I Was Always On Green Because My Mama Didn’t Play That Shit.

I got a Red for the first time ever cause I launched a basketball at this girls face ?? it was an accident tho I swear lmao

This traumatized so many kids. I knew someone who had no memory of this until I said the phrase “go flip your card” and suddenly they remembered everything

I went from green straight to red because I gave my friend a piggyback ride for like five seconds

America are y’all okay..?

We had to move popsicle sticks into a green, yellow or red can.

I had to move mine to yellow once for “talking out of turn”.

Literally never spoke up in class again.

This is seriously some fucked up shit, jfc.

it’s funny, because it works as a very effective means of discipline/reinforcement. the concept is simple: instead of the teacher disrupting the whole class and stopping teaching to deal with one person stepping out of line and being, themselves, disruptive, they tell you to go turn your card. then they carry on with the lesson while you do it. kidspawn’s school calls it a point out system. you get three warnings, then you have to log into a book. it takes attention away from the mistake and discourages acting out for that attention.

done properly, it puts the choice in the student’s hands. you know the consequence for an infraction, and you choose whether or not that consequence is worth your action. in a perfect setting, it would only be for actual rules, you spend less time talking to school authority figures, and parents wouldn’t flip out about it unless there was a string of repeated red cards. you don’t double punish, after all.

the best way not to get a red card is not to get a yellow card. it really does benefit everyone in a classroom setting if implemented and respected by all who use it. i find it strange that people find this ‘fucked up’. it’s not corporal punishment, which IS fucked up, and it keeps infractions from taking away from instruction time, robbing other students of their education. loss of instruction time is in no one’s best interest.

and in every setting i’ve seen it used properly (both as a student and as a parent) it works exactly like it’s intended to.

I am a teacher working toward my Masters in education, and I spent my entire kindergarten education and third grade (the only two years I had to suffer through a classroom with one of these boards) entirely on red. The Flip Your Card classroom discipline system is in fact unimaginably fucked up.

 At first I worked really really hard to try to keep my card on green, or at least on yellow, but no matter how hard I tried, by the end of the day, my mom was getting a phone call all about how I was a problem.  I was regularly stripped of every single privilege my teacher conceivably could strip me of.  My third grade teacher gave up on taking away my recess because she just didn’t want to have to deal with me for that extra time, every single day.  And every single day, there was a bright red card telling everybody, telling all the other kids, telling my parents, and telling me that I was a problem.

Here’s the thing, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t keep my card off red, so it wasn’t this behavior or that behavior that felt like the problem.  It just felt like I was the problem.

I did what many kids in that situation do.  I gave up.  From the outside, it must have looked like I didn’t care that my card was on red, but in reality, I had given up on trying to keep it off red, because nothing worked.  It wasn’t apathy.  It was hopelessness and despair.  In kindergarten, I just checked out and ignored the board.  I flat out told my teacher that she could turn my card from then on, because I wasn’t going to.  But in third grade, I hit on something worse.  Instead of simply pretending the board didn’t exist, I responded to the realization that I couldn’t win by changing the perimeters of what winning was to me.  If I was trouble and a problem, I was going to show everybody just how much of a problem I could be.  Instead of winning because I made my teacher happy, I won by making everything into a power struggle.  Yeah sure, I got sent to the principal’s office and my mom was called, but I didn’t do that thing my teacher wanted me to.  Score one for me.  That year, I went from difficult to hell on wheels.

This is not actually uncommon, and there are some very good sociological and psychological reasons for why I reacted the way I did.  One of the most basic sociological principles is that of labeling theory.  This is the idea that people go through life collecting labels, and that these labels affect how we act and how we function in society.  People by and large live up to or down to the labels we are given.  We can see this in the criminal justice system, where the ways in which we label and treat people, especially juveniles, who commit crimes greatly affects whether or not they will commit a crime in the future, in other words the more someone is treated as a criminal, the more they will act in criminal ways.  In a similar manner, being told that you are a bad kid, a troublemaker, a problem, whether outright or through a card system, is liable to convince you of this fact and reinforce that problem behavior.  This is one reason why Flip Your Card systems often worsen behavior problems in children with existing difficulties with classroom behavior.

