“In many school’s they are called “Behavior Charts” and consist of a large chart with all the children’s names on it and different levels of good to bad behavior usually indicated by a color.”

 

When my friend Meghan was in third grade growing up in a small town in Illinois, she was assigned a poem to memorize and perform. She was frightened  about getting up in front of the class to perform it so she didn’t do it.  The teacher admonished her, and so instead of having to get up in front of the class to perform her poem, she was made to sit on a stool in the front of the room for the rest of the day wearing a dunce cap.  A dunce cap, as in dunce meaning dummy. A pointed cone shaped hat of shame designed to make the child wearing it look ridiculous and feel foolish. She explains to this day how that memory makes her cheeks burn with shame and anger.

That was in 1980. It’s hard to imagine something so archaic being acceptable in a classroom today and yet we still put up with methodologies that draw attention to, single out and shame our children as punishment. In many school’s they are called “Behavior Charts” and consist of a large chart with all the children’s names on it and different levels of good to bad behavior usually indicated by a color. The use is fairly simple, all children start out on purple in the beginning of the day and are called up to the front of the classroom to move their own pin down a notch if the teacher deems they have done something wrong. They move down the rainbow essentially toward red for bad behavior.

Shame is a manipulative form of socialization. It can be extremely effective in producing the desired result of keeping human beings in line. To be shamed or embarrassed to many people  is far worse than being yelled at or even hurt. So for a teacher who needs to keep a large number of children under control, the deterrent of wanting to avoid being singled out and shamed is a strong one. But the question remains, is there a more effective way to help children behave without the sting of humiliation?

I have found that the teachers who inspired my kids by rewarding them with praise or privileges when they did well, got far better results out of them than the ones who used the behavioral charts. These were the teachers they loved and wanted to shine for. They made them feel that they mattered and did not subject them to a ritual of being compared to others or shaming them.

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