I've had a clip chart in my classroom for most of the past 10 years. However, I rarely use it. It's like my teacher security blanket. It hangs there, looking cute, ready to be put to use for a couple of weeks if the class is particularly squirrelly, but adding little to the function of the room.
Recently, my administrator handed most of the staff three books to read, and I'm currently immersed in Lost at School, by Dr. Ross Greene. I'm nowhere done with it, but it does have me seriously reevaluating my practice and looking at how I frame my thinking around behaviors. It's not even remotely about clip charts, but he's got me thinking about mine.
Let me preface what I'm about to write with this: Teaching is challenging, and if a clip chart system works in your room, then keep it. There are things about clip charts that I love, like the brief opportunity for student movement, recognizing kids who are going above and beyond, and the little celebrations at the end of the day when kids clip up all the way to the top. Some teachers can't do without them, and I applaud those who have systems that work and compliment their teaching style.
I think that I need to move away from the clip chart because it simply doesn't fit in with my particular management style. I rarely use it, because when kids are on task, working and exploring, a prompt to "move your clip up" completely distracts from the effort that I'm recognizing. Moving clips up, even at the end of a lesson, moves the reflection from the learning to the clipping, and therefore undermines the type of intrinsic motivation I'm trying to build and instill in my kiddos. For undesired behaviors, I would say that a clip chart only works for a couple of my kiddos, and those kiddos respond equally well to brief side conversations and problem solving. And, kiddos with extreme behaviors usually have some sort of behavior plan and point card instead of the clip chart. So, why keep it?
Here's my idea: Toss the behavior-oriented clip chart, and introduce a goal-setting clip chart. Through goal setting, I can get my kids to focus on their actions, behaviors, attitudes toward learning, and a whole host of other skills. Clipping up or down on a behavior chart is reactive. Daily goal setting that can include appropriate behavior is proactive, which makes me excited for this change.
I made a woodland themed goal-setting clip chart for my classroom, and am so excited to give it a try. If you're interested in trying it too, you can find it in my TPT store. It will take some extra energy, because the chart won't work in isolation. Students need to be taught how to properly set and frame goals, reflect on them, and chunk large goals into smaller steps. It will take time to introduce and get the class moving in the right direction. It may work spectacularly well, if it does, I'll be shouting it from the rooftops. If it flops, I'll reflect and refine until I get it exactly right.
Inservice week! Ah, that beautiful week where teachers get to set up their classrooms, put labels on all their books, painstakingly write student names on a variety of surfaces, and generate creative plans that will keep the students engaged in their learning. It's a time to reconnect with fellow educators, share ideas and make grand plans for field trips and enrichment activities. As the Pinterest-worthy classrooms come together, excitement builds, and finally culminates with that first day of school.
Except, that's not how it is. Not even in the slightest -- at least in my experiences.
I should have realized this back when I was in college, doing my September Experience (a three week program where I helped a teacher set up her classroom and then started the school year with her.)
There were lots of meetings, but I wasn't invited to all of them, so I kept working in her room, not wondering for a moment why every single school supply had been boxed up. I didn't think about the time it took to pack it all, or who did the packing. I was so thrilled to be there, that I just unpacked boxes, arranged books, wrote names on countless supplies, and didn't even wonder how my cooperating teacher felt about the time away from her room.
Now, many years later, my 10th inservice week is rapidly approaching, and like almost every other educator, I am excited to have the time to put my classroom back together and get ready to start the new year strong. But, the part about inservice week that excites me the most, time in my classroom, is just a misconception. It doesn't exist in the quantities that teachers need.
Most schools and districts start inservice week off with meetings, followed up by more meetings, some trainings, another meeting about the trainings and then some additional trainings. The little patchwork of time that is left over after everything is scheduled? Maybe eight hours, in total -- if we're lucky? That's our prep. That's our time in the classroom to prepare for the arrival of about 30 students.
So, teacher friends, I hope inservice week is kind to you this year. I hope you have time in your classrooms. I hope you start the new year feeling fresh and invigorated -- and not exhausted from an additional 20 hours over the weekend getting things set up. Take care of yourself.
I've created this website and blog to chronicle a year (or more) in the life of a teacher. Although school hasn't yet started, August is a surprisingly busy month for teachers, and therefore appropriate for the birth of this new digital adventure.
Where I work and live, school doesn't start until after Labor Day. However, for me, it never fully stopped. Like many teachers, I've punctuated my summer with planning, prepping, learning, decorating, and collaborating. Some of the work is purely my effort to lighten the pressure during inservice week, which by nature, demands work well in excess of 40 hours. The mid-summer meetings and collaborations are not mandatory, but require the luxury of time -- something we don't have during the school year.
So, for the next two days, I'm heading off to a PBIS meeting that will hopefully develop policy and decisions that benefit both the students and protect the learning environments teachers strive to create in their classrooms. I'm looking forward to the meeting of minds, but every-so-slightly sad to give up another two days of much-needed vacation.
One final note to the anonymous internet reader: I am not one of those teachers with a Pinterest-perfect classroom that does everything with a touch of flair. I'm just not. If you join me for this journey, you'll see pictures of a classroom that might have messy desks, pencils on the floor, or even a blank bulletin board. My hat is off to those who have that magic touch, because I am jealous of your superpower.
I'm a teacher who really doesn't care for the spotlight, but striving for a bit of personal growth. This blog is the first step in that journey, where I will step from the shadows, and share my thoughts, ideas, and creations.
I'm Mrs. A, and I've taught in both public and public charter schools. The 2017-18 school year will mark my 10th in the elementary classroom. I hold a master's degree in teaching and learning, and am always striving to provide an equitable education to the families I serve.