Another failure of the Flip Your Card system is that it has no room for incremental improvement and does not promote reteaching of behavior on the part of the teachers who use it.  Most kids with behavior difficulties in the age range where Flip Your Card systems are used are really struggling on learning the rules of behavior and how they should be reacting in a given situation, or learning emotional self regulation.  In my case, I had a siezure disorder that wasn’t diagnosed until I was mid-way through third grade, that aside from being misidentified as behavioral problems also prevented me from learning appropriate behavior by damaging my ability to form memories during the period when they were untreated.  I also have ADHD, which I can’t treat with medication, because all of them cause me to have siezures.  I needed extensive reteaching, and a teacher who was willing to work with me in the moment to help me find better solutions to the situation I was responding to with bad behavior.

Likewise, Flip Your Card systems do not recognize incremental progress.  I have a student who just last week refused to come inside when it started thundering, because he wanted to stay outside and spend time talking to his little brother through the fence between the toddler and preschool playgrounds.  This is normal for him.  Separation from his brother causes him a lot of stress.  But I was able to get him to come inside with a little persuasion and a kiss from his brother, and as soon as we were inside, he washed his hands and went to the cozy corner to calm himself down.  This is progress.  This is in fact the kind of progress that I told his mother about with pride at the end of the day.  Once he was calm, I also talked with him about how he should be proud of himself for using some of the skills he was working on to calm himself, and what we could have done differently together outside.  Under a Flip Your Card system, his behavior was the kind where he would be required to flip his card to yellow, his progress ignored.  What I did instead was to construct a label for him of a student who is working hard on behavior, and affirm for him that I can see the progress and effort he has made.  I also established us as partners in helping him reach behavioral and social emotional goals.

Another problem with things like the Flip Your Card system is that much like zero tolerance systems, or any system that are supposed to make things fairer by taking out teacher judgement is that they do not in fact take out teacher judgement.  One of the big discussions right now in computing is that the way in which algorithms for job searches or hiring software, or worse algorithms for software used in the criminal justice system, are biased on racial and gender lines, both because of the algorithms themselves and because of the biased information fed into them.  This is another example of that.  A supposedly unbiased system that becomes very biased because of its nature and because of incorrect input.  I already talked a little bit about how students with disabilities that affect their behavioral and social and emotional development are penalized by this system, but another factor is that disabled students, students of color, and especially disabled students of color, are much more likely to be asked to flip their card for behavior that would go unremarked upon for a white or non-disabled student.  This is also true of so-called zero tolerance policies.  This means that the toxic effects I outlined previously of labeling children as bad fall especially heavily on childen who are already especially vulnerable to being funneled into the school to prison pipeline.

Flip Your Card systems and other similar systems (and throughout this essay I talk about the Flip Your Card system, but Move Your Clip, Name on the Board, behavior charts, and all such similar systems are analogous) also do not promote student choice and autonomy as ouyangdan asserts. They are a classically behavioralist model of classroom management, one that functions on a system of reward and punishments. Reward and punishment systems increase student feelings of powerlessness and decrease their feelings of control. Giving a child a choice between a punishment and doing what you want them to is not giving them a real choice. It’s the same as a bully saying “give me your lunch money or I’ll beat you up, it’s your choice.” These behavioralist systems of classroom management also decrease students’ intrinsic motivation to behave, and replaces it with an extrinsic modivation. This can be seen in my case when my intrinsic modivation to try to behave for my teacher and my fellow students was overriden with the extrinsic modivation of the Flip Your Card board, which didn’t work because I gave up on avoiding the punishment. With my intrinsic motivation leached away and the extrinsic modivation proving ineffective… But this can also be seen in kids who behave well in class. Instead of learning the whys of good behavior and learning to regulate their emotions and reach consensus, and other skills of living in civil society, they learn that to be good is to be obedient and avoid punishment, to please the person In Charge. This is what happened with @thecityhorse higher up in this thread. They learned that speaking up in class brought pain, so they stopped, at a detriment to their education and their psyche.

