Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Power of a Positive Focus

One of the most powerful teaching tools that I have is maintaining a positive focus. I first read about this in one of my favorite books Managing Challenging Children by Gerard Gordon.

The real test of this tool comes on days like today when the classroom does not look anything like what you had planned for. When the 2nd graders came to my room today these are some of the things they were doing during the first five minutes of class: talking over me, shouting instead of speaking our opening chant, laying on the ground and not participating whatsoever, and turning completely around so they were not facing me.

When I first started teaching I did what most people do and talked about what was going wrong that I did not want. However, talking about these behaviors gives attention to the very students who are not doing what you would prefer. And what Gordon points out is what you talk about you get more of.

Today, instead of talking about all the students who were not doing the right thing today, I just started in talking about what they were doing right. Sometimes in those first fifteen minutes there were only five kids doing what I wanted. But I talked about them. I used their names, looked them in the eye, and told them using specific language what they were doing right. Brian is facing me. Sally made the T right after I said, "Time." Nguyen is patting the beat and her hands are moving right when my hands are moving.

It was like a slow magic. The last fifteen minutes of class were productive. Most students were engaged. No one was lying on the floor anymore and no one was talking over me. There is power in maintaining a positive focus. This class showed me that, if I can keep my positive focus even amongst chaos, productive and wonderful learning can take place.

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