agreed to take me in her 3-year-old class even though THEY DID NOT MAKE BALLET SHOES SMALL ENOUGH FOR ME. Could you die? I could die from the cuteness of that.), got 4 years under my belt, set it aside (ballet, that is, not my metaphorical belt) for a few years, returned when I was nine, stuck with it until I was 17, when a chronic injury, combined with a big role in the school play, drew me away.

I took other kinds of dance because they were “good for me” jazz and modern and character. I tolerated them at best. They seemed fluffy and weird and flashy, sometimes ugly. The teachers for these classes seemed… fluffy. Too smiley, too perky, far too concerned with whether I was having fun. I wasn’t looking for fun. I didn’t want fun. I wanted to be GOOD. I wanted to do it RIGHT.

Ballet was (is) precise. There is an exactly right way for every part of your body to be, literally right down to your pinky fingers. It is right, or it is wrong.

Ballet is black leotard pink tights pink slippers hair in a bun no wispies. Dig the bobby pins into your scalp if you must. A ratty sweater for warm up. Only for warmup. And your teacher will make you take it off before you leave the  barre.

Ballet is gel in your hair and sweat between your shoulder blades and blood inside your pointe shoes.  An entire secret language that is French, but not…

Épaulé effacé croisé.

Pas de bourrée. Pas de chat. Pas de cheval. Pas de deux.

Plié tendu glissé frappé développé penché.

Ballet is thumb on top of the barre, never under. Turn toward the barre, never away. Right side first, then left, always always always. Finish the exercise close your feet, lower your arm, turn your head to the centre.

Warm up, barre, stretches, centre, across the floor, réverence, and limp home.

Leg higher, shoulder lower, eyes up, hip down, heel front, knee back. Hold hold hold. don’t. breathe.

Think about your line from your fingers down your arm across your shoulder to your back through your hip to the leg the foot the toes that must go on forever.

Turn out from your hip. Lift from your stomach. Speak from your eyes. Pull up pull up pull up through your ears, NOT through your chest.

Do all of this at once. To music. On time. And make it look easy.


Yeah. I wanted to be a ballerina.

I still do.


photo (cc) by gabrielsaldana




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#Kinderblog, Day 3. The highlights reel…

Aren’t you folks lucky – 2 blog posts for you, in just a single night! (Second one coming up shortly, I promise!)…

Day 3 of the #kinderblog post-a-day challenge asked us to write about the very best things about 2013. Because I love me some bullets, here you go:

  • I spent 5 days in Vegas with my buddies MattBGomez and JonFines. We had THE. BEST. TIME. Chrissy was there, too, and significantly contributed to The Awesome.
  • While in Vegas, I got to meet Audrey Penn, the author of The Kissing Hand. I was so awed and starstruck that I cried a little bit.


  • I spent 2 weeks at my very favourite place on earth, with my favourite people on earth, with my dear little Skip, and we visited SO MUCH beauty on the way there and back.


  • My teaching intern from last year “graduated” into her own classroom, and I get to watch her be amazing every day.
  • I got my new job (on the dark side, in admin), the kind of job I have wanted for a long time.


  • I got to hang out at conferences in Calgary and Vancouver, with some of my favourite #kinderchat friends, including @mauimickey, @mmekathleen,  @learningmurd, and @namesescapeme.
  • The Flood revealed all the things I love very best about my city, and made the most proud I have EVER been to have been born and raised here.


I just realised that, in writing about the BEST  parts of 2013, I included 2 of the WORST parts: the flood, and losing Skip. I hadn’t wanted to write about heartbreak, fear, tears, anger, here. Both of those events – one so hugely public, the other so intensely private – shook me to my very core, brought me to my knees, and are indelible marks of what 2013 meant. I’m not going to go down the trite, condescending, smug, road of silver linings or closed doors/opened windows. But I will say this:

Many years ago, a friend gave me a card that said

“Everything will be okay in the end.

If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.”

2013, you were okay.


Resolutions: One and only one.

I’m a day behind already on the #kinderchat post-a-day challenge, but I have great faith in my own ability to catch up.

Prompt #2 was to share a resolution for 2014. ONE resolution. ONLY one resolution.

Jebus Murphy. I think I might  have to cheat on this one…. Who makes ONLY ONE resolution?

So. Here it is:

In 2014, I resolve to take better care of me.

How is this cheating? This is the sort of resolution that covers a boatload of other, more specific resolutions: eat better, be more active, drink more water, see friends more frequently, connect more with my extended family, read more books, watch more movies, spend less time at school, go more places… (Not to mention keep flowers in my house, buy a new mattress, walk the dog every day, take a ballet class…)

And yes, I do want to do ALL of those things, but to be really honest, if I was committing to ALL of them, it would seem like A LOT of things to be working on, all at once. I cannot possibly exercise AND eat more veggies AND drink 8 glasses of water AND meet a friend for a movie AND read a book with my grandma AND check out a museum EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

But I CAN pledge to do SOMETHING, ANYTHING, every single day, to take care of myself.

I am a big believer in small changes, tiny habits building over time, until you look back and realize that the very earth has shifted beneath your feet.

So, here’s to the earth shifting, one small shovelful at a time. Wednesday’s shovelful was dinner with my adorable cousin and her very nice fiancé. Yesterday’s was a 30 minute Barre 3 workout AND a long walk with Freddy. Today’s was more salad and less lasagna at lunch.

Small things, tiny habits. This is one resolution that feels do-able. Maybe this isn’t cheating after all.

One small thing, every day, to take care of me.

This I resolve.

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