Kids Really Do Deserve It – Part One
I must say that Todd Nesloney and Adam Welcome really have set the stage for what we should all be making strides to do as educators: to more completely assess, identify and meet the needs of the students that we come in contact with every day. What’s more is that as educators, we may be the highlight of a student’s day, week, or childhood even. So the question is, do kids really deserve it?? If you really believe that they do, how do the principles outlined in the text of ‘Kids Deserve It‘ become a practical approach in the classroom? What do these activities, methods or actions really look like and to what degree can they have a positive impact on students, not just physiologically but mentally and emotionally? We will discuss these ideas here today, because what and how we do what we do will decide to what degree our students are made better, believe in themselves, and encouraged to take on the world, because they really do deserve that opportunity.
One of the amazing ideas captured from the text is the idea of celebration. Who doesn’t like a celebration? More to the point, who doesn’t like to be celebrated? Kids deserved to be recognized for the positive things they do and the strides they make to do the right things. So often we are quick as educators to identify what is wrong in a certain situation, but we are not nearly as quick to accentuate the positive. I have always believed that we should positively reinforce the behaviors, whether academic or regarding conduct, that we want to continue. I considered how I could highlight positive behaviors in the classroom, anything from being kind to others to demonstrating leadership skills and helping other students. I decided to publish the names of the students being celebrated in an area where others would quickly notice. Next to each student’s name, I identified the positive traits, actions or behaviors that I wanted to “celebrate.” I brought in donuts that day (and students were super excited about eating something unexpected and sweet) as well and for the first time ever (that I can remember), the room was completely silent, all were attentive because they were seemingly all eager to hear the positive comments that I had to make about the students identified on the board.
Along with the visual displays of student success and celebration, I wanted to showcase these students in a medium where parents would also know their students were being celebrated and the reason(s) for it. I use an application in my classroom, which is also a web page, called Fresh Grade, which I am now an ambassador for. As an ambassador, I am afforded the opportunity to brag about its e-portfolio features as well as user-friendliness for teachers to be able to communicate with families about progress. One of the features within the application is the ability to share videos and audio messages and forward it out to parents within the three classes that I teach. I recorded an audio message of about three minutes where I greeted all parents and begin to talk positively about their student(s).
Immediately after posting the audio to student accounts, the comments rolled in from parents who were blown away by the idea. In addition, I shared the idea (and student list) on my Twitter and Instagram accounts with other educators. The students were grinning from ear to ear at the thought of knowing that their greatness has been made public. From that point, I paid very close attention to students. This all started on Thursday, September 22, 2016. What a transformation in behaviors for students since it started. Students began holding doors as visual representations of explicit kindness and help to others, helping each other with things in the classroom, and being intentionally respectful of others. When other students see these displays, they are inclined to follow suit (whether for the recognition or not). They are learning a positive behavior, and the more it is reinforced, the more it will become a habit. Even more interesting was the intentionality within it. It wasn’t let me do this so that Mr. Gainey can notice me but let me do this because I realize that it is a positive act, and positive acts are always recognized and rewarded, even if not by me.
From now on, I will be looking for students to celebrate each week on Thursdays. I have challenged students to be on their toes, because I would be watching, and not just while in my class, but all day long. I even threw out an additional challenge: I empowered students to see the positive in each other. I encouraged them to look at their peers and if they see something positive that we should celebrate, we would add their names and the details of their positive performance to the list of celebrations. Now we have “Celebration Thursday’s,” and students are looking forward to this and are motivated to do well.