I had a conversation with a parent a couple of weeks ago and it has stuck with me. I am, as I am sure many of you are as well, constantly questioning whether I have made the right decisions or have handled things in an appropriate manner. The more I have thought about this conversation, the more I believe I did handle things appropriately in the conversation, and in dealing with the actions that ultimately led to this conversation. I think the reason that this conversation in particular has stuck with me is because it challenges how we, as a school, might typically handle a behavior concern.
Below is my recollection of the conversation. Like I said, this conversation was a couple of weeks ago so while this is not a transcript, it is roughly how things transpired.
Parent: Have you seen this tweet, it really upsets me when kids say those kind of things on social media.
Me: I understand, it frustrates me as well.
Parent: Well, what are you going to do about it?
Me: I had someone who has a great relationship with this young lady talk to her and I think she understands the problem with posting something like this when you are upset. She has apologized for posting that.
Parent: That’s it.
Me: Yeah, I think she understands, and I hope it will not happen again.
Parent: Well, my kids know better. We have taught them not to act like this.
(Yes, thank you for the perfect transition)
Me: You are correct, you have taught them; and that is what we are trying to do here as well, teach her not to react like that when she is upset. I am sure your kids made plenty of mistakes as they were learning life lessons.
Parent: Well, yes, but that doesn’t excuse the post she made.
Me: Once again, you are correct, it does not excuse the behavior. But, much like academics, we must take time to teach these skills. She was frustrated and handled the situation poorly, but that is why it is important for us to teach what behavior is appropriate.
I will spare you the rest of the conversation; I believe this gives you the overarching idea. We expect kids to perform or act with skills that they honestly may not possess. Sometimes the behaviors we see as problems, the student sees as a solution to the problem. The young lady in the story above was frustrated, and her solution in dealing with that frustration was to lash out on social media. Was it a good reaction? No. But, it may be the only way she really knew how to deal with the frustration.
Just like academic skills, behavior skills need taught. We too often act like kids should just come to us with all the tools needed to be a successful adult, and if they do not, that it is someone else’s job or problem with which to deal. We then, as their teachers, only need to help them grow academically and they will be successful. We all know this is not true. Students need to grow in our schools in many more ways than just academically. We must treat our jobs as such. When kids come to us from homes where these lessons were taught (much like the parent I was speaking with above) it makes our job much easier. When kids come to us from broken homes or lacking some behavior skills, it makes our job so much more important.
One of the reasons this conversation has stuck with me is that it makes me think… if we want students to become better adults, then we must give them opportunities to truly learn from their mistakes. We need to take opportunities to help them build skills outside of the academic realm. Academic skills are important, but building strong behavior skills and strong character skills, will help our students reach their full potential. Academic skills alone will not do this.
I hope you find an opportunity in the upcoming week to have a conversation with a student that can help them build character and grow their behavioral skills.
Keep learning, keep growing, keep sharing!