Miss Night's Marbles

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

No gifts, please.

A friend asked me, a few days ago, about “back to school teacher gifts.” She wanted to know if these were A Thing at my school. My shocked response quickly clarified that these are very much NOT A Thing at my school, but a quick scan of social media and mommy blogs showed me that they appear to be a growing THING, out there in the world. WHO CAME UP WITH THIS FRESH HELL?

Let’s back up for a second: I’m a girl who likes presents, both the giving and the receiving. I pride myself on selecting and planning thoughtful, personal gifts for others, and I accept gifts with enthusiasm, gratitude and grace. As a classroom teacher, I enjoyed and appreciated the tokens of appreciation I received from my students and their families over the years. I. Like. Presents.

And knowing THAT about me should add even more weight to my words, when I say this:

I’m a teacher (ok, I’m now an admin, and out of the classroom, but I remain a teacher, in my heart, as well as by certification and profession…), and I’m here to set the record straight:

We do not need gifts, from students or parents, on the first day of school.

 

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The first day of school is already full of enough pressure and stress, for parents and students. As a parent, you have had to get your family out of summer mode. You have bought new school clothes and new school supplies, and you may even be helping your child face a new school, altogether. You have sorted out your family’s routines so that everybody gets where they need to go, on time, with the right stuff, on that first day. Many of you have taken a little time off work to accompany your little ones to the classroom door. The last thing you need to do or remember is to package up some mints or hand sanitizer, or candy, in a cute jar with a pun-ny note.

And if you do find yourself with a little extra pocket of time, in the waning days of summer, please don’t waste it researching, buying, or making, a gift for me.  Take one more trip to the pool with your kids. Read an extra chapter of Harry Potter together. Eat ice cream. Count shooting stars. Please don’t spend one minute trying to figure out how to make me a vase out of crayons. (Insider tip: my house is not decorated in a crayon-chalk-apple motif…) Take those crayons, sit down and colour with your kiddo. If colouring is not your thing: watch a movie. Go to a new playground. Sit on the front step and eat a popsicle. Soak up every last minute of summer.

Here’s the thing: for me, and for most teachers, the first day of school is already on par with Christmas. It is already a day full of gifts, one we have anticipated for weeks. We have spent days preparing our classrooms, writing the children’s names on 847 different things, sharpening pencils, arranging chairs, selecting the book for our first read-aloud of the year. We have pored over our class lists for at least a week, trying to guess what personalities and faces and quirks lay behind those inscrutable names. Ida. Marco. Polly. Tyrone.

We have been waiting, anxiously and excitedly, for them to arrive. We have endured hours of meetings, late nights of planning. We have awakened at night in a cold sweat, after the ubiquitous first-day-of-school teacher nightmare: that the first day of school arrived, and we were not ready (Seriously. We ALL have this dream at least once every year). Our hallways and classrooms and gyms and libraries have echoed with the sparse and hollow footsteps of grownups for DAYS. Our schools are not schools until the children arrive.

And then, finally, FINALLY, on that first day: the cars and buses pull up, the playground fills. The gifts we have been waiting for are finally here. In stiff new shoes, too-big backpacks, freshly-scrubbed faces, shy smiles, our gifts file in.

The children — your children– are the gifts.

On this day, nothing, NOTHING you could possibly bring me, can compare to the gift that is your child’s presence in my classroom. His fresh haircut, her tight pigtails, their chatter and laughter and endless questions… the water fight at the sink, the spilled milk at lunch time, even those messes are gifts, on this magical day.

Later in the year, there will be time for presents. Once we know each other, feel free to drop off a Starbucks card at Halloween, or some fresh Sharpies on concert day. I’m sure it won’t take long for you to learn about my weakness for chocolate chip cookies. We have a road to travel together, this year, and along the way, we may exchange some gifts.

But right now, on the first day of school?

Your child is the only gift I need.

