“Hope is the only thing stronger than fear.” Suzanne Collins – The Hunger Games
My dear friend, mentor and encourager Jen Schongalla sent me a copy of The Invisible Classroom: Relationships, Neuroscience and Mindfulness in School by Kirke Olson just before Christmas. I have only read the forward, preface, introduction and chapter 1 but the parallels between the blog post I did on Laurie Clarcq's model of positive peer coaching “from the heart” and the book so far are striking.
Louis Cozolimo, Series editor for the Norton Series on the Social Neuroscience of Education says in the forward that:
In American education, what is most important about education has become invisible. If it is true that to a hammer, everything looks like a nail, then to modern educators, everything must be directly relevant to test scores. The human process of education has become a shadow, largely ignored by our educational system.
He also says that:
One of the negative side effects of an emphasis on test performance is a focus on weaknesses – mistakes, missing knowledge and the number of points away from perfection. This can be destructive to motivation, enthusiasm and exploration.
He then says that:
Gangs, on the other hand, who offer attachment, safety, and soul are doing better than ever.
Finally, Kirke says in the introduction that:
Extensive research over many decades shows that from the first moments of birth, human brains are wired to learn best within the context of loving relationships. This does not end because children enter schools, so cultivating a positive relational culture in your classroom and school supports learning and creates a better working atmosphere for you. What's love got to do with it? Well, everything!
I find it amazing what a paradigm shift it seems to be to focus on the positive – strengths instead of weaknesses – what one does well rather than wrong! I wonder why that is? Susie Gross' words that “nothing motivates like success” resonates loudly. I think that even more than TCI, focusing on student success and making sure that students know that I love and care for them has revolutionized my classroom and the teaching/learning experience.
So, I will end with this thought:
How can we communicate to ALL students that
1. We love and care about them.
2 We appreciate them and are glad they are in our class
3. Each person in the class is vital to the class community
4. Each student as a person is much more important to me than the content I am teaching.
What ideas might teachers share for strategies that would allow us to consciously and deliberately send those messages as a teacher and as a school? I will share three:
1. meeting each student at the door in a positive way every morning
2. by making an effort to show sympathy to and understand student behavior and to NOT take their behavior personally
3. by making a point within a few weeks time to check in with every student I have in class. It might range from asking how someone in their family is to how their team is doing or commenting on how I have noticed that they seem down, tired or distracted lately.
I am looking forward to what the rest of the book has to offer. I will keep you posted.