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Ever wish your students were more motivated? If you’re like most of us, you have tried an array of rewards and punishments to motivate kids. There’s only one problem: it doesn’t work. At least it doesn't work well enough. People (yes, even students) aren’t motivated from the outside so rewards and punishments only work to a point. We are internally motivated. That’s why it's essential to engage and inspire students to be motivated to succeed in school (and life.)

If you’re ready to move beyond the reward/punishment model and embrace a whole new way to understand motivation, I encourage you to come back regularly. It’s time to challenge the status quo and create schools and classrooms based on what really motivates behavior.


Monday, September 30, 2013

Effective Parenting: The Importance of Setting Limits


I recently was asked the following question by a parent:

I don’t mind my 12-year old daughter using her iPad for recreational purposes. But lately, it’s been distracting her sleep pattern. She’s sleeping later and later because she’s glued to it. I’ve tried to take it away but this results in her yelling and resisting even more to go to sleep. I even tried to go on a light jog after dinner to get her a bit tired and ready for bed. Any suggestions?

Being an effective parent includes establishing limits and sometimes saying “no.” The typical 12-year old will yell and resist when they don’t get their way. When you say “no” – also known as “doing your job as a parent” - they’ll sulk and pout and yell and try to guilt you into capitulating. Trying to get what they want – even if it’s not in their best interest - is their choice. There’s nothing wrong or unusual about that.

As a parent, you also have a choice. You can allow your child to have their way, experience some short-term relief, possibly hear “you’re the best Mom (Dad) ever!” and contribute to their poor sleeping habits…..or….you can do what you think is in your child’s best interest even though it means some momentary unpleasantness. 

When kids stay up too late, their sleep pattern is disturbed. Adults understand this, but adolescents often fail to appreciate the consequences of their actions. Consequences happen in the future. Adolescents live in the present. 

All jobs involve some difficult moments. The most important job – parenting – is no different. The best parents say “yes” as often as possible while setting limits that are appropriate. A parent’s job description includes if and when an iPad can be used. Despite her protests, your daughter will be better off when you demonstrate that you are a parent who sets reasonable limits.

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As always, if you enjoyed this and found it useful, please send the link to your friends. Thanks.

Bob Sullo

For information about books by Bob Sullo and to schedule a keynote, workshop, or series for your school, agency, or parent group visit www.internalmotivation.net



Sunday, September 8, 2013

Improving Education: Sometimes It's What You Don't Do



Education increasingly emphasizes what is easily quantifiable - like test scores - even if what’s being measured and analyzed might not represent what’s most important for kids to learn. With teachers focusing on ensuring that kids do well on high-stakes tests, I worry about those spontaneous productive tangents that never occur, the discussions that never take place, and the less measurable competencies that are pushed aside. 
Like it or not, I accept that we live in a test-driven educational universe. An article in The New York Times recently identified students in Massachusetts as highly successful in both math and science: “If Massachusetts were a country, its eighth graders would rank second in the world in science, behind only Singapore, according to Timss — the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, which surveys knowledge and skills of fourth and eighth graders around the world. (The most recent version, in 2011, tested more than 600,000 students in 63 nations.) 
“Massachusetts eighth graders also did well in mathematics, coming in sixth, behind Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Japan. The United States as a whole came in 10th in science and 9th in math, with scores that were above the international average.”
Impressive test results, to be sure. But what I found most interesting in the article was the following passage: “Also noteworthy was what the reforms did not include. Parents were not offered vouchers for private schools. The state did not close poorly performing schools, eliminate tenure for teachers or add merit pay. The reforms did allow for some charter schools, but not many.”
I encourage you to take a moment and read that passage again. Those who clamor for better schools frequently argue that parents should be given vouchers - highlighting the always popular concept of “choice” - while failing to mention that vouchers contribute to the erosion of the public school system, a cornerstone of a democratic society. Massachusetts has demonstrated that we don’t need to dismantle public schools to improve education.
It’s not uncommon for poorly performing schools to be closed. Apparently some believe this somehow addresses underlying problems. I guess if “The X School” closes its doors, there will be one fewer school on next year’s list of poorly performing schools. Such a superficial approach is akin to believing you are healthy if you choose to ignore symptoms of illness.
Finally, there are the hot-button issues of tenure and merit pay. In an environment increasingly distrustful of organized labor, tenure is often portrayed as the scourge that has ruined public education. Instead of using tenure to protect incompetent teachers - the argument goes - schools should get rid of the deadwood and implement a system of merit pay to retain those teachers whose students do well on high-stakes testing. Of course, one problem with merit pay is that it promotes competition among teachers (or schools...or districts....or states). Competition compromises collaboration. If we want effective strategies to be implemented, shared, and replicated, we need to nurture a culture of professional collaboration. 
If you support high-stakes testing and believe the results of Timss, schools in Massachusetts are doing a great job. I suggest it’s not just because of what’s being done; it’s also because of what is not being done.

