Changing What We Think About and How We Address Behaviour in the Classroom

In one of my Masters courses, Current Issues, we have been talking about teaching children who have experienced/are experiencing trauma, and mental health issues in schools.

It’s made me reflect on situations where I have been involved in those things with my own students.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, Kindergarten is this magical place where honesty and relationships really matter.
In order to learn, your heart needs to be invested in whatever you’re doing and whomever you’re doing it with.

I’ve spent a lot of time focusing on forming positive relationships with my students year after year, in hopes that they will trust me and feel comfortable in school and in our classroom. For some children it is their first school experience, so making sure they feel good about being there really makes a difference.
To be honest, sometimes we focus ONLY on community building, play, and social/emotional learning, than anything else. I’d actually prefer it if Kindergarten curriculums were only made up of social and emotional learning.

In order to learn, you have to be able to manage yourself.

As I wrote about my experiences for my Masters course, it reminded me of all the things I have been doing right in the classroom: focusing on community building, being kind, respecting ourselves/each other/environment, being responsible, encouraging risk taking and independence, giving space to express ourselves, sharing our thinking and feelings, etc.

Last week a student came to me and said, “Miss Alanna, I’m feeling very tired, can I take a break in the tent?”
It is things like this that I say, YES – that child was able to realize they needed a break and our classroom allows them take one. This is something they will carry on throughout their lives, when your body is calling out for a break – listen to it, and take a break.

This also shows up when I find students in our back room, under a table, laying down on the carpet – these are all things they’re doing to self-regulate, and manage their bodies.
We are often talking about taking a rest, taking a break, listening to your body, and doing what you need for it – and asking for help.

Our classroom values the individual, and everyone needs something different – and for Kindergarten students to realize that for themselves, is a huge achievement.

I also hear things like, “Shh, guys, I can’t concentrate, you’re being too loud”

This stuff makes me smile from ear to ear, they’re recognizing what learning conditions they need, and they’re doing something about it.

A goal for next year, is to incorporate Stuart Shankers zones of regulations.

(read more about him here, Self Reg – Stuart Shanker)

The zones of regulation relate emotions to colours.
An example,Screen Shot 2018-05-27 at 2.39.01 PM.png

This was taken from a blog by a school in Ontario, found here: SelfReg At St. Phillip

I want to start next year off using something similar to this, so that the children can use it to identify how they’re feeling. The other part to this would be strategies to get back to green. The emphasis is put on the STUDENT/CHILD identifying where they are — not you. And then the STUDENT/CHILD using strategies to calm themselves down, with your help if needed.

There is also something called an escalation map or a de-escalation map where a student maps out their day in feelings, for example:

Screen Shot 2018-05-27 at 3.29.25 PM.png

This comes from an article titled Trauma-informed flexible learning. I sited it below for you.

This is to identify transitions or periods of the day where children feel a certain emotion. As a teacher, I can find patterns using this and help the child figure out strategies they can use during this time, or figure out exactly what it is about that time of day that they like or don’t like.

As teachers, we are often asked about our classroom management strategies, or what we do to manage behaviours.

I think we need to look at this in a different way.

The problem is that there isn’t ONE way that will work for all your students. Everyone is different, everyone’s behaviour is different and the reasons for that are all different.

I was scrolling through social media, as I do often.
I follow some really silly pages on Instagram – don’t ask.

Anyways, guess what I saw on my feed?


IMG_1772 3.PNG

I cringed.
Wait – I should also mention, this account isn’t an educational one AT ALL and it can post some weird stuff, but anyways. This is a whole class, very visible behaviour chart.
One of many variations.
Green is good – yellow is warning – red is bad!
Everyone in the class can see it, everyone knows who is on which colour, and I am suuuuuuure (almost 100%) parents also know which kids are on red often. This translates to a BOAT LOAD of issues. Loss of trust between student and teacher, among a whole other list that I will mention below.

I am very ANTI whole classroom, visible behaviour charts. I’ve written about this in bits and pieces throughout my other posts.

Just imagine your boss used this.
Imagine it.
Really, really imagine it.
Would it motivate you? What’s the focus here?
Do you know who the bad kid is? Do you know who the good kid is?

You can read the many articles written about why they shouldn’t be used and the damage they can cause here:

Washington Post – The Dark Side of Classroom Management Charts

Or here…

PBS – Hey teachers, please stop using behaviour charts

Or here…

We Are Teachers – 5 Reasons I’m Against Classroom Behaviour Charts

Or here…

Teaching In Progress – Why I Will Never Use a Behaviour Chart Again

I could go on for days. Now, I know. Some people use these, and they SWEAR they work. BUT!!!!! They have been proven to work on some kids, and temporarily. For the other 99% no. It does more harm than good, it’s embarrassing, humiliating, and for the poor souls who are always in red, it just fuels their fire to keep up with their reputation without helping them manage any behaviours.

I took a read under the comments of the post on Instagram.

Here are my favourite ones:

All of this is just through INSTAGRAM! Yikes.

There are MANY other positive ways we can encourage positive behaviour in our classrooms, and public humiliation is not one of them.

Here are some ideas instead,

  • If you have a student who is constantly struggling with behaviours, create a plan with just that child and yourself, not the whole class.
    This will strengthen the bond you have with that child, and you work as a team, that child isn’t left alone to deal with their issues.
  • Focus on positives, point out all the great stuff everyone is doing, especially for the one who is struggling.
    Give them a special job, have the others see them in a new role and in a new way
  • Use rewards and consequences for behaviour (both bad and good), these charts do nothing for the children who are always behaving well, they need recognition too (they don’t need stickers, or a prize, they need attention and time like the rest – some extra play/recess, one-on-one time, etc), and for children who struggle, follow through with consequences when appropriate, don’t leave them alone to sort out their issues, take time to talk about why they are receiving a consequence and what they can do the next time. The important thing is that we give them plenty of opportunities to practice what they’re struggling
  • Incorporate mindfulness and/or community circles shift the focus on individuals to the class, use the children to come up with solutions for problems, make sure they can talk about how they feel when x does y, or when x says y to them. They need each other to express the problems and figure out strategies they can use next time. The class is a community; no one can or should struggle with anything alone.
  • Teach about emotions and how to identify them. Most of the time, the problem can always come down to an emotion that a child is struggling to control – excitement, anger, sadness, etc. The more we teach about emotions and how to recognize them, strategies to shift them, ways to calm ourselves down, the better we will get at managing our behaviours and controlling our bodies.

This post is way too long, so I will end here.

If you currently use a visible classroom behaviour chart,
I will ask you (or beg you) to be a risk taker and don’t use it next year! 

You can read more about self-regulation here:

Education – Self-Regulation

Child Mind – How Can We Help Kids With Self-Regulation?

Crisis Prevention – Emotional Self-Regulation

Also, this.

I took the above from here, The FYI – Reframing Behaviour

and the escalation map came from here: (I highly recommend reading this)
Brunzell, t., Stokes, H., & Waters, L. (2016). Trauma-informed flexible learning: classrooms that strengthen regulatory abilities. International Journal of Child, Youth and Family Studies, 7(2), 218-239. DOI: 10.18357/ijcyfs72201615719


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