Behaviour charts… Yes, No or As-And-When?

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Attached you’ll see a (sideways) picture of my very own behaviour chart used in my very first classroom. I was working in a fairly challenging school and behaviour charts, of a sort were recommended during training and used throughout my school. The problem was, I didn’t like them. Each day you started on green and the only way to go was down. This seemed wrong to me for two reasons, firstly it presents a fairly negative expectation for your pupils and secondly, it completely ignores all the children who are busting a gut rather than just coasting along doing the minimal. So, in discussion with my class, we added the blue and gold circles. They loved, I loved it and since I’ve never had big problems with behaviour management I’ve put it done to my consistent use of the chart and sung its praises to all who would listen. That was over a decade ago. Ten years supporting colleagues with behaviour management issues; ten years of watching some teacher still use charts that only go down and wondering to myself why they haven’t figured this out yet… And then I read this article;

Why I’ll Never Use A Behaviour Chart Again by Nikki Sabiston

The article certainly made me think and the comments provided lots of anecdotal evidence to make me question my practice. There were lots of interesting points that I hadn’t even considered – most repeated the fact that ‘good kids’ were constantly feeling stressed at the thought they might make a mistake and be moved down and if it did happen they thought their teacher might not like them anymore. This thought horrified me. Could I really have been putting 9 years olds under such stress?

Then I read this comment by username Teacher Kirra and I knew I would never go back:
“I kept thinking about it and realised that public shaming (because it is public, and the child has to feel some sort of shame in order to want to change and exhibit good behaviour) is just cruel.”

But what would I do instead? What would my classroom look like now? At this point a moment of clarity hit me. For the past 5 years I had worked as a specialist Science teacher. This meant that I didn’t have one class that was mine each and every day throughout the year. I teach lots of different classes and because of this, from my very start in this role, I hadn’t used this (or any other) behaviour chart because it simply wouldn’t work with my timetable. Without realizing it I had stopped using behaviour charts years ago. But, as my behaviour management has not suffered I was still peddling the same advice to new form teachers, supposedly based on empirical evidence…. Talk about pseudoscience – and from a Science teacher no less!

So what have I been doing for the last 5 years, and most likely for the 5 before that as well? I have been setting high expectations in safe and happy learning environments. I have respected my pupils as individuals and earned their respect in return. I have discussed issues with them, set goals with them and celebrated with them. I have shared my joy of learning with them by sharing my questions, my mistakes and my limitations.

So, a reflective start to the New Year – long may it continue πŸ™‚

If you’re after some more tangible suggestions there are links in Nikki’s post that you could check out.

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