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As always, if you enjoyed this and found it useful, please send the link to your friends. Thanks.

Bob Sullo

For information about books by Bob Sullo and to schedule a keynote, workshop, or series for your school, agency, or parent group visit www.internalmotivation.net

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Managing Your Child's "Expanding" Vocabulary


I recently received this question from a parent:

My son is 14 years old and he just began learning cuss words. I understand that he may be trying to verbally release anger and stress but isn’t 14 a bit too young to be cursing? I firmly tell him that he shouldn’t use such words but I can’t seem to get through to him. What can I do to help him stop cursing?

There’s no single reason why youngsters choose to use profanity. It may be an attempt to act “grown up,” especially if adults in the home use profanity. It may be a way to appear “cool,” particularly if their friends use profanity. It may be a way to test limits and discover boundaries. It may simply be a reflection of contemporary society.

I am uncomfortable advising any parent about what they should be regarding their child’s use of profanity. Each parent needs to establish what is acceptable in their home. My wife and I never had a big problem with profanity. We simply told our three kids, “We don’t use that kind of language in this house.” There were no big discussions. No family meetings. No punishment. As parents, we identified the expectation and moved on. Equally importantly, neither my wife nor I used profanity around our kids. (Telling your kids to “Do what I say, not what I do” just doesn’t work. It’s essential to model the behavior you want from your children.)

Part of parenting is helping kids learn that we act and speak differently in various situations. How I act and speak when I’m conducting a workshop for parents or teachers is different from how I act and speak when out to dinner with friends or on vacation with my family. Kids are well served when they learn that some behavior and language may be acceptable in one situation and inappropriate in another context. My wife and I made it clear to our kids that profanity wasn’t appropriate in our home. That worked for us, but each parent needs to establish the expectations for their own family.

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As always, if you enjoyed this and found it useful, please send the link to your friends. Thanks.

Bob Sullo

For information about books by Bob Sullo and to schedule a keynote, workshop, or series for your school, agency, or parent group visit www.internalmotivation.net

Friday, August 16, 2013

A Question For Teachers: "What Do You Want?"


As schools across America prepare to begin a new academic year, teachers face expectations from various sources, including parents, building leaders, department heads, and central office. With most states opting into the  the Common Core State Standards Initiative, yet another set of expectations is in play. It’s all part of today’s educational landscape.

The problem with these expectations - perhaps “limitation” is a more accurate word - is that they are external. There’s not necessarily anything wrong with them, but people are ultimately motivated from the inside. The expectations of others and externally imposed standards only take us so far. To reach the highest level of achievement, professionalism, and motivation, we need to develop internal expectations and standards.

I invite every educator to create their own expectations for the coming year, using WDEP, a model developed by Bob Wubbolding, Senior Faculty member of The William Glasser Institute.