5 Comments »

Un gamin de ce genre… (THAT kid, en français…)

I am so delighted to be able to post this beautiful translation of my “Dear Parent: About THAT kid” letter. Heartfelt thanks to Stéphane Auberval, a French student, living in the UK, who voluntarily did the translation. He has captured not only the content, but also the tone and spirit, of my original letter, and I remain eternally grateful. Although I am bilingual, myself, I don’t think I could have done as marvellous a job.

Je suis énormément heureuse de vous présenter la traduction française de ma lettre originale: “Dear Parent, About THAT kid…” Mes plus grands remerciements à Stéphane Auberval, un étudiant français, présentement au Royaume Unis,  qui s’est porté bénévole à faire la traduction. Il a réussi à capter non seulement le contenu, mais aussi le ton et l’esprit, de mon texte originale. J’en suis éternellement reconnaissante. Même en étant bilingue, moi-même, je n’aurais jamais pu faire une traduction aussi merveilleuse.

Et, voila:

Cher parent,

Je sais. Vous vous faites du souci. Chaque jour, votre enfant rentre à la maison en vous racontant les dernières prouesses du p’tit Kevin ou de la p’tit’ Tatiana. Kevin ou Tatiana, c’est le gamin ou la gamine qui est du genre à frapper les autres enfants, à les bousculer, les pincer, les griffer tout le temps, voire peut-être les mordre. C’est celui ou celle qui doit tout le temps me tenir la main dans le hall d’entrée. Celui ou celle qui a sa place près du prof sur le tapis et qui parfois s’assied sur une chaise au fond de la classe plutôt que par terre avec tout le monde. Celui ou celle à qui on a interdit certains jouets, surtout les briques de construction car elles ne sont pas censées être utilisées comme projectiles. Celui ou celle qui a escaladé la clôture de la cour de récré alors même que je lui demandais d’arrêter. Celui ou celle qui a jeté le lait de son camarade de classe par terre dans un accès de colère. Exprès. Devant moi. Et puis, quand je lui ai demandé de nettoyer, a vidé le distributeur de serviettes en papier dans son INTÉGRALITÉ. Exprès. Devant moi. Celui ou celle qui a lâché le VRAI DE VRAI gros mot en P- en cours d’EPS.

Vous vous demandez si le p’tit Kevin ou la p’tit’ Tatiana n’est pas en train de nuire à l’apprentissage de votre enfant. Vous vous demandez s’il ou elle n’accapare pas trop mon temps et mon énergie, et si votre enfant n’en fera pas les frais. Vous vous demandez si un de ces jours il ou elle finira par envoyer quelqu’un à l’hôpital. Vous vous demandez si ce quelqu’un pourrait bien être votre enfant. Vous vous demandez si votre enfant ne va pas finir par recourir à la violence pour obtenir ce qu’il veut. Vous vous demandez si les résultats scolaires de votre enfant ne vont pas souffrir du fait que je n’ai pas remarqué qu’il a du mal à tenir son crayon. Je sais bien.

Mais cette année, dans ma classe, et à ce stade, votre enfant, bien au contraire de Kevin ou Tatiana, est loin d’être un gamin de ce genre. Votre enfant n’est certes pas parfait, mais en général il suit les règles. Il est capable de partager les jouets de manière pacifique. Il ne jette pas son dévolu sur le mobilier scolaire. Il lève la main pour demander la parole. Il fait son travail pendant les heures de classe, et attend sagement la récré pour jouer. On peut lui faire confiance : quand il va aux toilettes, c’est vraiment pour aller aux toilettes. Et les seuls gros mots qu’il connaisse en S ou en C sont « stupide » et « crotte ».

Je sais bien, et ça m’inquiète moi aussi, que Kevin et Tatiana soient des gamins de ce genre.

