Tuesday, January 18, 2011

What if why we do it goes way past a "culture of acceptance"?

A couple of days ago I posted the Simon Sinek Ted Talk that had the message of "people don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it."  I ended that post thinking that the why we need inclusion is so that we can create a "culture of acceptance" in our schools.

What if its more than that?

I am reading the book Beyond Discipline: From Compliance to Community by Alfie Kohn right now and I'm starting to think that we need more than mere acceptance.  That what we are after is to build community.

There has been a lot going on around me (and in me) in regards to redefining how we deal with (manage) students.  It appears that we are all heading in a more positive direction but there are still so many things that bother me about the whole concept of managing students, classrooms and schools.  This is a quote from the book I'm reading that might offer an alternative:
Here is a second way to help students think past the confines of discipline - and to use an early class meeting to begin fostering a sense of community.  Begin by asking this question (adapting it as necessary to the students' developmental level): "What if, some time this year, you found yourself acting in a way you weren't proud of?  Suppose you hurt someone's feelings, or did something even worse.  How would you want us, the rest of the community, to help you then?"  After everyone has refelcted privately on this question, and perhaps discussed it, pose the follow-up question: "What if someone else acted that way?  How coudl we help that person?"

This thought experiment represents nothing short of a revolution in thinking about classroom problems.  Actions that would normally be defined as misbehaviour - and therefore requiring discipline - are reconstrued as signs that somebody needs help.  if a student had trouble with long division, after all, we would naturally want to help him understand the procedure (and its rationale), rather than seeking to punish him.  So if a student instead had trouble, say, controlling her termper, our response again ouht to be "How can we help?" - not "What consequence should you suffer?"  We should ask, in other words, "What can we do for you?" - not "What can we do to you?"
Wow!  Wow!  Wow!  What if the "why we do it" is actually more than building acceptance but actually that of building community in our schools?  Our students don't want to be merely accepted.  They want to be a part of it and belong.

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