I have tried the famous Red Light Classroom Management plan that is used in classrooms across America. (Every child begins each day on a green light. Certain behaviors and choices will change their light to yellow or red. Usually, yellow and red lights had consequences attached to them like loss of recess and so forth.) As a behavior management tool, it simply did not work in helping children learn to make better choices. It did succeed in providing consequences for misbehaving children – an important fact! But those same children kept “misbehaving.” It was not teaching them new skills.
More over, it seemed to dampen the hearts of those who could not seem to control themselves. For example, once a boy in my class slugged another child right when he got to school and was immediately put on a red light with a note going home. He looked at me and said, “Who cares?! It doesn’t matter how I act now – I am already on red.” How true! He had 6 hours left in school and it really did not matter what he did – he was going home with a red light! It was an aha moment that this little fellow had no chance to save face and make better choices. He had no opportunity to redeem himself!
I took the Red Light system down that day. As I reflected on what was the most important thing I wanted in my classroom I realized it was for the children to be safe physically, emotionally, and mentally. The Red Light system could not address a child’s needs on all these levels. I created what I call the Safe Keeper System with the help of my friend, Mary Myers. It is based on the children learning and practicing five basic life skills:
|The Five Life Skills|
Each day, I looked for the children to demonstrate these five life skills – being helpful, being careful, being respectful, being responsible and being patient. I used my kangaroo puppet (Kinderoo) that had a baby kangaroo in its pouch. We talked about how the job of the mother was to keep her child safe in the “safe pocket.” I told the children that their parents counted on me keeping them safe – that was my number one job! I gave every child a library pocket to decorate as a safe pocket for their own kangaroo on a stick. Then I decorated one as the Teacher’s Safe Pocket.
|Examples of Child made safe pockets.|
|The Teacher Safe Pocket|
How it works:
When a child makes an inappropriate choice – such as running in the classroom – I would say, “Bobby, you are not being careful.” I might discuss safe behavior in the classroom. But I would use the five life skills as the foundation of my conversation. If a child cannot make good choices, then their kangaroo will leave their safe pocket and go into mine. It stays there until I see that child making the right choices. When that happens, I acknowledge the right choice and put the kangaroo back in their pocket. “Bobby! Look at you! I see you walking with such care! I see you being safe. Your kangaroo can go back in your safe pocket.” This gives every child an opportunity to redeem themselves! It really works! If, let’s say, a child’s kangaroo keeps going into my safe pocket (or ends the day in my pocket )- then consequences are given that address the specific behavior.
|Child’s kangaroo in my safe pocket.|
The Red Light method focuses on controlling children by giving punishments and consequences. There is no capacity for a child to correct their behavior and return to a green light until the next day. The Red Light system is based on the idea that children need to be controlled and trained.
The Safe Pocket is based on teaching children new life skills and gives new chances in every moment to self-correct. Young children live in the now. They need a system that lives there with them! The Safe Pocket system is based on the idea that children are learning and want to do the right thing. They just don’t have enough experience or support in making new choices.
Safe Pocket System for Classroom Management: