responding to stoplights

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I guess no writer ever knows when something they create will “go viral.”  While I had hoped to spark a conversation about the use of stoplights in the classroom, I had not anticipated that it would be read by such a large (and mostly unknown) audience.  It’s been wonderful, if not a bit overwhelming.


With back to school photos flooding Facebook, I want to follow up and offer some practical alternatives to using the stoplight.  To be clear: the discussion was about behavior modification systems that hold uniform, rigid expectations for all children in a classroom, with prescribed consequences and a public display of student standings.


In thinking of how best to move the discussion forward, I have one caveat.  None of the alternative approaches are as tangible and simple to implement as the stoplight, but in the long run, they are far more effective in supporting children and creating the kind of communities they deserve.


The alternatives are less of a ‘one size fits all’ because one size never fits all. They take more time, more negotiation skills, more listening, and more empathy on the part of all classroom members.  They are not quick fixes, but they are compassionate strategies for setting, supporting, and maintaining classroom expectations.


Reading through the comments, several themes emerged.  I expected many, but two I found surprising.


I expected a defense of the stoplight and other behaviorist approaches to classroom “management.”


I expected people to argue that practices like the stoplight prepare children for “the real world.”


I expected educators to lament that they are required to use such systems as part of a school-wide policy.
What I found surprising was that some people were defending shame.  More than a tiny minority argued that shaming is a useful and necessary tool in teaching young children.  I disagree.


I was also surprised at the number of people who believed that questioning the stoplight meant ignoring undesired behaviors.  Quite the opposite, but more on that later.


So, to find an appropriate hub, I’ve launched a new website called Beyond the Stoplight.  I hope you’ll join in the conversation over there!

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