I’ve got two kids in school right now. A Kindergartener and a First Grader. Their school is teaching them a hard lesson about life. And it’s getting old.
First off, let me just say that behavior charts are a two edged sword. There are pros and cons all over the place. This isn’t so much about the charts themselves, as it is about how teachers’ interpretations of said charts can cause problems at home.
Case in Point:
My oldest is in an all-boys class. His teacher is the same teacher he had in Kindergarten. She is a ‘boy whisperer’. She gets them. She knows how they tick. And she can wrangle an entire class of wiggly giggly little boys into doing their work. Her color chart goes from best to worst like this:
(Who knew ‘orange’ wasn’t a standard color I could select for that button?)
Each boy starts the day on Green and they move up or down according to their behavior.
My oldest lives and dies by this chart. ONE day last year, he got on Orange for about 10 minutes before making wise choices and moving up to Green. He cried most of the way home that day because he was so mad at himself for getting on Orange. Now, for the record, we’re totally fine with Green or above. Sometimes, he ends up on Green and we get a note about a behavioral issue that is causing friction in the classroom. Otherwise, he’s almost always on Yellow.
Last year, he made it to Blue a grand total of 5 times. Not because he’s not that good, but rather, his teacher sees Blue as the pinnacle of good behavior. It’s something to strive for, but will rarely ever get.
The Storm Looming on the Horizon
Having the knowledge that everyone has a behavior chart in their classroom, and how hard it is to get on Blue, we instituted a reward system for every time they ended up on Blue. They could either get a dollar or go to Wawa and get a slushy.
Both boys went to school, and on the first day, my youngest comes home and announced that he made it to Gold…
Yeah, his teacher has a SIX color system that varies from the school-standard five color system. She’s got Purple where Blue was and Gold at the top going on in her chart. We made the necessary adjustments to the reward system and continued on. My youngest got on Gold every single day the first week of school!
This is not because he’s some perfect little angel. Nope, this woman just like handing out Gold, apparently. So, you can see where this is heading, right?
My oldest was on the verge of tears by the fifth day of his little brother raking in the dough, while he languished on Yellow every day. Their school had an open house after the first week. We went in and it was decided that if he was having issues with the fairness of the color charts, then he should bring it up to his teacher. At the end of her presentation, we walked up and had a conversation about it.
He was not happy to find out that his teacher only hands out Blue once in a blue moon. (See what I did there?) When we explained to her why he was so upset, (because he had been very happy with the color chart all through last year) and she gave me a look of incredulity when we told her that our youngest had been on Gold every day that week. She was like, “Yeah, that’s not how that works. No one is THAT GOOD.”
Now, don’t get me wrong, this is a valuable lesson that we all have to learn some day. Life isn’t fair. The world isn’t fair. Nothing is fair. But, it hurts your heart to watch your little guy have to learn it. Also, it didn’t help that my youngest was now taking GREAT delight in announcing that he was on Gold and he was going to get another dollar.
In the interest of not going broke before the semester break, we had to change the reward system. Now, they each get $5 a week, as long as they are in the top two colors in their charts every day…and they have a daily chore list as well. Failure to maintain that level, forfeits their $5 for the week. They both seem pretty happy with the arrangements, so yay!
We were able to work around that inconsistency, when another popped up. Remember when I said my son would occasionally come on on Green and there would be a “Needs Improvement” note about certain classroom behavior?
My youngest got his first one the other day. It said he needed to pay attention in class more. Which is all well and good, but on the day they sent it home…HE GOT ON GOLD! Seriously, how do you get on the top of a behavior chart AND get a note saying that you need to correct a certain behavior?
We’re stymied. I’ll be talking to the principal about it soon enough. For no other reason than, we need some consistency around here.