Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Natural Consequences

consequences In Jennifer: Taking Time to Make Mistakes from CEC Blog, the author writes,

"I am currently taking courses to complete a second credential, and last week one of my classmates shared a story that inadvertently helped me put my whole “rushing” problem into perspective. She told about a time when she and her master teacher watched a little girl drop her cookie in the dirt during lunch. The student came over and asked if she could go wash it off. My classmate almost said “no” and for her to get her back to her seat, but the master teacher stopped her and told the little girl to go ahead.

When the little girl returned to her seat, she didn’t have the cookie with her. When asked what happened, she said that she couldn’t eat the cookie because when she washed it, it broke. The master teacher explained that because the student was given time to learn this lesson on her own, it will mean more to her than if they had just told her what would happen and sent her back to her seat to finish her lunch.”

This was something really hard for me to learn. It was hard for me to let my students do this as well as my own children. Over time I could hear myself nagging at children to do what I wanted them to do. Too many times I would harp on certain behaviors that I would want them to exhibit. Yet, I really didn’t get far with this. As I’ve mentioned before, I could not change their behavior until I had changed my own.

I need to let them face the natural consequences in order for them to internalize the learned behavior. Yet, I don’t want them to face failure or get discouraged so where do I draw the line? Isn’t my job supposed to be to help them be successful? And if I let them face natural consequences, am I falling down on my job?

The more I think about this, the more I see that I need to let them face natural consequences in order to help them be successful. I am not falling down on my job if I step back and see what happens. Of course I don’t mean allowing anything to happen that might be dangerous to them. I’m talking about the natural learning process.

I learned that if you are always bailing them out, they never really learn the lesson that is important for success. The lesson they learn is that you will be there to bail them out. I needed to stop covering for them when they dealt with general education teachers. In fact, this caused lots of resentment from the general education teachers and didn’t help my relationship with them. Instead I needed to see what the problem was and work with the general education teacher to find a way for the student to suffer natural consequences and still not did a hole to deep that there was no way out. Sometimes when teachers work together, it is easier to find a solution for this.

Sometimes a student needs to see that they will really receive a failing grade if they don’t do the work. I can still be there for them and help them see how this is a consequence of their actions. In fact, I can help them see that they can change their behavior in order to avoid this consequence. I can still be there as an encourager without being an enabler.

What are some ways that you let your students suffer natural consequences and still keep them from giving up? Please share with me!

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'Crazy Humans!'
http://www.flickr.com/photos/8628862@N05/3000241819 by: John


mweisburgh said...

Great topic. It's so hard to know when to let kids (and others, too) make sub-optimal decisions, but decisions that are theirs.

I think schools systems have the same issue with the way they treat teachers. Prescribing lesson plans, testing, etc. takes away the whole sense of ownership and the ability to learn to teach.

VKT said...

That is a tough question. I have a stick system in kindergarten. If you pull three sticks, you have to pull a stick. It just about breaks my heart when a child gets three warnings and cries not to have to pull a stick...but...I know that they need parameters and consequences. I have seen teachers take it to the extreme though. I know one teacher who won't teach a skill over if the child gets it wrong. I don't agree with this philosophy. I feel a responsibility to find the strategy that will help a child learn. It may take more than one.

loonyhiker said...

@mweisburg I agree. Teachers need to work out things for themselves too. I think we get complacent because we are so used to someone telling us every step to take and we stop thinking for ourselves.

loonyhiker said...

@VKT I'm not sure I understand your stick system. Could you explain it further? It sounds interesting.