The End of Molasses Classes Linky Party
When I finally got "The End of Molasses Classes", it was mostly just to see what all the fuss was about. I bought it while out on an afternoon date with my husband and after picking up the book we headed to Atlanta Bread Company for lunch. I read the first 11 pages while we were driving and could barely stand to put it down to get out of the car. I spent most of lunch talking about the first 2 points with my husband. When we got back in the car I started reading aloud to him, stopping to discuss each point. He really is an awesome sounding board! I ended up finishing the book that night, and then started back at it the next day, this time marking favorite passages and writing notes in the margins! I've read numerous parts of it aloud by now - the story about the White House secret service agents (Principle 27) gave everyone in my family chills.
I am so thankful for this linky party - now I have even more people to discuss this book with! I have to admit, there were times when reading this book was not comfortable, and it really makes you think, and rethink, every moment with your students. I've had to admit to some painful failings within myself, but I've also been uplifted and reaffirmed in a lot of what I'm doing every day.
Part 1 resonated with me on so many levels that it's going to be hard to pick just 1 or 2 principles. I'll try to be concise, but I really am so excited by this book that it's hard to reign in my enthusiasm!
I think my favorite principles of Part I were Principle 1: "Teach children to believe in themselves and don't destroy the dream.” Principle 2: "Not every child deserves a cookie." and Principle 13: "Treat every child as if he or she were your own." Let me take them in order:
Principle 1: The part that most resonated with me was the line "If you walk into your classroom and "see" a class of children with discipline problems and learning disabilities, you are sure going to have your hands full." I absolutely hate preconceived notions of a student. In fact, I usually don't look at a new student's file until I've already known them for a few weeks. I don't want to be influenced by what another teacher wrote. The best example of this was during my first year teaching. About 1/2 way through the first quarter I received a little girl who had been expelled from our local private school's kindergarten program. I didn't ask too many questions about this child, even though she had Child Find following her case (basically trying to identify a disability). I took that child in and treated her as I would any other. I challenged her academically and required her to interact with her peers appropriately. She had a few meltdowns, but after the 1st semester her behavior was much improved and she was academically head and shoulders above her peers. Child Find eventually closed the case! I finally talked to mom and asked exactly what had been going on, at this point I felt like I could satisfy my curiosity. Turns out her previous teacher had been insisting that this child was highly autistic and did not belong in a regular classroom setting! Oh my! Imagine if I had taken that teacher's opinion into account! I probably would have changed the way I interacted with the child and the results would have been much different! I truly believe that children become what we think of them. If a child comes into our class and we think that they are trouble makers, then they are going to be trouble makers. If we assume a child isn't going to be able to achieve, then they will not. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy and we really need to make sure that our prophecies are positive rather than negative! This is harder than it sounds, but so important to try to live.
Principle 2 is a tough one as well. No one wants to be mean or to be thought of as unfair. When I first read the story of how Mr. Clark only gave certain students cookies, both my husband and I had a first reaction of "That's not right!" but then we realized that it isn't right to reward students who aren't working hard and it isn't fair to those doing the right thing to give all students the same attention/praise/prizes. I absolutely hate mass punishment, so how on earth can I justify mass rewards if some students aren't pulling their weight? I read this at precisely the right time because I was questioning whether it was fair for me to reward students for getting 100% on their spelling tests and whether I should make allowances for students who received a yellow or orange on our behavior clip chart. My present policy is that if a child ends the day on orange or yellow, even one day in a week, then they cannot get in the treasure box on Friday. I was feeling that maybe I was being too harsh to expect them to be perfect. Then I realized that I had a majority of children never even clipping down to yellow at all! I had children who could turn their behavior around and clip back up after an initial mistake. Honestly, it's HARD to end the day on orange or yellow in my class with all of the opportunities they have to clip up! I also have to keep in mind that in the real world, it isn’t ok to be late to work or get into arguments etc 1 day out of 5. As adults we have to behave every day, no days off! If I’m truly preparing my students for life then I need to teach them that their behavior matters every day. If that means that some children don't get their "cookie" at the end of the week, then that's ok!
Wow this is getting long isn't it?! Don't worry; this is my last principle for today! Principle 13 is hard for me, because on the whole, I follow it. There have been students that I have adopted in my heart that I truly love. I still tear up when I think about one darling who moved away. I miss former students and say a prayer for their safety and happiness every once in a while. In fact, I treat 99% of my students like I would want my own kids to be treated. I listen as one of my boys talks to me about Plants vs. Zombies at lunch time, his eyes just shine as he shares the latest picture he has drawn of the game (I have absolutely no interest in the game, but I listen because it is his passion and he loves sharing it with me). I hug my kids, and tell them I love them, compliment them, encourage them, and listen to them even when what they're saying might be silly and inconsequential.
That is, I do that with 99% of my students. This year however, there is one who has gotten under my skin. I have to be honest and say that I don't love her the way I do the others. It's hard to treat this child the way I would want my own child to be treated by a teacher, because my own children would never behave the way she has! Of course I would never be purposefully mean or say or do anything out of line, but it is hard to deny that I do not treat this child like I do the others. Our personalities just do not mesh well. I could tell you that this child tattles, never does homework, lies, steals, bullies and whines (seriously, she claimed she had a headache for an hour one morning because an ambulance passed with its siren on). But, does any of that really excuse me? Even if she is the hardest child in the world to deal with it, I should still try to treat her as I would want my child to be treated. This doesn't mean I have to love her, but it does mean that I have to take the time to listen to her stories just like I do the other students; I have to make a conscious effort to be the bigger person, because she is still just a child. I have been trying to be better about this, and I am happy to report that she actually got to Outstanding one day last week! It's not a miraculous turn around, and I'm sure that there will be many more difficult moments, but I have to remember that we both have it in us to be better. She may be just what I needed to become a better, more sensitive teacher this year. I may be just the teacher to show her the proper way to behave and treat others. I'm hoping for both, but realistically, she might just teach me more patience this year and I'm fine with that!
Alright, I could write about these principles all day, but I'll wrap it up because I want to go and read what everyone else is writing about! Be sure to head over to the linky party to join up!
Don't forget to enter my giveaway here as well!
Posted by Jennifer Knopf at Sunday, October 09, 2011