So why are behavioralist approaches like the Flip Your Card chart so popular? One reason is that for most students they work in the short term very well. Humans like to avoid humilation and pain. This makes them convenient for teachers to implement, even if they cause other problems. Another reason is that they look fair to most adults even though they are not. Also it’s impossible to discount how thouroghly we as a society believe in certain ideas about a child’s place as obedient and subservient to adults, especially parents and teachers, and view enforcing this idea as a good in and of itself. Most people, even teachers, who absolutely should know better, and have in fact been learning better in teaching programs for decades, don’t step outside this paradigm. Behavioralist systems of reward and punishment reinforce this obedience.

Behavioralist approaches to classroom management are so normative that it can be hard to think about what the alternatives to them are, and when I talk to people about the alternatives to behavioralist methods, they express scepticism about the effectiveness of these methods. The biggest method I use is to get to the root of a behavior. Johnny screems during play, which causes Tommy to hit him. Tommy gets scared when Johnny screams in a way that seems aggressive, so we work on reading body language and what to do when we’re scared. Johnny screams because he gets wound up and overwhelmed playing chase, so we work on stopping and leaving the game before he gets that overwhelmed. I do a lot of teaching my students to recognize and name their own emotions, and recognize and name each other’s emotions, and think about what caused those emotions. I teach them ways to calm down, to get what they want and need in acceptable ways, and I build a relationship of mutual respect in which they want to do things for me and for their classmates because they care about us. This is that intrinsic motivation I talked about. And yes, many of the kids I work with have some pretty severe behavioral challenges. This was also the method that worked with me as a child. My fourth and fifth grade teachers both worked hard to develop relationships of trust and respect with me, and worked with me on processing my emotions and understanding the needs and feelings of others. This method really does work, and it promotes empathy, self-awareness, and moral self-reliance, which are important lifelong skills.

YES, all this.

The year I was in 5th grade, we had “the stick system,” which was a lot like this – you start each week with 5 sticks in a little pocket, and for every infraction you have to take one out and put it in a jar. If you ended the week with 5 sticks, you got a prize (a sticker or a piece of candy). With 4 sticks you didn’t get the prize, but there was this recess period on Friday afternoon that was like 1.5 hours long, and you got to have recess the whole time. For every stick after that, you lost some time in recess and basically you had to be in time out instead; you’d sit in a classroom quietly and do nothing for up to 90 minutes. Because the best thing to do with a kid who can’t behave is make them sit still and do NOTHING for a longer period than they can basically conceive of, instead of making them run in circles on the playground.

I was a very quiet, lonely kid; I have ADHD which was actually pretty debilitating as a kid. Basically I found it impossible to do anything except read novels and fight with my sister. So I would always lose my sticks for forgetting to do my homework, zoning out in class, being quietly and oddly disruptive… I never. EVER. had any sticks left at the end of the week. Actually I think once I ended the week with 1 stick, and I was SO proud of myself…and all the other kids usually ended the week with 4 or 5, so the teachers were like “ok so you failed slightly less than usual. Good job?? Now do your fucking homework.” (I paraphrase but that was basically the sentiment.)

The thing is, I was SO EAGER to be liked – by anyone! Classmates, teachers… my classmates just thought I was weird, but my teachers actually liked me most of the time, they just found me really frustrating. Which, fair: I also found myself really frustrating. One time my science teacher was collecting homework, and I (as usual) did not have it. So she gives me this completely fed-up look, and says, “Okay. Well…(sigh) go take a stick.” Completely done. And I have to tell her “I don’t have any sticks left.” She just stares at me for a few seconds, then literally throws her hands up and walks away. And I wanted to DIE. But I didn’t know how to react to that, so I was just stoic.

Maybe she thought I didn’t care, but it was just the opposite – I was this little 9 year old kid who constantly felt like the world was ending because I could never do anything right. I wanted so badly to be good, and I was incapable of doing what they wanted. But they still used the stick system with me, even when it was very clear that it had no effect on my behavior. To this day, I wonder why, after like a month of this technique completely failing to help me or them, they didn’t just scrap it and figure out something else. Was it too much work to teach me? Was it easier to just keep setting me up for failure?

