Rip those behavior charts off of the wall and burn them

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Behavior Chartsby Travis Tagart
They're not just all over pinterest. They're all over early childhood classrooms, and they are actively damaging children every day that they're in use.

Behavior charts are not a classroom management technique. They are a symptom of a teacher's devastating control issues.  A product of the need for more socio-emotional developmental education on the teacher's part or a teacher's misguided, willful decision to contribute to a system that works to crank out compliant, stifled children rather than confident, free-thinking children.

Check out my article about my journey as a teacher discovering my own control issues, and coming to terms with them.

When I travel to early childhood centers to help remedy their practices, I rip these suckers off of the wall in front of the teacher who probably spent two or three hours of prime "connecting with children" time cutting and laminating them so that they could bang the metaphorical gavel on these kids' heads whenever they "stepped out of line". And I do it with pride in my heart. I don't damage the thing, I don't burn it in front of them, but we take a look at something that has so much power and weight being lifted off of its throne and I say, "this should not be replacing your understanding and connection with these children." I then work with the teacher to address their concerns and needs and I help find a developmentally appropriate way to meet them so they can work in a stress-free environment that works to do best for the children in their care. The goal is to solve problems for the teacher so the teacher can go forth and solve problems rather than reducing them to a rainbow behavior chart on the wall.

If I were to make a job performance chart that rated every teacher's job performance on a scale of green to red and pinned that teacher's name for all of their students, peers, colleagues, administrators, and the students' parents to see--based solely off of my opinion of their job performance--these same teachers would be livid with me, right? Usually at that point, most teachers are on board.

The pushback when I wage war on public shaming--and that's what it is, no matter how "nice" you word the chart--is that there's no other way to manage behavior. But here's my ammo: if a teacher needs this at all, if they have this hanging on their wall, they're not managing behavior, they're threatening it by holding a child's reputation hostage. They're trying to make the negative behaviors go away because they're too routined with this lazy technique and too steadfast in their control to actually deal with them in a developmentally appropriate way. They're telling kids: the most important reason to meet my requirements of you is because you need to care about what the teacher and all of your friends think of you.

Positive peer pressure is still peer pressure, friends. It's still just as damaging and sets just as dangerous a precedent.

These charts effectively teach children that they should be compliant so that they can gain their dear leader's love. These teach children that they should be compliant so that they can be like the other kids who are "good".  These teach children that if they don't behave, it will be posted for everyone to see. These teach children that if they're not compliant at school, they will be ratted out. That is not acceptable. If you're dealing with behavioral problems through the transitive property, nothing is being solved. The child isn't benefiting, you are.

I visited a center a few months ago where a preschool teacher had given behavior charts up because one day, a child who was "on red" was spanked in front of her very eyes by his father because of that. It had visibly shaken her to the point where, even six months after the fact, it reduced her to tears. She, at that moment, realized why that child often acted out about the color chart. She decided that children feeling completely safe, secure, and open with her was more important than having control over them. I had a very similar experience to turn me off of these horrific tools, so this hit home with me as well.

Beyond the strong-willed kids, we have to think about those kids who always stay on the green. Think about how incredibly resented they become because their teacher is constantly looking at them and saying in the nicest, kindest way, "you're doing such a good job staying on green today!" because apparently ostracizing the bad from the good and ostracizing the good with the love of only the teacher is "behavior management". Me? I think it's abuse. Teachers that do this are not just cranking out compliant children. They're cranking out real, human persons with severe social deficits. But, like, in a totally cute, pinterest-worthy way.

Our job, as early childhood educators, is to build children up, regardless of their behavior. To teach children how to resolve conflict with words instead of threats and punishments. To model healthy power by not making them compete for our positive attention and affection. To be present and empathetic of every "behavior problem" rather than passive, disengaging, transitive, and brutal.

Our job, as early childhood educators, is to deal with conflict resolution by teaching the importance of talking it out, rather than making children feel ashamed that they had a conflict to begin with.

Our job, as early childhood educators, is to get over it when kids tell us "no", because we are not always right, and children have all of the same rights as any other human being. If you wouldn't be comfortable saying it or doing it to a stranger on the street, then you definitely shouldn't say it or do it to a child that trusts you.

If I asked for a discount at the store, and the clerk told me "no," I wouldn't tell them to go sit in a corner. If I asked for a raise, and my boss told me "no", I wouldn't tell them "I guess you're on red then today." If the table next to me at a restaurant was talking too loud, I wouldn't turn around and tell them to be silent or say "I shouldn't hear your voices!" You see, all of these things would be called "being a jerk".  So, let's stop being jerks to kids. Let's stop raising kids to be jerks, too, while we're at it.

There's just absolutely no way around it. If you have a behavior chart or any behavior scale located in your classroom, you are failing the children in your care. It's time to let them go.

