Thanks to everyone for your encouraging words regarding Kort's delightful day with the substitute teacher this week!
A lot of you had great insights and comments, and it got my brain thinking and I wanted to add some thoughts...
One of my favorite authors on the subject of rewards systems is Alfie Kohn (he has written a TON of books on the subject, "Punished by Rewards" is a GEM I tell ya) I have really enjoyed reading his stuff and would recommend it to all parents, but I ESPECIALLY recommend it if you're going to be (or already are) a teacher. He has written books specifically about eradicating ineffective rewards programs in the educational system (yay).
As a disclaimer, I think he is fairly (okay, extremely) idealistic, and I don't feel like he ever gives a concrete alternative to bribing and/or punishing kids with rewards. He says it's bad, and that we shouldn't do it, but he still doesn't give great alternatives.
I LOVE some of the ideas he presents though - love them.
For example, if your child gave his lunch to a child that didn't have lunch, would you want his driving motivation for doing such a thing to be
A) because he has love and compassion for this friend and wants him to be comfortable and have something in his stomach for the rest of school...
B) because he knew that his teacher was watching and would praise and reward him for his good deeds?
Hmmmm. Let me think for a minute, what kind of person do I want Kortland to be? That's a tough one. Okay, well if I HAVE to choose, I'll go with
B! B! B!
But I don't think we realize that that's the message we send our children when we reward them for doing something they should want to do for the right reasons in the first place. Alfie Kohn also says that teachers shouldn't ask themselves
"What can I do to MAKE them do what I want?"
(who likes being manipulated and controlled? answer: no one!)
they should be asking themselves
"How can I teach this in a way that will make my students EXCITED to learn about it?"
I don't have ANY trouble getting Kort's undivided attention when I make FHE lessons exciting, hands on, and applicable to the life of a 5 year old boy. But, what about when I just throw something together and start a-dronin' along? Yeah, he's bored.
He.is.not.listening.to.me! (the nerve)
But in all fairness, I'm boring him!
My Aunt has a charter school in Draper that is AMAZING. The classroom atmosphere is so dynamic and students are on the edges of their seats because the teaching style is exciting, interactive and hands on.
You don't have to figure out how to MAKE kids listen if you're doing great things that they are going to WANT to be a part of.
Is this an easy thing to accomplish?
That's why teachers should be paid a minimum of $200,000 a year! It's hard, challenging, and often thankless work, but the rewards can be unbelievable. I know that we all have had that special teacher (or teachers) who truly shaped or molded the people we have become today. Mine was Mrs. Briggs. I still remember what she wrote on my "Parent Teacher Conference" Report. She said
"Laura is a social butterfly and is still chatting too much in class, but if she promises to dedicate her first best-selling novel to me, I'll let the talking slide."
And just let me say that since that day,
EVERY TIME I have doubted myself,
and EVERY TIME I have felt like I wasn't equipped to handle the task at hand,
those words of encouragement have seen me through.
Someone believed in me.
Someone (who I greatly respected) thought that I had something special in me.
Sure, I talked too much.
Sure, that was probably disruptive/annoying/not helpful to her.
But, instead of trying to punish me for not doing the things that would make her job easier,
and instead of trying to MANIPULATE me into being someone that I wasn't
(in order to make her job easier.)
She took a step back,
and looked at that
with loving, all-seeing eyes.
and she found the good that was hidden underneath
freckled face that was Laura Blackwell
and found something beautiful.
Something that I didn't even know was there until she pointed it out to me.
We've all had teachers like this. (At least, I sincerely hope we ALL have.)
They've changed our lives for the better.
Our teachers technically spend more time with out children than we do, is it too much to hope that they can love them, at least a tenth as much as we do?
I think it is VERY true that we see ourselves the way that others see us. When people see you as a nuisance, you FEEL like a nuisance. When people see you as bad, you tend to agree with their judgement. I remember working at a pre-school/day care that, okay, I'm just gonna come right out and say it - was UBER GHETTO. 95% of the children in our care came from broken homes, with alcoholic parents, moms with abusive boyfriends, you name it. Some of those kids were at that "school" from 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. For some of them, we were the only family they really knew. One of my favorite little 2 year olds was haulin' around dropping the F-bomb like it was going out of style on a regular basis. It.was.nuts.
Well, there were 2 brothers who gave me an especially hard time. They were disruptive, they hit other kids, they mouthed off, they were completely rude, and for the first couple of weeks I was working there, I totally did the things that I have been claiming are ineffective and damaging. I put them on time out. I lectured them about their appalling behavior in front of their entire class (imagine how that made them feel about themselves..hmm.) I made them stay behind while the rest of the kids went on a movie field trip, because I had told them to shape up several times and my warnings fell on deaf ears.
I truly believed that they were bad kids, and they proved me right every time.
Then my friend got hired on there (I know, what the heck was she thinking?) and after two days with those boys, she said:
"They really need to be loved."
My jaw was on the floor.
That sounded crazy, but the more she talked about it, (being a trouble child herself ) the more her ideas started to make sense.
So, we went to school the next day with a new plan.
I sat those boys down and I told them that I was sorry for how I had treated them in the past, and that I wanted to start clean. I told them that I loved them and KNEW for a fact that they were good boys. I told them that I needed their help and that they would be group leaders for their class. I let them start making decisions about what to do for recess and movement and music time, and every time they acted up or behaved badly, I ignored it completely and focused on the positive, and you would not believe the change that took place in a matter of d.a.y.s. It was nothing short of miraculous. They were the best kids in the class. As leaders, they felt responsible for/protective of the younger children in the class (instead of viewing them as weaklings that were easy to push around). They had great ideas for activities, and because they had part in planning them, they were excited to participate fully and respectfully. It was amazing. I will be forever grateful to that friend for being an intuitive, thoughtful example of kindness.
So, I know that teachers are tired, and dealing with children who have completely varied pasts and sometimes frightening futures, but I hope that our educational system can maybe start to give teachers the support and guidance they need to start seeing these students as individuals with different personalities, talents, interests, and most of all gifts. We each came to this earth to bring something different. Some of us FULLY know and understand what we came here to bring and who we came here to be, and some of us are still searching. Some of us may know some of the gifts, but will also be discovering new gifts and interests and talents as we go on our way.
What I'm saying here doesn't specifically apply only to teachers either. I have had many friends and relatives and neighbors influence what I thought of myself (in ways both good and bad) and when all is said and done, I hope that Kort will be remembered for helping others feels good about who they are, and , as his mother, it is my prayer that I can empower him to look beyond what other people may categorize him to be and that he will remember what and who he truly is.
Anyway, there goes Lola, on another gigantic tangent.
In short, (ha ha ha ha ha)
Get Alfie's books.
or go here to view his site
Take what is useful and disregard the rest.
and please, the next time you want to be mean to someone who is super annoying... be nice instead.
Try to see who they really are,
why they may be the way they are,
and what hidden gifts they have to offer the world at large.
maybe they just need someone to help point out what those gifts are,
or maybe they just need to be reminded of the gifts they forgot.
I'll try to do the same.