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Educator Articles


ICM Buttons

By Chick Moorman

I have antennae that notice things like this, so it came as no surprise when I spotted the ICM button on a middle school student in a crowded hallway in western Nebraska.

The button was 4 inches in diameter and contained only three letters, all capitals: ICM. I had no idea what the button was intended to communicate. For all I knew, the letters were really Roman numerals; or maybe the button was related to an upcoming school election. Curious about its significance, I decided to ask.

"What do you have there?" I asked the adolescent who was wearing the button.

"It's an ICM button," he informed me in a tone putting me on notice that the answer to my question was obvious.

"What do the letters stand for?" I continued. "What does 'ICM' mean?"

"ICM stands for 'I Can Manage.' Did you know I managed to bring my materials to class three days in a row? I can manage my materials."

"Congratulations," I offered.


"Where did you get that button?" I continued.

"My teacher, Mrs. Chen, gave it to me."

"How do I find this teacher?" I asked, hoping to get pointed in the right direction.

"Follow me. I'm on my way to class now."

As I entered the classroom of the teacher who gives students ICM buttons, I realized she was a special education teacher. She and an aide worked with 15 students in this special needs classroom.

After introducing myself as the afternoon staff development speaker, I got right to my agenda.

"I met one of your students in the hall," I explained. "He was wearing an ICM button. Can you tell me about those?"

"Oh, that was Luis," she said. "I gave him one for managing his materials. He's been working really hard on that, and I thought he deserved some positive recognition. ICM stands for 'I Can Manage.' One of the things we're working on in here is managing ourselves. Sometimes I give the buttons to students for managing their time, their mouths, or even for managing to be where they're supposed to be at any given moment. Managing tempers, words, supplies, or the cleanup effort have also resulted in receiving an ICM button from time to time. I gave one out last week when one of my students walked across the room to the pencil sharpener and back without hitting, kicking, or poking. I gave it to her for managing her hands and feet."

As I explored the ICM button phenomenon with Mrs. Chen, I found she distributed them indiscriminately. There was no set schedule. There was no number of points to be earned in order to get one. Some weeks none were awarded, other weeks several were distributed. When Mrs. Chen felt one was deserved, she gave it. Students kept the buttons for three days and wore them proudly.

I also learned that Mrs. Chen had enlisted the aid of all the other adults in the building. Anyone who taught, served lunch, helped out in the library, worked in the office, or handled discipline in the school was honor bound to go up to any students they saw wearing ICM buttons and ask them where they got the buttons and what the buttons stood for. Failure to do so would land them in trouble with Mrs. Chen.

Thus, any student wearing an ICM button could expect to be asked several times a day, "Where did you get that? What does it stand for?" The student was then able to say frequently, "I can manage. I can manage my materials."

I wonder if Judy Chen ever rewards herself with an ICM button. I hope so. I hope she wears it proudly in the halls of her school. And if someone comes up and asks her what it stands for, I hope she tells them, "That's my ICM button. It means I can manage. I can manage my classroom by encouraging positive behaviors in my students."