No child should be having hyperventilations when their parents show up and they're "on red". Isolating children from their peers to reflect how isolated they are from your heart is only going to lead to more isolation. Stop pushing problems under a rug, and get a grip on them.  If you're strong enough to be a teacher and choose this profession, you're strong enough to be an introspective one.

Burn it, and release your control issues with it.

If you find yourself struggling with the information in this article, would like to explore alternatives to the behavior chart, or your counter-argument involves any sort of tone-policing, please refer to this follow-up article.

Also, Check out this article about my experience with control issues of my own.

Travis J. Tagart / Head of School / Vice President 
owner@foundationsnebraska.com / 402 - 853 - 3491
Foundations Progressive Learning Center, Inc. 
Office: 402 - 805 - 4886  N 14th St Suite 101 Lincoln, Nebraska  68521 
www.foundationsnebraska.comFoundations

ADHD Not a Real Disease, Says Leading Neuroscientist Dr. Bruce Perry

Alex Pietrowski, Waking Times | One of the world’s leading pediatric neuroscientists, Dr. Bruce D. Perry, RitalinM.D., Ph.D, recently stated publicly that Attention Deficit/Hyper-Activity Disorder (ADHD) is not ‘a real disease,’ and warned of the dangers of giving psycho-stimulant medications to children.

Speaking to the Observer, Dr. Perry noted that the disorder known as ADHD should be considered a description of a wide range of symptoms that many children and adults exhibit, most of which are factors that everyone of us displays at some point during our lives.

“It is best thought of as a description. If you look at how you end up with that label, it is remarkable because any one of us at any given time would fit at least a couple of those criteria,” he said.

Dr. Perry is a senior fellow of the ChildTrauma Academy in Houston, Texas, a highly respected member of the pediatric community, and author of several books on child psychology including, The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog: And Other Stories from a Child Psychiatrist’s Notebook–What Traumatized Children Can Teach Us About Loss, Love, and Healing, and, Born for Love: Why Empathy Is Essential–and Endangered.

His comments are quite refreshing at a time when diagnoses for ADHD in the UK and the US are sky-rocketing and prescriptions of stimulant medications to children are also rising rapidly, with many parents and concerned activists growing suspicious of the pharmaceutical industry’s motivations in promoting drugs to children. Ritalin, Adderall, Vyvanse and other mind-altering stimulant medications are increasingly prescribed to children between the ages of 4 and 17.

Dr. Perry noted that the use of medications like these may be dangerous to the overall physical and mental development of the child, remarking on studies where these medications were given to animals and were proven detrimental to health.

Pills“If you give psychostimulants to animals when they are young, their rewards systems change. They require much more stimulation to get the same level of pleasure.

“So on a very concrete level they need to eat more food to get the same sensation of satiation. They need to do more high-risk things to get that little buzz from doing something. It is not a benign phenomenon.

“Taking a medication influences systems in ways we don’t always understand. I tend to be pretty cautious about this stuff, particularly when the research shows you that other interventions are equally effective and over time more effective and have none of the adverse effects. For me it’s a no-brainer.”

Given that the problem of ADHD is complex and the term is more of a blanket term used to describe a wide range of behavioral symptoms, it is important to consider what the root causes of many of the symptoms may be before pharmaceutical intervention should be considered. Citing potential remedies, Dr. Perry suggested an approach that focuses attention on the parents and the child’s environment, while also recommending natural remedies like Yoga, and improved diet.

“There are number of non-pharmacological therapies which have been pretty effective. A lot of them involve helping the adults that are around children,” he said.

“Part of what happens is if you have an anxious, overwhelmed parent, that is contagious. When a child is struggling, the adults around them are easily disregulated too. This negative feedback process between the frustrated teacher or parent and dis-regulated child can escalate out of control.

“You can teach the adults how to regulate themselves, how to have realistic expectations of the children, how to give them opportunities that are achievable and have success and coach them through the process of helping children who are struggling.

“There are a lot of therapeutic approaches. Some would use somato-sensory therapies like yoga, some use motor activity like drumming.

“All have some efficacy. If you can put together a package of those things: keep the adults more mannered, give the children achievable goals, give them opportunities to regulate themselves, then you are going to minimise a huge percentage of the problems I have seen with children who have the problem labelled as ADHD.”

Many people may disagree with the assertion that ADD/ADHD should not be considered a disease, however, the fact remains that the myriad symptoms that are associated with these increasingly common ‘disorders’ can often be addressed and relieved without creating an addiction and dependency on pharmaceutical medications, which disrupt the mind and body in ways that are not fully understood or even researched.

About the Author

Alex Pietrowski is an artist and writer concerned with preserving good health and the basic freedom to enjoy a healthy lifestyle. He is a staff writer for WakingTimes.com and an avid student of Yoga and life.