W: Want. It’s obvious what others want and expect from you this school year. Beyond that, what do you want for yourself and from yourself? Is it that more students achieve at a higher level? Is it to nurture more collaborative relationships with parents? To cut down on the number of disciplinary infractions in the classroom? To infuse more technology into your teaching? To begin or complete an advanced degree? The list of potential “wants” is endless. Identify a few that really matter to you. Aside from all the externally imposed - and very important - expectations, what do you want for and from yourself this school year?

D: Doing. One of the core principles of Choice Theory is that all behavior is purposeful. We behave in an effort to achieve what we want. Once you have identified what you want, determine what you need to do to turn your goal(s) into reality. Having a clearly identified want is necessary, but not sufficient. Life doesn’t simply happen to us. If you want something, you need to develop clarity about what you need to do to achieve it.

E: Evaluation. How will you know if you have achieved what you want (or are heading in the right direction)? Some goals are more easily evaluated. If you have a goal of making  contact with the family of each student, you can objectively track your progress. Some goals are less tangible. Suppose, for example, you want to enjoy even better relationships with your professional colleagues. How will you measure it? What criteria will inform you of your progress so you can effectively self-evaluate. Ongoing self-evaluation helps you maintain what’s working or change your actions to become more effective.

P: Plan. Words, theory, and ideas are nice, but don’t mean much unless they are put into action. With a new school year about to begin, what’s your specific plan of action to become more like the educator you’d like to be? When will you begin? If you don’t commit to a specific plan, are you likely to have the kind of professional experience you want for yourself this year? How badly do you want what you say you want? Enough to think about it? Talk about it? Do it? Creating and implementing an action plan will help you experience the success you want for yourself.

Lots of people in various roles will expect things from you this school year. As a teacher, you’ll identify expectations for your students. That’s the way it works. I encourage you to go beyond the experience of external expectations this year and identify your own set of internally generated expectations.

Note: You can read more about this topic in Chapter 14 (“Create Your Professional Identity”) of The Motivated Student: Unlocking the Enthusiasm for Learning.

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As always, if you enjoyed this and found it useful, please send the link to your friends. Thanks.

Bob Sullo

For information about books by Bob Sullo and to schedule a keynote, workshop, or series for your school, agency, or parent group visit www.internalmotivation.net



Friday, August 9, 2013

"My Daughter Can Be A Bit Of A Bully:" Part 2



Here are some additional thoughts after I received the following question from a parent.

My daughter can be a bit of a bully at times. When she plays games with friends if she doesn't get her way, she gets real bossy. I can tell from her friends' faces that this really annoys them. I can't get my daughter to change her behavior and want to help her before she loses these friends. Suggestions?

When your child is behaving in an unacceptable way – even doing something as distasteful as bossing or bullying  - it helps to remember that everybody is doing the best they can at that moment to meet their needs. It may be difficult to believe, but your child doesn’t know a better way to get what they want. As clumsy, awkward, or inappropriate as they may be, what you see represents their best shot at that moment. Part of our job as parents is to help our kids develop better, more elegant, responsible ways to meet their needs. Rather than choosing to be upset and frustrated by our children’s unwanted behavior, we can say to ourselves, “This is the best they can do right now. They don’t know any better. It’s not OK and I won’t sanction this behavior. My job as a parent is to help my kids develop the resources to meet their needs responsibly.” When parents remind themselves that their kids are works in progress - not just “being bad” -  they are better able to teach and guide them, even when kids display inappropriate – but very typical – behavior.

It would be nice if our kids always behaved exactly as we’d like, but that’s not the way it works. How parents choose to deal with the expected bumps along the way will play a significant role in how things play out. When your children struggles, use it as an opportunity to teach them a better way to get what they want. That’s one essential quality of an effective parent. 

Note: This was originally published by Funderstanding. Their newsletter is free and includes interesting, useful ideas for both educators and parents. I encourage you to subscribe.

As always, if you enjoyed this and found it useful, please send the link to your friends. Thanks.

