Elizabeth Merce on episode 321 of the 10-Minute Teacher Podcast
From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis
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Moving clips in kindergarten can not only embarrass children but can cause privacy concerns. There are alternatives! Kindergarten teacher, Elizabeth Merce, urges teachers to “ditch the clips” and shares what you can do instead.
Elizabeth Merce: Ditch the Clips in Kindergarten (And Here’s What to Do Instead) #ditchtheclips
Link to show: www.coolcatteacher.com/e324
Date: May 25, 2018
Vicki: Today we’re talking with Elizabeth Merce, a kindergarten teacher from Virginia.
Elizabeth, you are passionate about a hashtag called #ditchtheclips. What are you talking about?
Elizabeth: Absolutely. So I am referencing with that hashtag the traditional clips and card system that we so fondly remember from our childhood in kindergarten and first grade. Unfortunately, I have even seen this used with three- and four-year-olds.
They’re just really not developmentally appropriate, and I like to address the why behind it, and provide teachers with better alternatives.
Vicki: Ok, so why do we want to ditch them? Besides the embarrassment of having your clip moved, oh my goodness…
Elizabeth: Absolutely! Can you imagine if your boss did that to you? That just wouldn’t stand.
So, when we think about early childhood education, really any level of education, I like to think about the “why.”
Why are we doing it, and what is it teaching?
Why are we doing it, and what is it teaching? Because I didn’t go to college to be a manager of behavior. I didn’t go to college to humiliate children. I went to college to TEACH children.
When you have them moving their little clip or their little card, they’re not really learning any skills I want them to learn. They’re learning to be sneaky because they don’t want anybody to catch them. They’re learning to point out somebody else’s flaws so they don’t get caught doing their own thing. They’re not really learning how to manage their own stuff.
When we speak to employers about people and their perspective on education, a lot of the skills that children are lacking are the skills that we’re not addressing by using a clip system to manage behavior instead of teaching to manage behavior.
I am a huge proponent and advocate of using positive guidance and positive discipline and those things have really been around for about a hundred years. They’re based off a lot of the work by Adler and Dreikurs. They were social psychologists.
Looking at those and combining that with current brain research, I really like to really look at the whole child. Scaffolding those same skills for social/emotional that we would for reading.
Why don’t we scaffold social/emotional skills like reading skills?
You would never think “This kid didn’t sound out this word correctly or segment this word correctly. Go move your clip.”
Elizabeth: That just would not cross a teacher’s mind.
You would think, “Hey, this kid is struggling with segmenting or syllables. What else can I do to provide resources and practice and reinforcement for those skills?”
But why don’t we think of that for the social-emotional skills? That’s really what I advocate for.
Vicki: One of the things is that I know you work with pre-service teachers too, so this is something you teach and help teachers do a better job of. But one of the things that has always bothered me — I mean, I work with older kids. I am very, very careful when I am dealing with discipline to do it privately.
Vicki: Because when it has an audience, you end up with a mess. Just a big mess, and discipline really needs to be private.
Discipline really needs to be private
Elizabeth: Absolutely, and for so many different reasons.
The older the child, you’re really looking at that social stigma.
When they’re younger, even when the child doesn’t quite get that social stigma yet, with those threes and fours that I’ve said I’ve seen this in their classroom, they don’t necessarily get the social stigma quite yet, for most of them.
But also dealing with the publicity of it for the parents’ side, because if you have parent volunteers, and you’re posting it on social media and that chart is in the background, then that child’s data is out there.
Again, that’s not something you would do at their reading level. You wouldn’t showcase the fact that that child has a deficit. And yet we prominently display these behavior charts in our classroom.
You wouldn’t showcase the fact that any child has a deficit
Vicki: I remember one of my children would always come home and say, “So-and-so got their clip moved again today!”
And I’m sitting there, thinking, “Why do they even know?” It just makes me cringe.
Vicki: We kind of say this is not just something that we like. There are a lot of reasons that it is not good. I know there are reasons teachers have done it for many, many years, but let’s look at other alternatives. What are those alternatives, Elizabeth?
I was just going to break down what’s happening.
Seasoned teachers can really kind of put their finger on what’s happening. You can say that the child has impulse issues. You can say that the child has emotion regulation issues.
If you are a newer teacher, you might want to start documenting, just so that you can see what the problems are. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy like a full-blown ABC behavior chart, but really for the teacher talking about (inaudible) behavior and consequences. It can be as simple as just tally marks.
You can really start to isolate what the problem is, and from there provide instruction. I’ve uses things such as direct instruction with my children, talking about naming emotions, recognizing those emotions, regulating the emotion, how to calm down when you’re upset, how to walk through problems.
I’ve actually started a full YouTube series, a YouTube channel on this topic. It kind of shows and breaks things down and really target the behavior just like you would for a reading intervention or a math intervention.
It’s not necessarily always going to be a whole group thing, but sometimes we do start our lessons that way.
Isolate that behavior, and provide assistance and scaffolding
Then you really isolate that behavior, and you provide assistance and scaffolding as necessary.
Sometimes I’m standing right next to that child, feeding them the words that they need because they don’t know how to apologize.
Or how to tell that child who’s been more aggressive, “I don’t like it when you…” or “That makes me feel…” Instead of using those words, oftentimes, especially with our early learners, they’ll hit or throw things or say mean words.
