Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Teaching Tip #64

Teacherscribe’s Teaching Tip #64

Culture is vital.  Find a way to catch students doing something right.  I love social media for this.  When I catch a student supporting another student or complimenting a teacher, I note it and then take a screen capture and put it into my weekly syllabus.

The key, though, is to catch a student doing something right.  I had a beloved professor, the late Susan Hauser, who turned me into a writer by focusing not on all that I did wrong (run-ons, comma faults, and dreaded verb tense shifts).  Instead, she focused on what I did right (voice, dialogue, great leads).  She said if we focus on what we do right, we will do more of that and less of the stuff we do wrong.

Find a way to capitalize on that in your classes.

Another way I do this is by getting my students’ cell phone numbers and texting them.  Just yesterday Cash and Kenzie’s T-ball coach told me her younger sister (who was a junior of mine in CC last year) was recovering from having her wisdom teeth removed.

So I shot her a quick text.  She thanked me and said it was so nice of me to think of her.

The fact that I care about her is reinforced.

My favorite example of this happened two years ago.  Shelby, one of my all-time stellar students, was a starter on the volleyball team that was about to play a big playoff game that - if they won - they’d go to state for the second year in a row.

We had a big pep fest where they trotted the team out and the coach got to say a few words and the crowd did a few cheers.

After that the players were all fired up and ran out of the gym.

I was standing by the exit and saw them all stream out past me.  All except Shelby.

She stopped and talked for about three minutes with one of our special needs students.

I was amazed by this.  But that’s Shelby, and she is amazing.

I didn’t think much of it.

The team played on Saturday night and lost a tough game.

On Sunday as I watched my beloved Bengals struggle to beat the lousy Browns, I began to get frustrated and down.  Then I thought about the volleyball players and how bummed they must be.

Then I thought of Shelby and what she did for the special needs student.

So I took out my phone and shot her a quick text.  I told her that I knew she was disappointed but if this was the worst she’d face, then her life was going to be quite spectacular.  Then I commented on how I saw her take time to visit with the student and how impressed I was by that and how much that revealed about her character.

Within seconds, she replied thanking me.

A few weeks later I ran into her mother, a fellow teacher, in the grocery store.  She said, “You know, I had a pretty sad little girl for most of the weekend.  Until she got your text.  Then she snapped back to normal.”

That’s the power of catching students doing something right.

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