Wednesday, October 19, 2011

What color are you going to be today?

When I was a kid, parents only got involved with behavior at school if it was really bad. There wasn’t a status chart send home every day saying whether you were good or not. Only if you were really acting up did it ever get on your report card or escalated to the next level.

When my daughter started preschool, there were three color levels available to let the parents know what type of day the child had.

Green = Good
Yellow = Poor
Red = Parent intervention required

At the end of the week, if all greens were received, the child would get to select a small prize from the pirate chest. This seemed to work pretty well and there were very few times that we ever saw a yellow on the behavior chart. Especially as yellow not only meant no prize at the end of the week, it also meant no allowance for the week either. The kids had to be pretty bad to get a yellow so it was considered a serious offense.

Now that my daughter is in Kindergarten, the school has five color levels to indicate behavior.

Green = Good
Yellow = Required multiple requests for compliance
Blue = Loss of privileges
Orange = Call to parents
Red = Sent to Principal’s office

The second week of Kindergarten we got our first yellow. She had to be asked several times to pay attention in class and stop visiting with her neighbor. (Big surprise, I know! I got in trouble for that ALL of the time when I was a kid.) Both her dad and I talked to her about how important it was to pay attention in class and that we didn’t want to see any more yellows. She also lost her allowance for the week. There were some minor tears over the monetary loss, but nothing serious. We didn’t have any issues for another month and then yesterday, another yellow.

We were sitting on the sofa and she suddenly got very quiet. Her eyes began to tear up as she said to me “Mommy, I have to tell you something.” Based on the sudden change in her mood and the seriousness of her tone I prepared myself for something awful. Then I heard, “I got a yellow at school today”. This was immediately followed by some serious sobbing. She was crying so hard she was almost hysterical. It took me at least five minutes to get her calmed down enough so that she could tell me what happened. Evidently the teacher had to ask her more than once to complete an activity as the first time she wasn’t listening.

I held her tightly for a few minutes more just to calm her down and told her that while I don’t want the teacher to have to ask her to do something multiple times, getting a yellow isn’t so bad that she has to cry about it. We finally got the crying to subside, but it really hit me hard.

Have we gone so far with color coding our children’s behavior that a yellow means devastation? How many times did I get in trouble in class for not listening, talking when the teacher was instructing, etc…? A BUNCH! What I didn’t get was a note sent home to my parents every day telling them how my behavior was. The teacher took my overall behavior for the class and listed it on my progress reports that were sent out three times during the year. Overall, I was a good kid. Overall, I did well in class. Overall, I got good grades and was smart. Yes, I am sure I had days that the teacher would have liked to wring my neck, but luckily for all of us there were more good days than bad.

I am trying to decide what to do with this process. Do I call the teacher and explain to him just how upset my daughter gets over the yellow? I don’t want him to overlook her behavior if it is less than stellar. If I change the rules at home and a yellow doesn’t mean loss of allowance would that tell her that yellow is okay and only when she is really bad she gets punished?

I want her to learn to be a good student. Pay attention in class, don’t be disruptive and try her hardest to do her best. Is color coding really the best way to encourage our children to do this?


  1. They didn't do color coding in kindergarted and Peanut's school. But the teacher was really good at emailing me to let me know if she had an unusually bad day...her imagination took over and she was way too social with other shocker for me b/c I was so quiet and shy at that age (as was her dad).
    Is it possible to suggest maybe through the room mother or PTA that the color coding be done once a week? Or that they stop it mid-year?
    The whole thing seems silly to me, and I can only imagine your little one's feelings over getting that second yellow. :(

  2. I would like to be all colors of the rainbow... with a splash of glitter.

    What 'cha gonna do about it?