So they really need to learn how to use their own words and to control their own emotion. That’s really taught through those instructional techniques such as teaching them to take breaths, to recognize their own body space, to take time away, and things like that.
Vicki: You know, and I know that with one of my children, nonverbal learning disabilities can be a real challenge. It’s learning how to read body language. A daily behavior report card did wonders, and the clip did nothing but make it worse.
Just communicating with the parents, a lot of times that behavior happens and parents don’t know, but when we set up that daily behavior report card, and it was just a private, quick little “How many stars for each of the things?” It really helped.
Elizabeth: And with digital communication — I’m a huge advocate for Seesaw — it’s so much easier to drop a quick line, or if that child does do something good, send them a video message to that child to be proud of their own behavior. “Hey, I started to lose control, and I took some breaths, and I regained control. Aren’t you proud of me?”
How much more meaningful is that if your child is on red? It really provides more feedback for the student as well as the parent on what was working and what wasn’t working.
The same terms of if you’re giving back a term paper, and you just put a “C” on there, what does that communicate to the learner? You really want to make sure that feedback as specific as possible, even with social/emotional skills.
Make sure that feedback to parents is as specific as possible
Vicki: So, Elizabeth, what do teachers say that works? When you teach them these different skills and how to ditch the clips, what do they come back to you and say, “Yes, this is what has really helped improve behavior in my classroom.”
Elizabeth: Amazingly, the #1 thing I hear from any seminar or any semester I do, for a course, is always the paradigm shift. It’s not any of the actual techniques. It’s viewing it differently.
The #1 thing I hear feedback about is the whole paradigm shift
I have found that whether it’s by giving students, young learners, their learning targets, or talking to adults about their shifted paradigm, when you look at that “why,” that purpose behind what you are doing, you view it differently. The same holds true with this.
When they work at it, instead of thinking, “I need to train this child how to do it my way,” or “I need to teach them a lesson,” in that negative connotation, and I think we all heard that, “They just need to learn their place.” Or things like that.
When they switch from that perspective to one of “I am here to teach them. This is still part of teaching.” And they really look to teach children skills versus punishing for those, it makes a huge difference on how they connect with those kids.
That sense of connection and belonging — I mean I always say my favorite phrase is, “(inaudible) before balloons” — that sense of belonging just comes so much more naturally. And with that, the children are able to learn those social skills so much better because they have that safe place that they can try those skills out.
Vicki: You have to relate before you educate, and it starts at a very young age, doesn’t it?
Elizabeth: Absolutely, from birth.
And that’s something I think a lot of primary teachers forget.
Early childhood, if you look at the NAEYC, the National Association for the Education of Young Children, they label early childhood from birth to age eight. That definitely covers your kindergarten, first and second grade.
Unfortunately, a lot of our K-5 teachers forget that. If they’ve been teaching for a long time and they just forget that they’re literally in a different developmental zone than maybe your fourth or fifth graders.
So they kind of get into one mindset instead of really viewing the youngest learners, our preschoolers, our kindergarteners, first and second graders as a different animal, just like a teenager is so different than a middle schooler. You have to keep those stages in mind for when we’re educating them for academics as well.
Vicki: So the hashtag is #ditchtheclips, and I know that you have a lot of kindergarten teachers who really like to talk about social-emotional learning and really alternatives to the clip.
Are there any other places that you want to point kindergarten and early childhood educators so that they can learn alternate strategies in a different mindset?
So like I mentioned, I did start a YouTube channel, and I’m continuously adding new content to that as well. More feedback from teachers is great so I know what you like.
NAEYC, the National Association for the Education of Young Children, naeyc.org — they have a wealth of information for teachers in early childhood. And even if you’re a parent, it’s a great place to start. They literally wrote the book on developmental appropriateness. You can look at what’s developmentally appropriate.
Other great resources: Dr. Jane Nelson wrote a series of books on positive guidance, both for teachers and parents, and it spans different age groups.
If you’re more on the developmental side, Janet Lansbury has a lot of responsive type education. Those are just some great places to start with real basic information.
But my favorite — she has my heart — Dr. Katherine Kersey out of Old Dominion University here in Norfolk, Virginia. She came up with the one-on-ones. If you do a Google search for Katherine Kirk(?) and her one on one, she has a hundred and one practical ways to use the theory of positive discipline in your classroom or with other humans.
Because like we both mentioned, it’s more about that relationship and that connection than anything else. So it’s more of a relationship tool. It’s great to have those quick tips that you can use right in your back pocket.
Vicki: Well, remarkable teachers, we have heard a lot of things that can apply to all of us. I think that this is a great challenge to move forward and to improve how we have positive discipline and not just move those clips, which kind of still does make me cringe.
I’m glad there are alternatives out there. Thank you, Elizabeth.
Elizabeth: Thank you so much. I appreciate you taking the time to share my message.
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Transcribed by Kymberli Mulford firstname.lastname@example.org
Bio as submitted
Elizabeth has taught preschool, kindergarten, and other teachers for the last ten years. She is an active member of SECOVA, an affiliate of the National Association for the Education of Young Children. She has a blog and shares information on classroom management on the hashtag #ditchtheclips. When not talking all things education she is spending time with her sassy three year old Abby and husband of 13 years Scott. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.
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