Bob Sullo

For information about books by Bob Sullo and to schedule a keynote, workshop, or series for your school, agency, or parent group visit www.internalmotivation.net

Don't forget to get your copy of the revised edition of The Inspiring Teacher: Making A Positive Difference In Students' Lives.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

"My Daughter Can Be A Bit Of A Bully. Any Suggestions?"


A parent recently sent me the following: "My daughter can be a bit of a bully at times. When she plays games with friends if she doesn't get her way, she gets real bossy. I can tell from her friends' faces that this really annoys them. I can't get my daughter to change her behavior and want to help her before she loses these friends. Suggestions?"

Parents who observe their kids being bossy or bullying understandably become frustrated. “There’s absolutely no reason for them to behave like that!” they’ll say to me. My first reminder to parents is that all behavior – even unattractive behavior like bossing and bullying – is purposeful. While it’s not the behavior you want to see from your child, they are acting that way for a reason. Typically it’s connected to the universal need for power or freedom. Kids who boss or bully often gain a measure of power and control, at least temporarily. If you’re faced with this situation, determine some other, more appropriate ways your child can meet the needs for power and freedom. For example, yet can let them decide which one of three activities you’ll do together as a family this weekend. Or which one of three meals you’ll have for dinner. Or whether to do their homework before dinner or after dinner. If you’re really adventurous, you might even let them control the clicker when you watch television together! What’s important is that your child feels that sometimes they get to be the boss. When kids meet their needs for power and freedom by doing things that you sanction, they’ll be less driven to satisfy those needs through inappropriate behaviors like bossing and bullying. Just as kids who are given one or two cookies after dinner are less likely to gorge themselves on the whole box when no one is looking, kids who regularly satisfy the needs for power and freedom responsibly and respectfully are less likely to resort to bossing and bullying.

Note: This was originally published by Funderstanding. Their newsletter is free and includes interesting, useful ideas for both educators and parents. I encourage you to subscribe.

As always, if you enjoyed this and found it useful, please send the link to your friends. Thanks.

Bob Sullo

For information about books by Bob Sullo and to schedule a keynote, workshop, or series for your school, agency, or parent group visit www.internalmotivation.net

Don't forget to get your copy of the revised edition of The Inspiring Teacher: Making A Positive Difference In Students' Lives.

Monday, July 8, 2013

"What's So Wrong With Rewards?"


I recently received the following question: "I've read enough about Choice Theory to know I shouldn't use rewards in my home or classroom. But I've used them and they really seem to work. What’s so wrong with rewards?"

Here's what I answered: Rewards promote compliance, not responsibility. Adults like to talk about kids and their behavior, but let’s forget about the kids for a moment and consider what we want as parents and teachers. Rewards may entice kids into compliance, but there’s no evidence that they help kids internalize values and  promote self-control.  Consider these words from EJ Sobo, a professor at San Diego State University: “Children cultivated toward dependence on external praise through constant positive stroking are at risk for growing into poorly-adjusted adults who must always look to others for approval. They never have a chance to develop their own internal resources.” If you’re like me, you want kids to develop responsibility and be self-directed. Providing external rewards only distance us from what we say we want as parents and teachers.

If you’re satisfied with a quick fix and enjoy living from mini-crisis to mini-crisis, then rewards will work just fine. On the other hand, if you want to promote responsibility and self-control, it’s time to abandon the quick fix offered by rewards. Yes, it will take more time. It will force you to move from autopilot to genuinely engaging with kids. But if you have the will to stick with it, you’ll be a more effective and satisfied parent or teacher.

Note: This was originally published by Funderstanding. Their newsletter is free and includes interesting, useful ideas for both educators and parents. I encourage you to subscribe.

***
As always, if you enjoyed this and found it useful, please send the link to your friends. Thanks.

Bob Sullo

For information about books by Bob Sullo and to schedule a keynote, workshop, or series for your school, agency, or parent group visit www.internalmotivation.net

Don't forget to get your copy of the revised edition of The Inspiring Teacher: Making A Positive Difference In Students' Lives.


