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.