Car, voyez vous, moi aussi je me fais du souci. Tout le temps. Et pour TOUS mes élèves. Pour votre enfant par exemple, quand il tient mal son crayon, ou pour cet autre enfant qui en lecture n’arrive toujours pas à décoder le son que fait telle ou telle lettre, ou encore pour la petite, haute comme trois pommes, qui est incroyablement timide, ou encore pour cet autre enfant dont la boîte repas n’est jamais bien remplie. Je me fais du souci pour Jonathan, dont le manteau n’est pas assez chaud, ainsi que pour Melissa qui se fait hurler dessus par son papa parce qu’elle écrit la lettre d à l’envers. Je passe mes journées entières à me faire du souci, un souci qui me ronge, à l’école, à la maison, en voiture, et même jusque sous la douche.

Mais je sais, vous n’avez qu’une seule envie, c’est de me parler de Kevin et de Tatiana. Parce que les d qui ressemblent à des b chez Melissa, ça risque pas de causer un œil au beurre noir à votre enfant.

Moi aussi je voudrais bien vous parler de Kevin ou de Tatiana, mais il y a tellement de choses que je n’ai pas le droit de vous dire.

Je n’ai pas le droit de vous dire qu’elle a été adoptée dans un orphelinat à l’âge de 18 mois.

Je n’ai pas le droit de vous dire qu’il suit un régime alimentaire strict dû à une suspicion d’allergie alimentaire, et que par conséquent il a faim CON-STAM-MENT.

Je n’ai pas le droit de vous dire que ses parents sont en plein milieu d’un divorce à la Kramer contre Kramer, et qu’elle a été placée chez Mamie en attendant.

Je n’ai pas le droit de vous dire que ladite Mamie est portée sur la bouteille, j’en ai bien peur…

Je n’ai pas le droit de vous dire qu’en raison de son asthme, Kevin doit prendre un inhalateur dont l’un des agents actifs a pour effet secondaire de le rendre hyperactif.

Je n’ai pas le droit de vous dire que sa maman est mère célibataire, et que donc elle dépose la petite au périscolaire dès qu’ils ouvrent, et qu’elle peine à arriver avant l’heure de fermeture, sans compter le trajet entre la maison et l’école, qui dure 40 minutes et qui fait que les nuits de Tatiana sont plus courtes que celles de la plupart des adultes.

Je n’ai pas le droit de vous dire que Kevin a été témoin de violences conjugales.

« Pas de problème, » vous entends-je déjà dire. Vous comprenez parfaitement que je ne sois pas autorisé à partager toutes ces informations puisque confidentielles. Mais vous vous demandez quand même pourquoi je ne mets pas les BOUCHÉES DOUBLES pour faire en sorte que Kevin et Tatiana se tiennent à carreau.

Je voudrais bien tout vous expliquer. Mais je n’ai pas le droit.

Je n’ai pas le droit de vous dire qu’elle reçoit des cours d’orthophonie, que son dernier bilan a montré un retard de langage sévère, et que la thérapeute pense que son agressivité est liée à la frustration de ne pas savoir s’exprimer.

Je n’ai pas le droit de vous dire que je reçois ses parents régulièrement, TOUTES les semaines en fait, et que le couple finit en larmes à la plupart de nos réunions.

Je n’ai pas le droit de vous dire que Tatiana et moi avons établi un code secret dont elle se sert pour me faire comprendre qu’elle a besoin de s’isoler un moment.

Je n’ai pas le droit de vous dire qu’à la récré il demande souvent la permission de venir sur mes genoux pour que je lui fasse un câlin parce que « ça me fait du bien d’entendre ton cœur, maîtresse. »

Je n’ai pas le droit de vous dire que j’ai méticuleusement répertorié chacun de ses épisodes agressifs sur les 3 derniers mois, et qu’elle est passée d’une moyenne de 5 incidents par jour à 5 par semaine.

Je n’ai pas le droit de vous dire que la secrétaire de l’école a accepté que je lui envoie Kevin dans son bureau pour « prêter main forte » quand il a besoin de changer d’air.