Sunday, June 9, 2013

"Homework Is A Constant Fight. What Can I Do Better?"


A parent from New Jersey recently asked, "Bob, homework is a constant fight with me and my 12-year old. She spends more time complaining and screaming than doing the homework. I keep telling her she needs good grades and she should be doing better. What can I do better?"

Here's what I answered: "First, rest assured that your story is typical. Homework struggles are the norm, especially when kids approach adolescence. More than anything, they want to assert their independence and fiercely resist control, even if they intuitively understand it’s “for their own good.” Rather than telling your daughter she needs good grades, needs to do better, etc - all logical comments, by the way – I suggest asking her what she wants for herself. What kind of future does she want? Does she want to be a success? Will doing well in school help her get what she wants? Will completing homework – even if it’s tedious and boring – help her achieve her goals? Don’t be surprised if she rolls her eyes and says, “Whatever,” boredom punctuating her terse comment. That’s typical. Resist the temptation to lecture her about her disrespectful attitude, a new offense compounding her failure to approach homework with joy, enthusiasm, and a song in her heart!

"Despite the rolled eyes and dismissive “whatever,” kids want to be successful. By inviting your daughter to explore how doing homework allows her to more easily get what she wants, you minimize the power struggle, arguing, and stress you are both experiencing. Most importantly, make sure to maintain a positive relationship with your daughter."

Note: This was originally published by Funderstanding. The newsletter is free and includes interesting, useful ideas for both educators and parents. I encourage you to subscribe.

***
As always, if you enjoyed this and found it useful, please send the link to your friends. Thanks.

Bob Sullo

For information about books by Bob Sullo and to schedule a keynote, workshop, or series for your school, agency, or parent group visit www.internalmotivation.net

Don't forget to get your copy of the revised edition of The Inspiring Teacher: Making A Positive Difference In Students' Lives.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Walking the Talk: The Inspiring Teacher FREE from May 21-23!


The Inspiring Teacher is available for FREE from May 21-23. No catch. No gimmicks. Not a sample chapter. The complete book. For free. Not a loan. Yours to keep. For free.

After you read and download your free copy, I’d appreciate it if you’d write a review and post it on Amazon. It doesn’t need to be long. If it’s an honest, heartfelt endorsement, it will be much appreciated. Of course, you don’t need to write a review. You still get the book. No strings. No “if…then.” But reviews lead to more exposure and help get these ideas to a wider audience.

I wrote the e-book version of The Inspiring Teacher because I wanted to reach as wide an audience as possible. An electronic format made it easy to keep costs low. I asked my publisher, Funderstanding, to offer the book at a reasonable price. Of course, I want to get a huge royalty check, but my primary objective is to get the book into the hands of as many educators and parents as possible.

A few weeks ago, Eric Cohen, the “principal” of Funderstanding asked me if I was serious about getting the book out to as many as possible – even if it meant making less money.

“What are suggesting?” I asked.

“Why don’t we just give the book away,” he answered.

“You mean like an excerpt? Some kind of teaser?” I asked.

“No. I mean let’s just give it away,” Eric answered in his usual unflappable way, seemingly oblivious to the fact that what he was suggesting seemed extreme.

“ But…you’re a businessman. How can you turn a profit if we just give it away?”

“That’s right,” Eric said. “I am a businessman. You say you want to help lead the world with Choice Theory. So let’s make it easy for everyone to learn about it. In this case, ‘easy’ means ‘free.’ And, as for profit, I’m not worried. We’ve put together a quality product. These ideas make sense. We just need to get it out there. Giving it away will only increase awareness of Choice Theory and all the things you believe in and write about. Let’s just concentrate on how to get the book in front of as many people as we can. The profit will follow. You just have to trust me.”

Thanks to Eric, I have been given an opportunity to get what I want: reaching as wide an audience as possible and informing more educators and parents about Choice Theory and other compatible concepts designed to make school a more satisfying experience for kids and adults.

