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Susan Arthur Staff Photo

Classroom Management 

While I may not always make the best choices when handling classroom behavior, (I will make mistakes) you will never see a behavior chart displayed in my classroom.

Ms. Susan Arthur

You may be wondering how I will handle classroom management? If there is an issue that I am not able to resolve by talking to your child and re-directing him/her to make better choices, I will contact you.


Here are two articles to explain my beliefs about classroom managment:

I’ve Had Enough – No More Public Behavior Management Systems

Original author: Pernille Ripp (modified by Susanne Arthur)

When I was a 4th grade teacher, my classroom was the very last one before the buses.  Every day, all of the students would pass by my classroom and inevitably some of those students and I would strike up a conversation.  Day after day, a little kindergartener would tell me about his day, his shoes, his new fish, or whatever else popped into his mind.  

One day, he saw me and beamed, “Guess what, Mrs. Ripp!”  “What?” I asked.  “Peter was on yellow today!”  He told this news as if it was the biggest gift, excitement spilling from his little body.  

Momentarily confused, it finally dawned on me; he was talking about another student.  “Oh yeah?” I said.  “Yes, Mrs. Ripp, it’s exciting, he hasn’t been on yellow all year…”  (meaning he had been on red all year). My heart dropped.

Here was a kindergarten student who every single day so far of the year had been on red. Who every day had his behavior dissected in front of the rest of the class.   Whose classroom identity was being distinctly shaped by poor decisions and whose biggest identifier was his behavior (a color). I can only imagine what my kindergarten friend would tell his parent every day about that child, Peter.

As a parent, as another teacher, as someone who is outside of the classroom community, I should not be able to see which child is having a bad day.  I should not be able to walk into the room and see the aftermath of something that did not happen in front of me.  That is a personal matter between the child, the teacher, and that child’s parents.  

I understand that there are students that need a behavior system, but those behavior systems should center on privacy.  Should center on knowing the child.  Should center on the fact that we are dealing with another human being, that yes, may make poor decisions upon poor decisions, but they are still somebody’s child

Because many schools require a behavior plan to be on display in the classroom (and I was choosing an alternate plan), I have been asked what I would use instead of a public visual classroom behavior management system. My answer: common sense and kindness.  Patience, communication, and yes, even private plans.  No child deserves to be publicly humiliated day upon day, they deserve better than this.  

What’s My Problem With Public Behavior Charts?

Original author: Pernille Ripp (modified by Susanne Arthur)

The day starts out fine, you had your breakfast, you had your coffee, you feel prepared, happy even.  You are off to school and ready to teach.  At the morning staff meeting you get so excited over an idea you lean over to your colleague to whisper in their ear.   After all, they really need to hear this.

Then I hear a voice, a command.  “Mrs. Ripp, please move your clip.”  Shocked, you look around and feel every set of eyes on you.  You stand up, walk to the front, move your clip from the top of the chart to yellow or whatever other step down there is.  Quietly you sit down, gone is your motivation for the day, you know it can only get worse from here.

Ridiculous right?  After all, how many times as adults are we asked to move our name, our clip, our stick, or even write our name on the board so others can see we are misbehaving?  We don’t, and we wouldn’t if we were told to, after all, we demand respect, we demand common courtesy, we expect to be treated like, well, adults.  So us, moving clips, yeah right…

If you search for “Classroom Behavior Charts” on Pinterest, be prepared to be astounded.  Sure, you will see the classic stop light charts, but now a new type of chart has emerged.  The cute classroom behavior chart, filled with flowers, butterflies, and smiley faces.  As if this innocent looking chart could never damage a child, as if something with polka-dots could ever be bad.   And sure, must of them have more than three steps to move down, but the idea is still the same; a public behavior chart display will ensure students behave better.  Why?  Because they don’t want the humiliation that goes along with moving one’s name.  

The saddest thing for me is that I used to do it. I stopped when I realized that all I did was create a classroom divided, a classroom that consisted of the students who were good and the students who were bad.  I didn’t even have to tell my students out-loud who the “bad” kids were, they simply looked at our chart and then drew their own conclusions.  And then as kids tend to do, they would tell their parents just who had misbehaved and been on red or yellow for the day.

We may say that it for the good of the child.  We may say that it helps control the classroom. And yet, have we thought of how the students feel about them?  Have we thought about the stigma we create?  Have we thought about the role we force students into and then are surprised when they continue to play it?

The fastest way to convince a child they are bad is to tell them in front of their peers.  So if that is what we are trying to accomplish, then by all means, display the cute behavior charts.

Start everyone in the middle so the divide becomes even more apparent when some children move up and others move down.  Hang those banners of accomplishment, make sure not everyone is on there.  Make sure everybody has been ranked and that everybody knows who is good and who is bad.  

Create a classroom where students’ actions are not questioned, nor discussed, but simply punished.  And then tell them loudly and proudly to move their clip.  After all, if the whole class doesn’t know someone is misbehaving then how will they ever change?