Je n’ai pas le droit de vous dire que je me suis levé(e) en plein conseil d’école, des larmes plein les yeux, IMPLORANT mes collègues de suivre Tatiana de très près et d’être indulgents avec elle, même quand ça les enrage qu’elle vienne tout juste de frapper un élève, POUR LA N-IÈME FOIS, et JUSTE SOUS LE NEZ D’UN COLLÈGUE, en plus.

Le truc, c’est qu’il y a TELLEMENT de choses que je n’ai pas le droit de vous dire à propos de Kevin et de Tatiana. Et je n’ai même pas le droit de vous parler de ce qui va bien non plus !

Je n’ai pas le droit de vous dire qu’il est en charge d’arroser les plantes de la classe, et que lorsqu’on a perdu l’une de ces plantes pendant les vacances de Noël il a fondu en larmes.

Je n’ai pas le droit de vous raconter comme elle dit au revoir à sa petite sœur tous les matins en lui faisant un gros bisou et en lui chuchotant à l’oreille : « Tu es mon ange de lumière » avant que Maman ne reparte avec la poussette.

Je n’ai pas le droit de vous dire que ses connaissances sur certains phénomènes climatiques feraient pâlir de jalousie la plupart des présentateurs météo.

Je n’ai pas le droit de vous dire qu’elle me propose souvent de l’aide pour tailler les crayons alors que c’est l’heure de la récré.

Je n’ai pas le droit de vous dire qu’elle caresse les cheveux de sa meilleure amie pendant la sieste.

Je n’ai pas le droit de vous dire que quand un de ses petits camarades se met à pleurer, il se précipite dans le coffre à jouets pour aller lui chercher sa peluche préférée.

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Le truc, cher parent, c’est que je n’ai le droit de vous parler que de votre enfant à VOUS.

Du coup, ce que j’ai bel et bien le droit de vous dire, c’est que…

Dans l’éventualité où votre enfant à vous deviendrait un gamin de ce genre, je peux vous garantir que…

Je ne partagerai pas vos données confidentielles avec d’autres parents d’élève.

Je communiquerai avec vous avec régularité, avec clarté et avec courtoisie

Je m’assurerai qu’il y aura des mouchoirs à portée de main à tous nos rendez-vous, et si vous m’autorisez, je vous tiendrai la main quand vous pleurerez.

Je défendrai les intérêts de votre enfant et de votre famille afin que vous receviez les services des plus fins professionnels de l’éducation, et je travaillerai avec eux dans la plus étroite collaboration possible.

Je m’assurerai que les carences affectives de votre enfant soient comblées voire dépassées au moment où il en aura le plus besoin.

Je me ferai la voix de votre enfant au sein de notre communauté scolaire.

Je continuerai, coûte que coûte, à chercher, et à trouver, tout ce qu’il y a de bon, d’incroyable, d’unique et de formidable chez votre enfant.

Je lui rappellerai, sans relâche, à lui mais à vous aussi, toutes ces bonnes choses, tous ces talents, toutes ces merveilles dont il est capable.

Et quand un autre parent viendra me voir, en s’inquiétant par rapport à votre enfant à VOUS…

Je lui raconterai toute cette histoire inlassablement. Depuis le début.

Chaleureuses salutations, pleines d’empathie.

Prof

 

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1 Comment »

Miss Night Mutters. Literally.

First: WOW.

My last post, from just a few days ago —  Dear Parent: About THAT Kid… — has gone viral. 1.3 million hits and counting. It has been featured on the Washington Post education blog, and will soon appear on a few other sites, as well. I’m sharing this, not to blow my own horn, but rather, to THANK all of you, who helped that happen. For a blizzard of reasons, that post has hit a nerve. I am so honoured and touched by the stories that have been shared in the comments, and by the personal e-mails so many of you have sent me. Thank you so much for sharing your stories, for connecting with me and one another, and for spreading that post the full length and breadth of social media in all its forms. Wow. You guys are amazing. A million readers, and all through “organic spread” (which means, I have learned, that there was no paid promotion of the piece). Just you all, spreading it via digital word of mouth. Do you know how awesome that is?

