Compliment ’til You See It in Their Eyes
The cornerstone of workshop methodology (the one I use in the classroom) is the conference: an intimate meeting of teacher and student in which the teacher researches, praises and then coaches the student’s work.
Christopher Lehman, pedagogical guru, taught me to compliment until I saw acknowledgment in the student’s face. He suggested the phrase, “There’s even a lot of grown ups who can’t do that” (or similar. Sorry, Chris).
It’s easy to throw compliments at our own children, hoping something will stick. Because of the workshop methods, I now try to build language around a compliment until I see that little prideful grin that tells me my son gets it.
Shoot a Hostage
Imagine a bank robbery wherein the robber used empty threats, cajoling, bribes, etc. to maintain quiet and get the loot. No one would take him seriously. Now, imagine another robber who proclaims, “The next person who talks gets it.” If he promptly shot the first speaker, I’m guessing he wouldn’t need to shush anyone else.
I do the same thing in my classroom and at home and I don’t even have to shoot anyone. I try to only make threats I can and will carry out. Also, it doesn’t matter who breaks the rule, the consequence is the same. I think this one is a better fit for down the road with the boys, but I’ll be ready when I need it!
Kids Like Boundaries
When I started teaching, I wasn’t much older than my students. I wanted them to like me. I had rules, but I wasn’t great at enforcing them or at setting boundaries outside those rules. One of my students wrote in my yearbook that first year, “You’re a great teacher, but you let —- get away with too much.” I hadn’t realized that by being “cool,” I was taking away so much from other kids, while also failing to cultivate any respect.
After I realized my classroom management was subpar, I sought help. One of my mentors told me to put on my war paint and get in there every day. Ultimately, I learned the most effective strategy is consistency. Just do what you say you’re going to do over and over again. War paint on.
People are often shocked when I share the discussions, projects, and insights my eighth graders are capable of. I’ve always felt that kids are kind of like goldfish; they’ll grow to the size of their bowl. Rather than cap my students at a stereotype of what people think that age group can do, I like to keep my expectations high and leave the possibilities open. With my boys, it’s easy to get caught up in age appropriate milestones, but it’s fun to introduce them to more and see what they’re capable of.
By middle school, we have largely abandoned elementary organizational tools. It’s usually me shouting, clean up rather than singing it. Still, I find my students really benefit from front loading. I try to give them an overview of the day at the start of class and mini-intros between activities. If we are headed somewhere new, I try to describe what behaviors I hope to see and hear and why they are important.
Now I do the same at home, I try to tell the boys about upcoming visitors and trips as well as the expectations for behavior with those people and at those places.
So, there you have it. A sample collection of some of the transfer I talked about in “Still the Mom.” What on the job skills do you bring home? Have you stolen any ideas from your kids’ teachers. Share! It’s a lonely world here in the blogosphere.