Wednesdays are dedicated to words of wisdom, words of the day, words to ponder.
I want to explore the words that reliably guide me to solutions in schools for kids and teachers. I believe every problem can be solved using critical thinking, common sense, and compassion. Every single problem. If I can answer the following question, I feel confident in my recommendation.
Did I use critical thinking, common sense, and compassion?
Critical thinking is in short supply these days. I have no sure reason why, but I have my guesses. I think we have become overwhelmed, complacent, consumed by things that don’t matter and it is just easier to follow along. And truth be told, sometimes our job security depends on following along and drinking the kool aid flavor of the day.
For me, critical thinking means I have looked at an issue in depth and breadth. I have resisted accepting things at face value. I have made no assumptions. I asked many questions of many people. I did not allow myself to get stuck in just one theory. I did a lot of what if-ing. What if the breakdown isn’t actually happening where it looks like it is happening? What if the breakdown is happening way before that or at a different spot in the process? If Joey refuses to write as prompted by his teacher, we have to analyze the behavior with a very critical mind and eye. Does he always refuse? Under what conditions does he refuse? Does he always throw his pencil on the floor? What if we ask him to write his name? A word? A sentence? A number?
Critical thinking keeps us from following along with whatever is suggested. It keeps us student-centered. It allows for creative and effective solutions that bring lasting results. It keeps us from using token economies and behavior charts to control behaviors. It keeps us from referring kids to the office for negative consequences. It keeps us from grabbing that first glass of murky water and instead waiting for that clear, cold, refreshing glass just on the other side of thinking things through. It benefits students, teachers and schools.
Common sense. If 2nd grade Joey has trouble focusing, moves all the time, paces in class and takes excessive trips to the drinking fountain or bathroom, does taking away recess make sense? Does that follow any logic? Don’t we think Joey would attend more, sit still, and stay in his seat if he could? He needs to move. And while running a fake errand for the teacher may help a bit, it is not the solution. Common sense. Allow him to move on the playground with his pals. Oh, and restore recess as it was before we had to rob minutes from recess to add to instruction time so those test scores would go up. Tina is frequently skipping school and is tardy to every class. She is disengaged. Does suspending her or putting her in the detention room every day use common sense? She already feels disconnected, isolated. Find a way to connect. Find a way to show you care. Find a way to show her she belongs in your class not just because you say so, but because it’s an OK place to be. Sammy has trouble concentrating in classes where there are loud and acting out kids. He feels unsafe, distracted, frustrated. Is it common sense to remove him from the class during work time when the offenders typically act up? Is it common sense to send Sammy out to a quiet place to do his work? Instead, figure out how to keep the offenders engaged or find a quiet place for them to work away from others.
Compassion is the light that allows us to see every person involved as a whole person. Compassion for teachers, parents, administrators. Not just the students. Because there are days when the teacher and the administrator just need a break from certain student behaviors. Because they are whole people. Burned out parents are burned out for reasons we may know nothing about. Show them compassion. When I develop recommendations for interventions, I look at every single player through a lens of compassion, as a whole and complex person. I am not going to lie and say I am always successful with this one. There are just some people too obstinate and in the way. Time is a wasting’ They just need to get out of the way. But I try.
It’s easy to point fingers. To blame others. To blame the system. And honestly, the blame does belong there more often than I like to consider. No lasting change can come from expecting others to accept blame and be motivated enough by that to change. If we bring critical thinking, common sense and compassion to the table, everyone feels heard, validated, valued, and safe.
And that’s the sweet spot where solutions are found, interventions made effective.
Critical thinking. Common Sense. Compassion.