I first want to thank you so much for your online newsletter. I often quote you among my peers in discussing our goals in educating children. In our school, we follow many of the traits you uphold, and it is wonderful to know that your ideas are widespread.
I read the article in a recent email newsletter about children making excuses rather than owning up to responsibility. I teach in a Montessori school in a multi-aged 6-9 classroom, and this issue comes up occasionally, but not nearly as often as it does in our upper level program (multi-aged 9-12 year olds). In my Montessori teacher training, a psychologist named Beth Grosshans (from New Jersey) explained that it is unfair for adults to hold children responsible for their belongings until they are developmentally ready to take on that responsibility, which she feels may be possible for some children who are 10 years old, but for others not until they are 11 or even 12. From a Montessori perspective, children making excuses for losing their belongings (for example) may be their response to being held responsible for something that they are not able to handle yet. I noticed that your article did not cover this even as a possibility.
This is an interesting thought you ask us to consider. Indeed, what if elementary school children are not developmentally ready to be responsible for their belongings? What if it is not age appropriate? If that is the case, many of us are investing a lot of time trying to help children do behaviors that they are not yet ready to do. Thank you for giving us something to think about.
Chick and Thomas
Hello Chick and Thomas,
I am a 4th grade teacher in Michigan. Your words on homework echoed what I have felt in my heart!!!! Thank you for letting the world know that I am not a horrible teacher for NOT giving a lot of homework. (I do require my students to read a book of their choice for 20 minutes nightly.)
We are going increasingly toward non-authentic assessments of students. I wish more teachers would stand up for their profession. I fear they are beaten down by administrators, politicians, governments and some parents.
Thank you for your words of encouragement.
Not Homework Happy
Hello, Not Homework Happy,
If all the schools who proudly claim to be research based would examine the research on the effectiveness of homework, there would be a lot less homework assigned or less schools claiming to be research based.
Thanks you for your appreciation.
Chick and Thomas
Dear Chick and Thomas,
Thank you for the documentation on the ineffectiveness of homework! I've been teaching for 15 years and rarely give an assignment to do at home. I can't wait to share your research with colleagues tomorrow at school!
Dear Affirmed Teacher,
You are welcome. Do not be surprised, however, if your news is not greeted warmly. Research shows that teachers do not base their homework decisions on the available research They make decisions about homework based on their personal beliefs about the value of homework even when confronted with the current research findings.
Chick and Thomas
Hey Chick and Thomas,
Your newsletter looks updated and easy to get to the links on the side. I like the new format.
I wanted to comment on the article on birthday cupcakes. How about we have more physical activities in school for our kids? If schools choose to opt out of PE classes, why not have a 3-5 minute toe touching/stretching at the beginning of class time? Maybe start the morning that way, continue on with some sort of activity around lunchtime, and then again some kind of movement before a class starts in the afternoon hours.
I believe this could really help the kids' learning abilities. They would be more attentive and able to sit in their seat without having to wiggle because they were allowed to expel that extra energy they may have. I know I see in my own children that cranky, sluggish attitude when the endorphins are not awakened for the day. Even Denise Austin tells us a little movement during the daytime hours is beneficial when we are sitting most of the day. Birthdays come once a year. To a child, it is a great feeling to share that experience with their classmates. I am sure it is not just cupcakes at school that contributes to the obesity in children. Let's get them moving at school and at home!!!
I just recently attended your parent workshop and I was wondering if you knew appropriate "related consequences" (responses) for teachers who have students who are mouthy, refuse to follow directions, etc. It seems as if teachers do not have as much leverage as parents do and I was inquiring about what type of consequences they can use.
I'm not sure what you mean by "mouthy." Do you mean disrespectful communication, verbal violence, or back talk? Disrespectful communication and not following directions are behaviors. If you want a behavior you have to teach a behavior. Begin with the Teaching Voice instead of jumping to the Discipline Voice.
