Saturday, June 27, 2015

Preaching What You Practice

Since 2010, I functioned in the role of math coach until the beginning of last school year. Feeling a bit burnt out and moving to a new school district created a perfect opportunity to go back into the classroom. With an amazing group of 7th graders, I was able to practice a lot of things I had preached for the past 4 1/2 years. 

As in just about every class, I faced difficult situations relating to academics and behaviors. With each situation, I had two choices, model dysfunction with my response or model a functional response.  More times than not, I chose a functional response. For me, I thought about how I would want a teacher responding to my child in a situation such as the one I was facing. More importantly, I thought of those students as human beings who may not have had an example of respect for other human beings. 

Sidebar #1: if you can't see pass the behaviors of your students and see them as human beings, you have a humanities issue. 

The more I chose to model respect and proper responses, the more my students began to model it to one another. At the end of the day, we weren't all singing "Kumbaya" but it looked much less like a reality tv show and more like a loving family. 

Sidebar #2 This video is a perfect visual of how our behaviors are mirrored by those watching us, children and adults alike. 

Fast forward to June 23rd-June 25th. I was conducting a workshop for a new course. The materials presented within the workshop had the potential to make some teachers feel uncomfortable. Just as I did within my classroom, I began establishing a safe, risk free environment within the session by honoring all responses, providing feedback and asking clarifying questions. Even still, there were participates who made an effort and choice to spout negative comments directed at me, challenging the very environment I was working to maintain. A district leader talked throughout the sessions, even as others shared their thinking with the entire group. One teacher went as far as to flick her hand at me as if I was an annoying gnat buzzing in her ear. 

Because I had been practicing the modeling of functional behavior for a while, I could preach it in a setting such as the one this week. The negativity wore me down to the point of frustration, yet the participates were none the wiser.   Although inside I was fuming, I intentionally responded with respect to the unwarranted responses. I was able to trust the process because I had seen the process through in other forums. 

Sidebar #3 I knew if I had "went off" on those teachers as I wanted to, they would have shut down and not wanted to hear what I needed to share with them. Here's a great article about this affect

Sidebar #4: you need a safe place to vent your true feelings. We are all human and have our limits. However, this doesn't mean we must go around waving our fingers in people's faces putting them in their place.  So you go to trusted friends and colleagues, express how you're feeling and allow them to give you rational ideas for the next encounter. 

The old saying is "practice what you preach". But after this week I believe we've had it backwards all this time. We must preach what has been practiced. It's the experience that helps us cope with the moments that arise. It's experience that helps us develop strategies for how to deal with the new experiences. I can say what I would do in various situations, but it isn't until I go through it when I get to see how I would really respond. Practice making a positive impact so you can preach it. 

1 comment:

  1. As always, I'm awed and humbled by your firm commitment to your beliefs. You set a courageous example for students, parents, and colleagues. Thanks for being authentic and empowering. Hugs to you, lovey.