Friday, October 22, 2010

Week 6: Being A Party Of Yes

My friends who are teachers sometimes joke about what it would be like to go back to the days of teaching when corporal punishment reigned supreme as the primary way of disciplining students. It's only a generation ago that this stuff was still going on. My father-in-law who went to a Catholic school recollects being rapped on the knuckles with rulers by the nuns.

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 . . . kind of what I imagine . . .

After Dr. Spock taught a generation how to express love to their children and educational thought progressed to a child-centered approach educators like me are left with . . . um . . . stickers?

Honestly, I could  never strike a child. I can’t even yell at children. Don’t get wrong, I’ve been frustrated at my students, but that’s usually expressed through a low, held-back, almost whisper-like tone. Instead of threatening students with physical pain or yelling at them what we I do is talk.

I tell students who are speaking out without raising their hands that I have who are younger then them have no problem with that concept. I show that I am offended when students are being rude to each other.  And I’ve asked students who are disruptive if their selfish actions are worth wasting the time of 23 other people in the class.

However, everything I say that is negative has the underlining positive belief that they can do better. The reason I point out that younger students can do what they are doing is because I they can. I don’t let students be rude to each other because they know how to be polite and being selfish is not acceptable because I regularly observe my students being selfless.

However if all you do is call people out, things don’t progress.  You’ve got be a “party of yes.” If you are in front of a group of students and you thank one student for being ready for the lesson with his or her book and pencil out, I guarantee almost every other student who is not ready will dive into their desk as fast as they can to get a piece of praise too. This is as true for 1st graders as it is for high school seniors.

Most places in our culture don’t work as hard as schools do to take a positive approach to behavior and motivating people. Many sports coaches yell and use expletives, some people work in fear of losing their jobs because of negative bosses and many parents regularly yell at their children. So why do schools work so hard to be different?  Because our children and in turn our school are an expression of our idealism.

Schools do not reflect who we are but rather who we want to be.  Even though there are things in our society that are not as positive as schools the fact that we believe that schools should be the way they are shows our hope that society should be different.   

Fear, pain, negativity: these are all things that challenge the light in our souls from the outside. And when we are the ones producing these feelings in other people it starts at the center of us and grows like a cancer.

You cannot genuinely teach what you do not practice.  Students can see through lies and phoniness.   While we are educating our students, we are challenging ourselves as people to be better people.  This provides the greatest thing that we can learn in life, how to live life through love, with love and sharing love.

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