Visit any elementary classroom and you will find at least one child (usually more) who spends his or her day with a personal behavior clipboard. The clipboard is sitting atop the child’s desk and at either predictable or random intervals, an adult in the room makes a notation on the attached daily behavior chart.
Sometimes these daily charts are sent home to parents as a system to communicate the child’s behavior that day. Sometimes the charts are used for students to earn treats or treasures at the end of the school day, doled out by a teacher.
While certainly they seem a convenient way to manage individual behavior schedules, they are weighted with problems. The clipboard takes up space on the desk; there’s no place to set it during morning circle time; someone has to keep up with it during outside recess; the pencil gets lost; it’s forgotten in the library, the art room, the cafeteria.
Perhaps more important than the logistical hassles is the stigma created by tagging a particular child as having behavior problems – for their entire world to see. When the rest of the class is walking to music class, hands free, these children are reminded to gather their clipboards and carry them with them down the hall. We might as well put a “Dunce cap” on their heads.
When done correctly, behavior management programs can be amazing. They help students learn to make behavioral changes to improve their success in school and in social interactions. But implementation of these programs needs to be unobtrusive to both student and teacher and as non-stigmatizing as possible. Here are suggestions as to how to do just that.
1. Behavior logs should be out of proximity to the individual child. Mount them on wall hooks, stack them on a corner shelf, file them in a hanging file box – anywhere neutral works. Children should not be asked to carry these around the school building.
2. Use easy-to-transport indicators for teachers in other rooms (art, music, library, etc.) These could be colored index cards (green for “met goal”, yellow for “struggled with goal”) or colored post-it tab notes, or school tokens.
3. Have specific, objective, target goals and set times for behaviors. “Being good” and “paying attention” are vague and subjective. “Not touching another classmate while working” or “not talking during reading time” are much more objective.
4. Call the charts “Self-Improvement plans” and offer them to all children in the room. Give examples of things they may want to work on. This makes them appear optional and a personal choice and helps remove the stigma.
Attempts at improving one’s behavior are a positive thing. Help students see it as such. Make an effort to remove the stigma from traditional behavior charts, be specific and objective in the target behavior, and view them as short-term projects. Then celebrate with them, their success.