Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Problem with Telling or Talking

In response to inappropriate behaviors in a school ,a teacher suggested that teacher and school expectations of kids should be voiced more often and with more concern.

Telling a kid that his behavior is unacceptable or inappropriate sounds more like a cliché and pretty vague. We need to be more specific and detailed.

Kids already know that their behaviors are unacceptable but are most likely lacking the skills demanded of them  or  lack commitment to the underlying values.

Instead of telling kids your behavior is unacceptable,  it would be better to get their input at what is getting in their way or at least helping them reflect on how the behavior is impacting on others.

Telling kids or talking to them does not help much. The reason is that we are doing the talking.

The renowned educationalist Deborah Meier said that teaching is essentially listening and learning is essentially talking. The same goes for socio-moral learning.

We need to LISTEN and at most direct the conversation with dialog questions to get input from kids about what is getting their way, help them  articulate their concerns  and reflect on the impact of their behavior on others, the type of person I want to be and come up with a better plan.

The problem with telling or talking is who is doing the telling or talking ! 

Nothing will happen to me if I hit !

One kid said –' If I have a problem with a kid, I will just hit him, because I know the teacher will just talk to me and nothing will happen to me' !

The CPS approach would be to have a conversation to understand why a kid would respond in such a way. Would it not be better to solve problems by talking rather than by hitting!

The bottom line is that a CPS conversation between the teacher and kid will make sure that something does happen to him, it won't be something extrinsic like a punishment or consequence but intrinsic . Something will happen from the inside.

The question we want the kid to ask himself is what type of person do I want to be?.

Does this type of behavior give expression to my values or reflect on the type of person I want to be or the way kids should   interact in our classroom and solve problems. How can I get my needs and concerns met in an appropriate way.?

A kid who says his behavior will be determined by the possible consequences handed out by a teacher is actually giving up' control' of his behavior to the teacher. The locus of control is now outside the kid. His behavior is now dependent on how the teacher reacts and is no longer self determined, autonomous and an expression of his values.

The reason why sometimes kids like punishment is that it is the easy way out. Accountability here is just paying a price and making sure you don't get caught. You don’t have to change from the inside, come up with a better plan and engage in restitution in autonomous way.

What happens to a kid when he receives a consequence?  In my day, the tough kids took the punishment like a man and the others regretted at having being caught. Today, there is more anger and pain. But all  kids who get punished never ask themselves- is this  a reflection of the type of person I want to be ?  They only ask – what will happen to me ? In a sense , nothing has happened to him except his ' what's in it for me ' thinking has been reinforced.

What will happen to a kid with CPS. He will be uplifted,  enhanced self esteem,better relationship with his teachers and peers and more committed to his values. He will have acquired lots of communication and problem solving skills. He will have a new vision of his ' possible self ' and his future.