Saturday, April 14, 2012

What I'm Thinking About

My school district has been using the Make Your Day citizenship model since 1996 (a big step to get 100% buy-in, but The District was committed so… thence it became adopted). I came to The District a year later.  This adopted K-8 plan was not an "if you want to" deal, but rather, "this is what we do… so do it." I was hesitant at first, but quickly began to see the benefits and was full-boar on board! I became a building contact person (MYD review team then articulation representative) and remained such for 11 years. Loved it!
Well… not everyone's a fan. In fact, about 6 years ago (it seems), a small parent group began to get some steam and become openly critical and vocally opposed to MYD. They were articulate and organized and conjured up even more support. An evening meeting was convened to hear parents and teachers (I am the teacher referenced in the article as having spoken in this meeting)-- here's a link to our local paper's write up of that meeting. Since that time, this parent group has sought and received support (see their blog) and pressed our Superintendent to consider other approaches. PBIS has entered the arena. There have been many positives from learning about PBIS in my building. I think using PBIS philosophy as a compliment to MYD has been a good step.
I am hoping to participate in a study group to learn what else we can do in our school to meet kids where they are and help them to best grow. I think that a balance of MYD and PBIS are absolutely in order, but I don't know that I'm in favor of doing just one or the other.
Today in my professional development time, I came upon a blog from an awesome teacher and thinker. Here's a snippit of what she's been reading and what I'm thinking about tonight:

The Conscious Discipline book is broken down into teaching ourselves and children different skills. What I am sharing with you comes from the chapter on Encouragement. There is so much in this chapter that I would love to share but it can be overwhelming and very thought provoking....hence my above headache.

Our praise can be very judgmental
(page 81). Here's how:

Too much, all-encompassing praise can make a child feel pressured to live up to unrealistic expectations. If we are saying something about them always doing something right or well, they might feel pressured to live up to that expectation or they might rebel.

Judgement praise can teach a child to think that "good" equals pleasing others and "bad" equals displeasing others. This can cause anxiety in the child and leave them asking you "Is this good?" "Did I do this right?". This trains children to focus on what others think instead of listening to their own inner speech.

If you use praise that focuses on how you feel about a child's behavior, you are teaching them to seek your approval. If you are using praise to influence the behavior of another child by saying "I like the way _________ is ____________" than you are manipulating a child and sending the message that you are worthy when you are pleasing to others.

*If you praise children for only successful, completed tasks, you teach them effort does not matter-only accomplishments matter. "If you praise only finished jobs that are done well, you teach a child to devalue effort." page 82

Conscious Discipline breaks what we say into 2 actions:

*Praise (judging)
*Noticing (describing)

"When you judge children, you tell them who you think they should be. Judgment shows
conditional love- love that makes demands. Encouragement is about accepting children for who they are. Acceptance notices and describes behavior or actions that exist. Acceptance underlies unconditional love- love which makes no demands." We want to move away from judging to noticing. page 82

Yes, I accept my kiddos for who they are and
because I love them I am going to help them be the best they can be.

What we focus on we get more of. What you focus on will also strengthen that quality in yourself and others. If you notice a child's strength, you teach them about their abilities. If you encourage their contributions, you teach them about sharing their gift with others. "All you really need to do is describe the efforts or accomplishments you see from the child. In effect, you become the child's mirror." 
page 79

Here are some ways to change some judging praises into noticing and describing encouragement:

I like the way I see Carla cleaning up her center.
I noticed Carla cleaning up her center and being helpful by putting everything away so nothing would get lost. noticing

Sarah is doing a nice job in line.
I notice Sarah is standing still in line. That is being helpful by keeping her friends safe. noticing

Good job doing your math paper Jennifer.
You did it! You went over and focused and you got your work completed. noticing

Ways to help build noticing into your vocabulary:

1. Start with the child's name or the pronoun "you".

Stacy, you picked up Suzanne's pencil.

You did it, you tied your shoes!

2. Next describe exactly what you see.

Pretend that you have a camera. Before you speak ask yourself if a camera can record what you are about to say? If you are about to tell Ann thank you for being helpful remember that a camera cannot record that. Instead tell Ann you noticed her give Kellye back her pencil and that was helpful.

3. End your description with a tag. There are 3 types of tags:

*Tags that judge, use sparingly:

~Good job!
~That looks great!
~You always do such a great job!

*Tags that describe attributes-use regularly:

~That took determination.
~You sure are organized!
~That was brave!

*Tags that describe values, use lavishly:

~That was helpful.
~That was thoughtful.
~That was kind, caring, loving.

I don't know what all this means, exactly, but I like the idea of changing phrasing to be specific and positive with my students.  I think there's a better way than what I'm doing, but I want to be careful to be mindful of a) what I know is best for kids, b) addressing the needs of my students and their families, c) advocating for my CHILDREN (also K-12 students) and my students, and d) finding what works for me as a professional… is it possible to address all of those needs in one? ugh! My brain hurts.

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