I continually say that we are motivated from within and people don’t work just for money. By offering The Inspiring Teacher for free from May 21-23 I’m walking the talk.

I hope you’ll get your free copy during this promotional period and will share this with your friends and colleagues.

Together, we can make school a better place for kids, educators, and parents!

***

For information about books by Bob Sullo and to schedule a keynote, workshop, or series for your school, agency, or parent group visit www.internalmotivation.net

Don't forget to get your copy of the revised edition of The Inspiring Teacher: Making A Positive Difference In Students' Lives.


Saturday, May 11, 2013

Happy Birthday, Dr. Glasser!


Dr. William Glasser celebrates his 88th birthday on May 11. One of the most prominent figures in psychology, Dr. Glasser has contributed tremendously to the fields of both mental health and education. His work has been the single greatest factor in my professional growth and development since I began my Choice Theory journey more than 25 years ago.

It is often said that timing is everything. The timing could not have been better for me when I enrolled in my Basic Intensive Training in 1986. I had been a psychologist for a few years and had grown frustrated with external control psychology. Sometimes it seemed to work. Other times….not so well. Plus, it didn’t feel right. I didn’t want to “shape” kids. I didn’t believe my life could be reduced to a series of reactions to external forces. I was looking for another way – a better, more accurate way – to understand behavior and motivation.

Control Theory: A New Explanation of How We Control Our Lives was new. The Institute for Reality Therapy was growing rapidly. And I was fortunate enough to begin my training with three gifted instructors who remain closely associated with the WGI today: Al Katz, Nancy Buck, and David Moran. With their expert guidance and a newly articulated theory of behavior and motivation, I was off and running.

I never looked back.

My association with the WGI and Dr. Glasser’s ideas have brought me into contact with people and places I had never imagined. I have formed lasting friendships and professional relationships that were nurtured by the WGI and Choice Theory. As I have deepened my knowledge and explored Choice Theory through teaching and writing, Dr. Glasser’s support remains unwavering.

To put it as succinctly as possible, I am a better professional as well as a better husband, father, brother, and friend because of what I have learned from Dr. Glasser and Choice Theory.

As he celebrates his 88th birthday, I want to say “Thank You” to Dr. Glasser for all he has done for the fields of mental health and education and for all he has meant to me.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

“Feeling Frustrated? Good For You!”


It’s not uncommon for people to complain about feeling frustrated. After all, it’s frustrating! But frustration can actually be a good thing.

(Aside: Those of you well acquainted with Choice Theory know that Dr. Glasser would probably encourage us to say we are “frustrating” or “choosing to frustrate” rather than saying we are “feeling frustrated.” That’s to remind us that all behavior - even uncomfortable behavior like “choosing to be frustrated” - is a choice. We may be most aware of the feeling component (“feeling frustrated”), but “choosing to be frustrated” includes acting, thinking, and physiological components as well. Still, since most people don’t engage in “CT-Speak” they are more likely to say they are “feeling frustrated.”)

Humans are driven to experience a match between their quality world pictures – how they want the world to be at that moment – and their perception of the world at that moment. Feeling frustrated is the perceptible mismatch between what we want and what we are getting and motivates us to act. If we weren’t aware of the mismatch – if we weren’t “feeling frustrated” – there would be no internal signal motivating us to change.

Even though none of us likes feeling frustrated, the discomfort serves us well, motivating us to change our behavior to get more of what we want.

What are the implications for the classroom? To start with, an all-nurturing environment, one completely free of stress and struggle is counterproductive. When there is no perceived discrepancy between what students want and what they are getting, there is no frustration, no internal distress signal, and no reason to change their behavior. The inevitable result is a failure to grow and learn.

The most effective classroom environment is one where the mismatch between what students want and what they have is sufficient to motivate them but not so great as to overwhelm them. The best learning environments are ones where learners want more than they have while remaining confident they can experience success with reasonable effort. I want students thinking to themselves, “If I work hard I will succeed and in order to succeed I must work hard.”   That’s an environment that promotes student growth and achievement.