Here’s the rest of that story: the next year, my 6th grade teacher told my mom I’d never graduate from high school (my mom was like “ok challenge accepted you bitch”. Good mom.) Two years later I was given a period of “resource room” every day (basically special ed) where I learned stuff like organization and study habits and refocusing when you zone out (WHAT?! MAGIC!) And then I graduated from high school, got into and graduated from a very good college, got a master’s degree, and then I decided to go into medicine so I took a bunch of science classes and got myself into medical school. Just started my 2nd year, and I did quite well last year so GO FUCK YOURSELF MS FISHER. I did TOO graduate from high school and guess what the fuck else! (…actually she’s probably dead by now so whatever).

My 5th grade teacher, though, the one who had the stick system? She really liked me and wanted me to succeed. She worked with me a lot, but either she didn’t know how to do it right or I wasn’t ready. But they never thought of stopping that stupid system. I still wonder what that year (and subsequent years) would have been like, if they hadn’t let me turn myself into the bad guy in my own life. You should never make a kid feel that crappy.

I really avoid discipline/punishment in general for these reasons.

Telling kids they are Bad and trying to beat that into them doesn’t do anyone any good. Usually they know when they’ve messed up, and they know it was wrong. That’s not the missing link there. They don’t need to be told it was wrong, and then also punished and made to feel worse than they already do.

What they need is to process. They need to talk about why they did it: if it was a mistake, or if they made a choice. They maybe need help understanding why and how it was a harmful, and then they need to talk about how they feel about that. They need to understand that it doesn’t make them a bad person, it’s just part of learning; and then they need a way forward. What’s a better choice they could have made? What can they do next time? How can they avoid that mistake?

This is true of adults as well; I implement the same things as a supervisor as I do with kids. If my staff make a mistake, I talk to them. Let them explain why and what happened, reassure them that I understand it doesn’t reflect on them as a person, and that I notice how hard they’re trying as well. Then we chat about “next time”. Sometimes it was just a memory thing, and I told them I trusted them to remember better now that they’d made the mistake. Sometimes they just needed advice and better options for next time. Sometimes there were things I could do to help them; like cover them for twenty minutes so they could rest and come back feeling more ready to work.

Punishment doesn’t accomplish anything. It’s important to fail, and make mistakes, and experience natural consequences- but the key thing there is “natural”. If a child is disruptive, you don’t need to put them in time-out, revoke privileges, or embarrass them. You might have to pause class and draw attention to them by asking them to stop. If they keep going, and you genuinely can’t teach with them there, you might reach a point where you need to ask them to step out of the classroom for a little while. That sucks, but they made the choice, and those consequences are a direct result of it. You aren’t doing it to hurt them, you’re doing it for you and the rest of the students.

Then you talk to them, explain that, and come up with a solution for next time. Maybe they need fidget toys. Maybe they need five minutes of your attention after class is over so they can tell you the things they thought of during it. Maybe they need more time during lectures to pause and ask questions.

Punishment is not about correcting behavior. It’s about control and catharsis. There are always better options.

I think this is a relatively modern development in school?  I was out of Public Elementary / Intermediate school in 1975, and I don’t remember anything like this.

I wonder: did it start around 1980 (the Reagan Administration (which was also the era of Busting Unions, a renewed hyper-focus on Anti-Communism, and actually celebrating the death of gay men from AIDS)?

Or did it start with the second Bush administration around 2001, and the “No Child Left Behind” program (which shifted the entire focus of education to the taking and passing of standardized tests)?

This is a long, long post but very much worth reading particularly as many modern workplaces use more complex but ultimately similar systems for adults, with additional malice of intentionally causing hopelessness. Because an employee in despair can become a cheaper employee, less likely to seek another job and not cost the expense of being a lost employee.

I was in primary school in the US in the mid to late 80?s, in a couple of different schools, and have never seen or heard of this until now…so my guess is this is newer than that. (I also tried googling it, but only got disgusted by links to folks praising and pushing this as some fucking miracle discipline tool.)

Late 80s / early 90s here. We definitely had similar systems back in the late 80s in New York City.

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