Sometimes the clip just isn’t enough

What is the first question you ask your child when you see them after school?  Perhaps your tradition is a hug or a general how was your day?  Maybe it is something more specific regarding an assignment or presentation.  If it is a day with a test or quiz that you helped them prepare for, you may even ask how it went.  Quick Quiz: how many parents ask their student what color were you on?  Where was your clip today?  Did you get any marks on your chart?

As teachers and parents we send a message with the questions we ask; if our questions are consistently, or primarily, about student behavior then we are indicating to our students that this is what we value most.  I’m not here to tell you that student conduct isn’t important, it is a critical part of the our social learning process, but I will tell you that it isn’t the only thing.

A recent conversation with a teacher had me thinking about how we build morale, specifically what is the connection between the morale of the students in the class and the ways in which we use classroom management strategies.  Conduct charts, clips, agendas, and other tools can be used in one of two ways – reactively or proactively.  Covey’s first habit be proactive is not limited to our students; parents and teachers can take a page out of that book.  Have you ever seen the face of a student when the teacher pays them a compliment within the first 20 minutes of class and moves their clip up the chart?  It’s a magic elixir.  A clip moved up can set a new path for a student with new possibilities for the day.  Will it always work?  No, but by being proactive we have dictated the path, we have exercised control over the situation and caused something to happen.  By getting out in front of behaviors we can sometimes avoid them ever happening.

What happens when we wait to react?  We run a risk.  We cede our potential control over a situation and stand by to respond.  We hope for the best instead of manipulating the conditions for potential success.

I’ve made it a habit to ask my kids about something they learned that day, or what was the best question they asked in class.  I absolutely care about how they conduct themselves, but I care more about the ways in which they engaged in their learning.  As a parent I will always address both aspects of the school day, but I choose to dictate the path.  I encourage you to do the same.

We only see what we want to see

Stephen Covey’s fifth habit, in his highly acclaimed 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, is seek first to understand, then be understood. Because of our focus on building student leaders here at Condit it is likely that your student would be able to explain to you what this means. In short, we need to listen with an open mind and strive to understand other perspectives before speaking the truth, as we know it. It is an important skill to learn when building community and seeking to build a shared understanding. I came across an article (http://goo.gl/AD1o5x) earlier this week; it gives a brief visual history of the way we consume content. This article has me worried that Covey’s fifth habit may be in jeopardy! With the help of several very clever tech innovations, we have created a hyper-customized world for ourselves; a world where we see, read, and hear only what we want, whenever we want. Gone are the days where we would listen to a radio station, possibly for hours, waiting for our favorite song to play. With an iTunes account you are two clicks away from hearing it whenever you choose. I no longer need to wait until 8pm on Thursday to watch my favorite show, I just need to have a DVR and/or a Netflix account and my show is ready to watch when I am. Newspapers have been replaced by Twitter feeds. Amazon instant recommendations have replaced browsing the bookstore. What can we do to ensure that our students continue to seek to understand the world around them, as opposed to limiting themselves to only what they prefer?

Encourage a break from the norm. If you are normally into fictional stories about feline warriors, check out a science fiction novel or a biography. Our teachers regularly incorporate different types of literature in our classrooms from non-fiction to poetry and dramatic readings with stage directions. All sorts of interesting experiences can result from reading a different section of the newspaper or exploring a different section of the library.

Seek out unique experiences. Houston is chock full of interesting fairs and festivals, perhaps exposure to something new might broaden the horizon. Our PTO has been a strong partner to bring in different types of performances that allow our students to experience the arts in a way that they ordinarily might not.

Intentionally try new things. Never had kabobs? Give them a shot! Break away from the preset stations on your car radio. Are you a kickball kid? Give the monkey bars a try. Modeling these behaviors for our students is the best way to show them there is value in novelty.

It is important that our students understand that there is a world out there, beyond what their personalized friend feeds tell them they would usually prefer. Let’s help them seek to understand the world beyond their preference, instead of simply sticking what is already understood.