Frustration: it may be uncomfortable, but it is a helpful signal that initiates change.

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As always, if you enjoyed this and found it useful, please send the link to your friends. Thanks.

Bob Sullo

For information about books by Bob Sullo and to schedule a keynote, workshop, or series for your school, agency, or parent group visit www.internalmotivation.net

Don't forget to get your copy of the revised edition of The Inspiring Teacher: Making A Positive Difference In Students' Lives.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Resiliency: Putting The Past Where It Belongs


In a recent article about a five-year old kindergarten student suspended for bringing a toy gun to school, I wrote, “Kids are resilient and manage to turn out OK despite adult ineptitude.” I want to expand on that comment because the sad truth is that some kids don’t turn out OK. Some kids don’t bounce back quickly from adversity, the definition of resilient. It depends in part on how parents choose to handle the situation. Incidents might happen to a child, but parents decide how they choose to handle it.

They can keep the drama going, expressing their understandable outrage. This option is both common and perfectly natural. When our children have been wronged, we want to protect and support them. Maintaining anger is one way to demonstrate that we love and support our kids. Sometimes outrage is socially acceptable – even encouraged. Righteous indignation, however, has a price: it keeps the incident front and center, trapping the family in a painful past event. Choosing not to move on sentences everyone involved to additional pain and diminishes the child’s ability to develop resiliency. Resiliency requires moving forward.

Parents can address the incident decisively and move on. In the case I wrote about last week, the family appealed the school's decision and met with the superintendent who rescinded the suspension. That’s addressing the issue. That’s advocating for your child. That’s how to put the past in the rearview mirror where it belongs.

Addressing a problem and moving forward is very different from denial or refusing to deal with the issue. If the child were afraid to go to school or was having difficulty sleeping after an incident and the parents told them to “just hang in there” or told the child to “get over it,” the parents would be failing to deal with the problem. Under those circumstances, the past incident is still impacting the present and responsible parents take steps to alleviate the current pain.

Kids experience the world very differently from adults. In the Hopkinton suspension incident, I suggested that the school should be ashamed and embarrassed. I stand by those comments, but that represents my adult perspective. What struck me as an example of bureaucratic stupidity was possibly processed by the child as less significant. (If so….good for him.)

Kids learn from their parents’ behavior. When parents deal with situations decisively and effectively and move on – keeping the past where it belongs – they show their children how to be resilient.
***

As always, if you enjoyed this and found it useful, please send the link to your friends and colleagues. Thanks.

Bob Sullo

For information about books by Bob Sullo and to schedule a keynote, workshop, or series for your school, agency, or parent group visit www.internalmotivation.net

Don't forget to get your copy of the revised edition of The Inspiring Teacher: Making A Positive Difference In Students' Lives.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Punishment Is An Effective Teaching Tool (But What Do Kids Learn?)


A five-year old kindergarten student in Hopkinton, Massachusetts was suspended from school this past week for bringing a toy gun to school. By all accounts, the child did not threaten or hurt anyone. His crime was having an inappropriate toy in school.

The Center School in Hopkinton did what most schools do: they applied external control psychology by imposing punishment (I’m sure it was identified as a “consequence” in an attempt to make the suspension more palatable.)

No doubt everyone involved had the best interest of the child in mind. I imagine that the punishment (“consequence” if you insist on euphemism) was given to teach the child something. That’s certainly reasonable. Our job as educators, after all, is to teach kids.

But what did they want Jonah Stone to learn? What was the goal? Since I wasn’t there, I can only guess but here’s one reasonable hypothesis: teaching Jonah that it’s not OK to bring toy guns to school. Seems like a reasonable thing to want to teach a young child, especially given the unequivocal evidence he didn’t already know it.

