Monday, January 16, 2012

Going the Extra Mile

helpingIn The Little Man from Misadventures with Rangers, Marianne, aka Ranger Anna tells a story about how she helped this Asian man at Yellowstone National Park.( If you get a chance, please check out this story because it is an awesome one!) He didn’t speak English and pretty much had no idea what to do or how to get around. She took the time to help him, find translators, and basically take care of him so that he could have the best experience possible. Not only did she do all of this but she did a lot of this on her own time!

My husband and I love to travel and we have been in foreign countries where we have no idea what is being said and it can be a scary situation. At least we are together. This poor man was all alone and had no one, except this ranger. She was his lifesaver (maybe in more ways than one!).

Now I was lucky enough to meet Ranger Anna this summer and she is as wonderful in person as she sounds in this story. We have also become Facebook and blogging friends. When she led a group of us on a hike, she talked with everyone and found something personal about each person to connect with. We found out our common thread was through crafting.

All of this connecting and helping takes time and patience. Without willing to give some personal time and energy, I don’t think the connections will happen.

In helping this scared man in a foreign country, she made it personal. Even though it was on “company” time, it became personal to her. As I read the story, I could feel it become personal to her. I began to think that if it was my dad, I would hope that he came across someone like her. As my parents grow older, I’m afraid that some of the modern world sometimes confuses them and becomes like a foreign country to them. I hope that they come across patient younger people who will help guide them in the right way.

Then I think about my classroom and my students. When I am teaching a new skill or concept, it must seem like a foreign country to them. All the new vocabulary must seem like a foreign language to them. I need to remember what it is like to be in a foreign country and I need to go the extra mile. I need to remember who scary it can be until I can figure out how to get around.

I need to look at this from that point of view. If my students were in this foreign country (new skill or concept), what road maps and tourist information (learning steps) can I give them? Maybe they will need to refer to these resources often in order to grasp what I am teaching them. Maybe I need to go the extra mile and do more than just “teach” them. I need to guide them and sometimes even hold their hands until they get to the next destination.

I use a lot of visuals that can help them. Written schedules are helpful to students especially if there is a change in the schedule. I write schedules on the board so students can copy it if needed. Also, having the sequence of steps shown to complete an assignment may be useful if this sequence is repeated for other problems or situations. As the students become comfortable following the sequence, the need for the visual will become less and less.

I also liked making calls home to brag about the students. When they accomplished something that we could be proud of, I would take the time to call the parents. The student and the parents appreciated this. Of course, I did most of my phone calls at home in the evening when I could reach the parents and it was on my own time. But going this extra mile really helped in the classroom. When the students knew that I would call home to tell positive things, they would work harder. Students that hadn’t put much effort in their work were suddenly trying so that they could get a good phone call home. Parents began praising their children more than punishing them. I was breaking the cycle of negative reinforcement.

Sometimes going the extra mile means taking it personal. But I believe it is worth it.

Do you go the extra mile? What do you do? Please share!

Image: 'Lend a Hand'

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