Teach students how to communicate anger, irritation, or annoyance in a way that is acceptable. Teach them about tone, red-flag words, voice level, sarcasm, and making a point in a respectful way. Teach them what that sounds like. Have them practice. Debrief the practice sessions.
There is no shortcut here. Teach the behaviors you want, give compelling whys (the reasons for the behavior), help them see that this is how they have a chance to get what they want, and regularly debrief their efforts. Hold them accountable when they choose not to act in respectful ways.
Hopefully, you have a place in your school where students can go to make plans for improvement, set goals, and try out new behaviors. When they do these things, they can earn the right to return to the classroom and prove once again they want to stay there. Opportunity equals responsibility. And they are in control of how much of each they get.
When I think of consequences, I do not think of gaining leverage over the student. Consequences are not used to manipulate or control. They are not designed so the adult can exert more power over the student. They are used to allow students to experience the related outcomes of their choices. They put the students at choice and leave them in control of the outcome of their actions.
I recommend using the Dynamic Discipline Equation "opportunity equals responsibility" for helping children see the connection between their behavioral choices and the outcomes that follow. What is the opportunity they lose if they do not choose the responsibility of following directions or talking respectfully? Do they lose the opportunity to get a high grade? Do they lose the opportunity to stay in the classroom, which means they make a trip to the Responsibility Room or to the counselor's office?
The Responsibility Room or counselor's office is a good place for children to think about the choices they made that placed them there and to create a plan to behave differently in the future. The focus is on teaching with an emphasis on learning responsibility. Once the plan is in place and approved, the student earns another opportunity to demonstrate responsibility.
Also, you might want to consider bringing one of us to your school to do our practical, skill-oriented seminar, Achievement Motivation and Behavior Management. When an entire school gets on the same page with discipline issues, exciting things happen with the students.
Chick and Thomas
As always, I enjoy your newsletters. They're full of insights and indicate thoughtful consideration.
I do disagree with one aspect of this newsletter. There is a distinction to be made between rewards and measurements. Rewards as you described them have a very limited life and need to be replaced by natural consequences when age-appropriate. Sometimes, a pizza party will help a reluctant reader become an avid one. Sometimes, a sticker is the extra incentive needed to encourage a young child to behave. They also are a form of acknowledgment from elders of effort made. This does have value for the child whose internal motivator is still developing.
In the case of the pizza party, it's a group accomplishment. Ultimately, though, these motivators must shift to originating from within the child.
Burning the report card is different. I don't view grades as rewards. They are measurements. They are an indication of knowledge gained and understood. They should indeed accompany a conference with the child's teachers because not everything can be expressed in grades. And, certainly, rewarding good grades and punishing bad ones should be avoided.
Since measurements will accompany every child through life, as parents we need to teach them how to react to the grades/performance evaluations. Burning the report card instead sends a message that an objective evaluation of one's performance is irrelevant. And that is not the case. Throughout life, our performance will be judged and evaluated. We would be crippling them in terms of how to receive feedback from those around them (teachers, employers, etc.) if we teach them that such objective measures can be ignored.
As parents, we must teach our kids how to use the external evaluation and see it as a tool to assist in improving performance. Just as important, we must also teach them to distinguish between a performance evaluation and a sense of their personal value. Good grades don?t make a good person.
What I find interesting as I've discussed this with my husband is the notion that when a person feels good about their self AND they receive positive external rewards, then they must be "in the groove." My husband and I tell our kids that they need to figure out what they enjoy doing and are good at, then figure out how to make a living doing it. That is the challenge in life. So, when they have that deep sense of doing something well, and they're self-reliant, then life will be pretty good.
I am very thankful for all your wisdom and your willingness to share it.
We can only hope that all our readers take the time and effort to read and consider our thoughts as you did. We particularly enjoyed your reaction to the external evaluation issue and suggestion that we teach children how to deal with those evaluations they will receive throughout life. We are not sure that all these evaluations are objective as you refer to them. In our minds many are subjective. Yet, we absolutely agree that children have to be taught how to handle them.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
Thomas and Chick