Resources:

http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/mar/30/children-hyperactivity-not-real-disease-neuroscientist-adhd
http://www.wakingtimes.com/2014/03/07/diagnoses-fictitional-illness-add-adhd-jump-dramatically/
http://www.webmd.com/add-adhd/tc/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-adhd-medications

This article is offered under Creative Commons license. It’s okay to republish it anywhere as long as attribution bio is included and all links remain intact.

10 quick tips for Back to School Success – A reprint

This is a reprint from one of the articles I wrote last year but as parents and kids begin to think about going back to school, I thought it would be helpful to post this again. Don't forget to visit the Post Institute at http://www.postinstitute.com and our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/postinstitute

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It’s time for another year of school to begin. No doubt both parents and children are feeling anxious. Parents are anxiously pulling out the last hairs on their heads wishing that bell would have rang last week, and children are anxiously pining away for every last minute of uninterrupted cartoons knowing surely the bell is going to ring soon!

The following are some quick tips comprised for both parents and teachers that will help kick the new school year off on a positive note.

Parents:

  1. Back to Bed. This one tip is probably one of the most important. Due to a summer of little structure most children’s natural sleep rhythms are out of sync. Begin at least a week ahead of time getting your child back into the school week sleep routine. By the time school finally starts they’ll be well rested and slipping back into a natural pattern.
  2. High protein, Low Carbs. Research has finally revealed that a diet high in proteins (meats, eggs, cheese, nuts, etc.) and low in simple carbs (refined sugars, cereals, pop tarts, fruit drinks, etc.) can help improve a child’s ability to focus and learn more effectively. Summer is often a time of free grazing in the kitchen. Quickly start doing away with the summer stand by snacks, and replacing them with energy and power foods.
  3. Decreasing Television. As important as the bedtime routine is the reduction of television. A national study revealed that on average children watch five hours of television a day. Imagine how much that increases during the summer. Television is overwhelming to the brain system of a child, leading to hyperactivity and defiance. Now is a great time to start cutting the television time in half and encouraging your child to pick up a book.
  4. Familiarity with Environment. For some children this will be their first time at school, and for others this will be their first time in a new school. It can be very beneficial to take your child to the school and allow them to see it, walk down the halls, perhaps even meet their new teacher. This will create an opportunity for familiarity that will help your child feel more calm and safe when the first bell finally rings.
  5. Talk to your Child. Take the days leading up to school to sit down and talk to your child about any fears he or she may be feeling with the new school year approaching. Going into a new grade can be quite intimidating. Let your child know that you will support him and love him no matter what, and you are sure that he will do his very best. Most of all, just listen to what his feelings may be as the big day approaches.

    Teachers:

  6. Verbalizing Expectations. A particularly powerful opening exercise with new students is asking them their expectations of you as the teacher. Write these down on the board. Following that inform them of your expectations for them. After discussion and agreement, write them in a place where the children can review them from time to time. When things aren’t going so good refer them back to their expectations of you, and yours of them. This will set a tone of openness and trust early in the formation of your new relationship.
  7. Get a Heads Up on the Child with Special Needs. All teachers want to give each child a clean slate to start with during the new school year, however a slate absent of a child’s needs is not necessarily beneficial. If you have a child in your classroom that had problems last year, converse with the past teacher and ask her or him what worked with the child and what did not. Help this child begin their year on a positive note by sitting them on the front row, making them the new assistant, and being the lunch line leader (which is code for keeping him next to you!). Remember, you are not punishing the child, but rather creating an environment for success!
  8. The Importance of Touch. The simple gesture of a handshake or a pat on the shoulder during a hello is enough to help an anxious child feel safe and secure in a new environment. Unfortunately the use of touch has become a lost ingredient in the relationship between teachers and students, yet we fail to realize for some children the touch they receive from you may be the only positive touch they’ve had all summer. Don’t be afraid to say hello, smile, and touch the child on the shoulder, or hold their hand for a moment longer than normal. This small interaction can go a long way in building trust and security.
  9. Quiet Time. Because of the hectic and unstructured schedules of most children during the summer, when they arrive into your classroom they’ll be wound as tight as grandma’s clock. After each major transition time such as early morning playground time to first class, transition from one class to the next, or following lunch and recess, take three minutes to turn the lights off, play a classical song, and encourage the children to breathe and slowly calm down. Not only are such techniques proven effective for children with ADHD, they are effective for all children following a transition.
  10. Be Patient with You. It is critically important to remember that even though you’ve been doing this for years, or perhaps maybe this is your first year, you too are going to be forming new relationships. This naturally causes some initial anxiety. Take some deep breaths before your students come into the classroom, and remind yourself that you are the best teacher they could possibly have. Be patient with yourself first, and this will allow you to be patient with your students when they need it the most.