So here’s a novel idea: instead of suspending him from school and having him sit down with a police officer, maybe a caring adult could have spoken with the 5-year old and told him that guns – even toy guns – aren’t allowed in school. End of incident. In other words, maybe an educator could have done their job: teach a child who didn’t know any better. (That’s the usual process when a kid doesn’t know how to read, spell, multiply, or successfully do any other academic skill.) 

A simple conversation would have rendered punishment unnecessary. The goal – learning that bringing toy guns to school is not OK – would have been achieved. Sadly, the school chose to suspend the child, a decision that was predictably overturned by the superintendent a few days later when he met with the parents.

I often hear that punishment is a teaching tool. What did five-year old Jonah Stone learn this week?
·      That if you make a mistake, you’ll be punished.
·      That teachers say, “Never be afraid to make a mistake” but when you make one, they hurt you.
·      That someone gave me a toy, but when I took it to school I had to talk to a police officer.
·      That kids in some place called Newtown were killed by a bad man with a gun. (Note: Until this incident, Jonah had been shielded by the unimaginable horror of Sandy Hook by his parents. The school system made sure he got an education.)

One can only wonder if Jonah worries that the police officer and his teachers think he might be a bad boy and want to hurt other kids. Of course that’s unlikely, but what’s a 5-year old to think? (“They just want me to become a responsible adult and punished me for my own good. If they didn’t suspend me, I might grow up to be a bad person. I have to learn there are consequences for my behavior even though I wasn’t trying to be bad.”)

What an inexcusable, avoidable mess. Because of the continued reliance on punishment as a “teaching tool,” learning has certainly taken place. Jonah learned a lot of things no child should learn.

I suspect Jonah will be fine. Kids are resilient and manage to turn out OK despite adult ineptitude. I hope Jonah grows into an emotionally healthy adult who will laugh at the absurdity of this incident. Even if that’s how the story unfolds, however, the school should be ashamed and embarrassed.

Punishment. It certainly teaches. Too bad we’re oblivious to the learning that takes place.

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As always, if you enjoyed this and found it useful, please send the link to your friends. Thanks.

Bob Sullo

For information about books by Bob Sullo and to schedule a keynote, workshop, or series for your school, agency, or parent group visit www.internalmotivation.net

Don't forget to get your copy of the revised edition of The Inspiring Teacher: Making A Positive Difference In Students' Lives.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Exercise, Performance, & The Brain


When discussing brain-based learning, In Chapter 2 of The Inspiring Teacher, I say, “Because new principles and applications are being generated so rapidly, I encourage readers to become familiar with current literature about learning and the brain.”

Here’s an example: I came across a March 7, 2013 article entitled “4 Ways to use exercise to increase brain power.” Based on 19 studies involving 586 kids, teenagers, and young adults, the report was published in the prestigious British Medical Journal and found “10 to 40 minutes bursts of exercise led to an immediate boost in concentration and mental focus, likely by improving blood flow to the brain.”

According to Harvard psychiatrist and author John Ratey, one way classroom teachers can use these findings to optimize student performance on a test is to have the kids jump rope, run in place, or do squat bends, quickly improving blood flow to the brain and speeding the transmission of signals through the nerve cells. If you give a test within an hour of the exercise, scores should improve.

How often do educators and parents complain that kids lack mental focus? That they don’t concentrate? It turns out we may not need to label so many kids as ADD or ADHD and resort to chemical intervention. And we don’t have to accept poor concentration and poor performance as immutable realities. A better understanding of how the brain works and a few simple classroom strategies can significantly enhance focus and concentration, resulting in increased learning and better performance on tests. Applying what we know about brain-based learning is one quality of inspiring teachers. I encourage you to incorporate this simple strategy.

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As always, if you enjoyed this and found it useful, please send the link to your friends. Thanks.

Bob Sullo

For information about books by Bob Sullo and to schedule a keynote, workshop, or series for your school, agency, or parent group visit www.internalmotivation.net

Don't forget to get your copy of the revised edition of The Inspiring Teacher: Making A Positive Difference In Students' Lives.