Any professional who works with young people will likely nod their head when asked if they have delved into learning about behaviour management – we still remember the many different sessions that we took part in during our early days of teaching.
But one of the techniques that stood out for both of us during those early days (that everyone seemed to suggest and recommend), was the ‘name on the board’ visual charting.
The purpose of this visual form of behaviour management was to send a signal to the young person – it may have been that their behaviour needed to be kept in check, that perhaps they needed to focus on the task at hand, or perhaps to act as a warning that if they didn’t improve their behaviour that there would be more serious consequences.
These days, it’s more and more common to see many different variations of this visual technique. In classrooms for younger children, bright and colourful charts adorn walls – charts that have a distinct area that recognises when a person is behaving appropriately, and a distinct area that indicates when a person is not behaving appropriately. When you move into the teenage realm, it tends to still simply be a name written on a whiteboard.
But what runs as a constant in this visual technique, is that it displays to every person who can see the visual that the person who has their name or picture on the chart or board can’t behave as is expected.
Effective? This is where we can start to think about it a bit more.
In days gone by, on the occasions where we used this technique, we may have had a couple of students quieten down, or withdraw into themselves (although some behaviour got worse) – we maybe even considered this effective at the time.
But we were inexperienced. And now we know differently. And now we know better.
Because now we see things from a very different perspective to what we did all those years ago. Now we see how this technique can eat away at trust between the young person and adult. How it can eat away at the young person’s self esteem and how this visible technique can cause shame and humiliation in some of the most vulnerable young people in our care.
And the reason for this is because it’s usually the same names or pictures that appear on the boards – the names of those who need the most support in their learning and social development. Those with developmental delays, mental health challenges or learning differences, those who come from difficult home environments or who have suffered trauma in their lives, or those who just simply need someone to acknowledge and value them.
Without many of us even realising it, day after day, hour after hour, these young people are being visibly called out for being not good enough. Whether we phrase it differently to them or not, we have found in our experience that this is ultimately the message that they are taking inwards. And not only are they taking this message on themselves, but other people who see that young person’s name or picture is taking that same message about that young person too.
How do we know this? Because we hear those messages from the young people who feel it. We hear the words of shame, the turmoil, the humiliation. And then sadly, we hear the “I don’t care anymore”. This is the saddest to hear, because then we know that the technique has broken a spirit.
So how can we as adults be more effective in our support? Instead of leaning towards the visual behaviour chart, we can look more towards how our young people learn, how they interact, and what they need to be the best versions of themselves. We can ask ourselves, “how can we create spaces and environments where the visual ‘how am I behaving’ trackers aren’t needed”?
Let’s make sure our visuals offer support in the best way they can!
Written by Elissa Plumridge