Part of the attention that the post has drawn came in the form of a radio interview that I did today, and while it makes me feel a little bit naked-on-the-internet to share my full real name and school here (where I have always been semi-anonymous), I wanted to share it with you. The host asks some questions that have come up in many of the comments on the blog, and I was so grateful to have the opportunity to answer them.

 

Miss Night Mutters. Literally.

So, there you have it: my ACTUAL voice, amplifying our collective voice, about being kind, fair, respectful, and compassionate to ALL the children and families in our care.

Thank you guys.  SO MUCH.

And, coming soon, by your request: a follow-up Dear Parent letter, about how teachers are looking after YOUR child in the classroom, when YOUR child is not THAT child.

Love and so many blessings, friends. You amaze me.

xo

Miss Night

 

9 Comments »

Dear Parent: About THAT kid…

Dear Parent:

I know. You’re worried. Every day, your child comes home with a story about THAT kid. The one who is always hitting shoving pinching scratching maybe even biting other children. The one who always has to hold my hand in the hallway. The one who has a special spot at the carpet, and sometimes sits on a chair rather than the floor. The one who had to leave the block centre because blocks are not for throwing. The one who climbed over the playground fence right exactly as I was telling her to stop. The one who poured his neighbour’s milk onto the floor in a fit of anger. On purpose. While I was watching.  And then, when I asked him to clean it up, emptied the ENTIRE paper towel dispenser. On purpose. While I was watching. The one who dropped the REAL ACTUAL F-word in gym class.

You’re worried that THAT child is detracting from your child’s learning experience. You’re worried that he takes up too much of my time and energy, and that your child won’t get his fair share. You’re worried that she is really going to hurt someone some day. You’re worried that “someone” might be your child. You’re worried that your child is going to start using aggression to get what she wants. You’re worried your child is going to fall behind academically because I might not notice that he is struggling to hold a pencil. I know.

Your child, this year, in this classroom, at this age, is not THAT child. Your child is not perfect, but she generally follows rules. He is able to share toys peaceably. She does not throw furniture. He raises his hand to speak. She works when it is time to work, and  plays when it is time to play. He can be trusted to go straight to the bathroom and straight back again with no shenanigans. She thinks that the S-word is “stupid” and the C-word is “crap.” I know.

I know, and I am worried, too.

You see, I worry all the time. About ALL of them. I worry about your child’s pencil grip, and another child’s letter sounds, and that little tiny one’s shyness, and that other one’s chronically empty lunchbox. I worry that Gavin’s coat is not warm enough, and that Talitha’s dad yells at her for printing the letter B backwards. Most of my car rides and showers are consumed with the worrying.

But I know, you want to talk about THAT child. Because Talitha’s backward Bs are not going to give your child a black eye.

I want to talk about THAT child, too, but there are so many things I can’t tell you.

I can’t tell you that she was adopted from an orphanage at 18 months.

I can’t tell you that he is on an elimination diet for possible food allergies, and that he is therefore hungry ALL. THE. TIME.

I can’t tell you that her parents are in the middle of a horrendous divorce, and she has been staying with her grandma.

I can’t tell you that I’m starting to worry that grandma drinks…

I can’t tell you that his asthma medication makes him agitated.

I can’t tell you that her mom is a single parent, and so she (the child) is at school from the moment before-care opens, until the moment after-care closes, and then the drive between home and school takes 40 minutes, and so she (the child) is getting less sleep than most adults.

I can’ tell you that he has been a witness to domestic violence.

That’s okay, you say. You understand I can’t share personal or family information. You just want to know what I am DOING about That Child’s behaviour.

I would love to tell you. But I can’t.

I can’t tell you that she receives speech-language services, that an assessment showed a severe language delay, and that the therapist feels the aggression is linked to frustration about being unable to communicate.

I can’t tell you that I meet with his parents EVERY week, and that both of them usually cry at those meetings.

I can’t tell you that the child and I have a secret hand signal to tell me when she needs to sit by herself for a while.

I can’t tell you that he spends rest time curled in my lap because “it makes me feel better to hear your heart, Teacher.”

I can’t tell you that I have been meticulously tracking her aggressive incidents for 3 months, and that she has dropped from 5 incidents a day, to 5 incidents a week.

I can’t tell you that the school secretary has agreed that I can send him to the office to “help” when I can tell he needs a change of scenery.

I can’t tell you that I have stood up in a staff meeting and, with tears in my eyes, BEGGED my colleagues to keep an extra close eye on her, to be kind to her even when they are frustrated that she just punched someone AGAIN, and this time, RIGHT IN FRONT OF A TEACHER.

The thing is, there are SO MANY THINGS I can’t tell you about That Child. I can’t even tell you the good stuff.

I can’t tell you that his classroom job is to water the plants, and that he cried with heartbreak when one of the plants died over winter break.

I can’t tell you that she kisses her baby sister goodbye every morning, and whispers “You are my sunshine” before mom pushes the stroller away.

I can’t tell you that he knows more about thunderstorms than most meteorologists.

I can’t tell you that she often asks to help sharpen the pencils during playtime.

I can’t tell you that she strokes her best friend’s hair at rest time.

I can’t tell you that when a classmate is crying, he rushes over with his favourite stuffy from the story corner.

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The thing is, dear parent, that I can only talk to you about YOUR child. So, what I can tell you is this:

If ever, at any point, YOUR child, or any of your children, becomes THAT child…

I will not share your personal family business with other parents in the classroom.

I will communicate with you frequently, clearly, and kindly.

I will make sure there are tissues nearby at all our meetings, and if you let me, I will hold your hand when you cry.

I will advocate for your child and family to receive the highest quality of specialist services, and I will cooperate with those professionals to the fullest possible extent.

I will make sure your child gets extra love and affection when she needs it most.

I will be a voice for your child in our school community.

I will, no matter what happens, continue to look for, and to find, the good, amazing, special, and wonderful things about your child.

I will remind him and YOU of those good amazing special wonderful things, over and over again.

And when another parent comes to me, with concerns about YOUR child…

I will tell them all of this, all over again.

 

With so much love;

Teacher.

Update, November 24, 2014: Many of you have contacted me, asking for ways to help THAT kid, or to help spread this message. With enormous gratitude, my latest post describes some ways you can help.

Update, Nov 21, 2014 – Due to the overwhelming popularity of this piece, please note the following, in regards to sharing and distribution. I hate that I have to say this, but I thank you for your understanding.

  • I retain the sole rights to the piece, and it cannot be re-printed or re-posted in its entirety, without my express permission.
  • You are most welcome to share the link to the original piece in whatever form you choose, to whatever population you choose.
  • Bloggers and websites are welcome to share an excerpt (up to 200 words), with a link back to the original post.
  • If you wish to re-post the piece in its entirety, on any website or network, please contact me to ask for my permission to do so.
  • If you wish to translate the piece in its entirety, for any purposes, please contact me for my permission to do so.
  • If you wish to include the piece in any print publication, including newsletters or newspapers, please contact me for my permission to do so.

 

Note: comments on this post are heavily moderated. I am delighted to host productive, respectful conversation, but am not comfortable being the venue for attacks on teachers, parents, children or “the system”. I wrote this post as a call to compassion and understanding; comments that are not aligned with that purpose will not be approved. Thank you for your understanding. 

