Monday, September 5, 2016

Do You Have a Minute?

(Image courtesy of ASAN

I've wished, pretty much since I learned about them, that the rest of the world would implement Color Communication Badges, especially for events like conferences where so much emphasis of the benefit is placed on the face-to-face connections: in other words, the socializing - that thing I can't do. My dear friend, Nightengale, made a wonderful argument in her most recent post about why we need to introduce the badges into schools. Because what we expect people to want isn't necessarily the same as what they do want, and the first step in advocacy is ask-vocacy: ask the person.

Then I spotted this on the Internet:

That got me thinking about the benefit of implementing Color Communication Badges in my classroom, not just for my students but for myself as well. There's pretty much nothing a student can do in my classroom that will bother me, or prevent learning from happening, but there are 4 little words that can throw off an entire lesson or even an entire day:

"Do you have a minute?"

The unwritten answer to this question, of course, is "yes." I work very hard to be flexible and accessible for collaboration. It's worked. It's worked a little too well, to the point where people think it's okay to interrupt me in the middle of lessons. But the fact remains that, a lot of the time, I don't have a minute. I'm with a student or group; I'm mentally (sometimes physically) organizing the next lesson; or I'm taking a much needed breather so I can be "on" again in a minute.

The problem is, once I've explained that, no, now is not a good time (because it would be rude to just ignore you) I've already lost that focus so I might as well recoup my losses and go down the rabbit hole on whatever you wanted "a minute" about. Maybe it will be useful. So I have acquired a reputation of being always accessible that is actually counterproductive to the way my brain works.

Therefore, when school starts again tomorrow, I'm going to be rolling out Color Communication Badges for everyone, students and teachers, in my classroom. The original descriptions (edited slightly for brevity) are:

Green: actively seeking communication. May have trouble initiating conversation, but want to be approached by people who are interested in talking

Yellow: only want to talk to people they recognize, not strangers/friends from the Internet.

Red: probably doesn't want to talk to anyone (or only a few people) unless it is an emergency.


I'm going to have to tweak the definitions for the classroom environment a little bit. (They stand fine as they are for leisure time.) My preliminary classroom definitions:

Green: available to talk on a new topic/with a new person. Ready to try something new.

Yellow: can talk, if it's on the topic at hand/current instructional topic, or getting information I'm waiting for. Probably don't want to try something new/work with a new person.

Red: not available, unless it is an emergency. 

I suspect my card will spend a fair amount of time on "yellow" during the school day. I'll check back in after a couple weeks, and let you know how it goes.


  1. Did you neolog "ask-vocacy"? If so, may I borrow it. If not, any idea from whence it came?

    1. Evil laugh as I contemplate the talk on autism and advocacy I am giving at work in November. . .

      (Also someday I will understand why openID allows me to make initial comments under LJ but not subcomments)

  2. We had this system in an office setting where a person with a disability worked. He actually was always very interested in talking so we used it in an opposite way. Green meant you were available for conversation, yellow meant only if it was work related and red meant please do not disturb me, I have important work to do unless it's an emergency. It also worked well for the people with out disability because it cultivated a place where boundaries had to be respected!