Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Be the Example

During my last C.A.R.E. meeting I asked my students to generate a list of problems that they have faced this year. As they are frequently shy about discussing their issues aloud, I gave each of them a notecard and told them that they would remain anonymous as I read each situation aloud and asked students to brainstorm possible solutions. This is part of my goal that I've set up for my class to take the initiative when faced with adversity instead of always telling a teacher right away or choosing a poor action that only makes the situation worse.

One of my students wrote about how other students are loud and running in the lunchroom. To be honest, I'm wasn't sure my students could brainstorm any solution for tackling a third of the school with one blow. As usual, they surprised me. One of my students talked about doing what YOU KNOW IS RIGHT regardless of what everyone else is doing. I told them that this means setting an example for others to follow (especially when they notice the positive reinforcement you will surely receive for your actions).

Now I realize that asking students to be individuals in a crowd is a giant task. Even as adults we seldom find the strength to stand alone, even when we know the majority is wrong (or have a strong inkling about it). So then we talked about surrounding yourselves with other positive examples, so that you could present a united front.

Our theory was tested just a few hours later when we were walking to lunch. The class in front of us was having a terrible time following the rules and being respectful. They kept having to "pull over" in the hallway to receive admonition and redirection. My class was patient, stopping each time and waiting for them to get their acts together. Finally, when they were directed to go around the other class, I (and more importantly THEY) could hear the other teacher explaining to her students that they looked nothing like my class and that my class was the one they should model themselves after. I noticed a few of my students straighten up and stand a little taller so I whispered to them in Spanish, "This is EXACTLY what it looks like to be the example, and you did it together!"

In truth, there is not always going to be someone there to call you out and give you a pat on the back for showing up and being who you need to be, but I can guarantee you that there will always be someone around who is noticing.

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