1,088 Comments »

Chuck the Chart, Part 3.5: How one teacher changed the “mandatory” chart

This post is part of my Chuck the Chart series, about managing your classroom without the use of a publicly posted behaviour chart. You can find links to the entire series on my Chuck the Chart page

In response to the previous post about talking to your administrator regarding a chart-free classroom, my friend Kimberley, over at Books First in Maine wrote the post below, detailing how she managed to work around a mandatory chart situation. I LOVE this solution, and if you find yourself in a situation where your principal or district will absolutely not wiggle on any part of the chart, I think her approach is brilliant. With her permission, I am reposting her piece in its entirety, but you can see the original here.  Please take a minute to check out her blog!

When I first arrived at the K-2 school where I now teach, I learned it was a school wide rule that everyone use one of those clothespin behavior charts. Several teachers and administrators asked me if I wanted them to make me one since it was obvious that I hadn’t put one up yet. At our school the rooms line up like a train car. The only way to get through the school is to walk through everyone’s room, so people noticed classroom ‘decor’.

 I politely declined.

 Apparently many people thought I was going to make one later, so it was brought up again when I still didn’t have one after Open House. In fact, several children attending open house were also quick to point out that they couldn’t find my behavior chart. “You know Mrs Moran? Like we had in Kindergarten?” I told them that we would be talking about something called self-control. “Just wait,” I said, “you’ll love it!” The kids looked worried. This was the system they had all learned. This was the system that kept everyone in line.

When I arrived at school the first day students were to attend, this was on my desk.
There was also a sticky note from my principal explaining that it needed to be up and used.

I introduced it to the kids by explaining that this was not a reward/punishment chart. It was a reminder chart. I showed them how I kept notes on how they read, what they loved, mini-lessons I wanted to teach. I explained that this behavior chart was a way for them to keep notes on how they were exhibiting self-control. We did lots of activities on what self-control means and how when we catch ourselves and get control over our behaviors, we can be proud.

 I also told them that I wanted this class to be the one that did the right thing even when no one was watching.

 In this way, I couldn’t be the one who moved clips because then you might forget to monitor yourself. You also couldn’t rely on other people to tell on you because they aren’t in control of you either. The kids began to use the clips after each activity. We would complete a lesson, gather on the rug and talk about what kind of self-control we might have needed to use during the past lesson. Kids were invited to put their clips where they felt they should go…no judgment, just a simple reminder to work harder at self-control or keep doing what you are doing.

 They LOVED it. They were so surprised that the grownup wasn’t going to be moving the clips.

 They HATED it. They couldn’t believe that the grownup wasn’t going to keep the ‘bad’ boys and girls in check.

 I smiled and kept insisting that my goal for everyone was a class who did the right thing even when no one was watching.

 As the clip system became less of a focus because it wasn’t about me in control, it started to run in the background. Some kids loved their clips and some kids forgot about them. When the principal came in, she saw the clip chart and smiled. The kids were in order and peaceful, “that chart system must be working!” I invited her to ask the kids how they use the chart. Their conversations astounded her. Here were kids who discussed how they self-monitored, how the kids not the teacher were in charge of their own clips, and how they loved to show their self-control. She shared her experience with the guidance counselor.

 By then we had moved to quick thumb check ins. At the end of each mini-lesson kids showed thumbs up, to the side, or down to share how well they exhibited self-control. The behavior chart began to gather dust.

 Then one day, the guidance counselor came to see me to ask if she could share a story about my class. She talked about one of my students who had a great deal of impulse control issues. He had been arguing with another student at recess and eventually slugged the other kid. When the recess monitors were figuring out the situation, the boy said somewhat hysterically “I didn’t do a self-check. I wish I’d just checked in with myself before I hit him. It’s my fault. I am responsible for what I do and say.” She wanted me to know that she had never witnessed a child so aware of what had occurred and ready to take responsibility. She felt my self-control method was working.

 Other teachers began to ask me about what I was doing. I invited them to come in and talk to the kids about how it worked. They invited some of my kids to come in and share the process with some of their kids. The behavior chart went in the recycling bin.

Thank you so much to Kimberley for sharing her story, and allowing me to post it here as part of this series.

Stay tuned – next up, we talk to parents!

 

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