What is the best invention in the world? It has to be the Delete Key! How many times has that little button saved us from a potentially catastrophic consequence? It’s a wonder mine still works; I’m sure it is the most used key on my keyboard. But what about those other mistakes? You know, the ones we make in the real world, away from our i-Devices and laptops. Where is the Delete Key? And how do we fix things when the Delete Key just isn’t there?
Let’s face it, we all make mistakes. Wait, maybe I should rephrase that – most of us make mistakes. I have known one or two people who think they are the exceptions to that rule – but for the rest of us mere mortals, it happens. And in the real world, there is no delete key – once it happens, it’s out there for all to see.
Errorless Teaching – Really??
In my teaching career, I made mistakes. And when I did, I apologised to my students, and took whatever consequences we deemed necessary at the time. By being as vulnerable as they were, we all learned how to cope with mistakes, from both sides of it.
At the beginning of each term, my students and I would sit down and work out our Behaviour Plan. One of the problems we had one year, was having a few students who found it hard to filter out the words they shouldn’t use, before they spoke. The result was, ‘expletives’ would fly around the room – usually at the most inappropriate time. Well, was there ever an appropriate time?
Don’t Say It!
We drew up a list of words that could be used as alternatives. We also talked about the words that just wouldn’t be accepted, ever! And for everything else, there were consequences. The funny thing with kids is, if you ask them to set their own consequences, they’ll be a lot tougher than most adults would be. With a bit of tweaking, we managed to get an acceptable level of consequences. There was never any judgement if someone fell off the wagon – it just happened – the offender accepted the consequences, and we all moved on. Including the day it happened to me.
I had worn a pair of boots to school that day – it was winter and my feet needed extra warmth. All was going well until one of the students commented on how big my boots were. Without a second thought, I said “All the better to kick butts with”.
“Right, Miss”, was the quick reply, “that’s two minutes at recess!”.
“Damn!” I replied. “Uh – that’s another two minutes!”, he said. I could see where this was heading and had the good sense to stifle any further comment.
And Your Time Starts – Now!
You see, the plan we came up with at the beginning of term, was to ‘fine’ offenders two-minutes of their break time for every wrong word. I’d just racked up two fines, which totalled four precious minutes. Heck, the morning break was short enough, and I’d just lost a sizeable chunk of it. So, I spent the first four minutes of the break, sitting quietly in the classroom, reflecting on my choice of words. And trust me, the students were less lenient on the list of bad words than I would have been, but the die had been cast, and I was guilty, as charged. Just to make sure I spent the required time in deep, silent reflection – two students volunteered to be the time-keepers.
As a teacher, one of the keys to success is showing students that you are vulnerable and human, and just like them, capable of making mistakes. It’s how you react to your own mistakes that teaches kids how to deal with theirs. The students had ownership of the plan, and I accepted the same consequences for any wrong-doing. And believe me, the kids were tougher on me than I was on them. But it worked.
Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn. Benjamin Franklin
Trust me, this method works well for all those times when there is no Delete Key.