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What is Sowed Today Reaps Dividends Tomorrow

March 22, 2019 - 4 minute read

sowing and reaping tomatoes

Something I still well remember from an early methods class was a professor lamenting schools being forced to devise too many guidelines, policies, and regulations to monitor student behavior. Her contention was schools were losing what was the essence of their focus–providing an engaging and rich learning environment–in lieu of coming up with excess rules to control student behavior.

Practical and Meaningful Rules

That thought left a lasting impression on me then and throughout my career. As a result I always tried to structure classroom and school-wide standards with a practical and meaningful purpose. My intent has always been to empower students and staff with what they could do rather than feeling constrained by what was forbidden.

An entrenched and well-known discipline policy needs to be in place; however, it does not have to be stifling and rigid. It can just as easily be sensible, affirmative, and growth based. It can teach and guide. It can be universal in its application. It can serve as a lifelong model evolving with changing settings and life stages. It can be simple to remember and relevant in its purpose. And above all it must be embedded with dignity and ethics.

NO is not the Answer

Creating a meaningful discipline plan that has buy-in and clout needs to be flexible, fair, and firm for both those implementing and those adhering to the guidelines. This best occurs when rules are kept succinct and direct and are posed in the form of a question. Thereby enabling the student to be more accountable for one’s own actions. By having personal culpability as the bedrock of a student’s thinking provides the student with a sound and reasonable method to assess his/her behavior. Living with a set of rules based on ”No” does not provide the opportunity for long-term personal development; however, designing rules around questions gives students a blueprint to follow.

There are four questions I contend that serve as the basis of such embracing standards. Is it safe? Is it kind and shows respect? Does it support learning? Does it protect property?

Four Questions–A Guide to Living a Productive Life

Each of these questions has, within it lifelong behavior maxims that will force students to consider options when navigating any setting encountered during the course of their life. And when answered honestly, these questions can further serve as a solid foundation to understand and assess how best to precede making proper choices.

Is it Safe is the basis of everything a person needs to consider when living productive and prosperous life. The degree of safety varies during the stages of one’s life; however, there is a constant that can be learned early and built upon as one matures. What is safe for an elementary student on the school playground differs greatly from what a teenager needs to consider when handling social pressures. The same holds true for adults that have a different set of considerations when making wise and sound decisions. What is imperative, though, is one must know the importance of safety and have the confidence to make responsible judgments when it is called for. Adults can’t be everywhere in a child’s world hovering over him/her. Kids must have the skills to determine what is appropriate based on its level of safety and how it will impact them and others.

Is it Kind and Shows Respect is a game changer when navigating the world’s social interactions. People that have a bounce in their walk, a smile on their face, and a positive disposition open more doors than someone who lacks these and other community-normed qualities. Acts of kindness seldom go unnoticed and are often the pathway to more constructive opportunities. Living with a set of kind and respectful principles gives a person a degree of dignity and poise that is missing in those who shun those attributes.

Kindness is given freely. Respect is earned through actions. Both are common traits in people who have self-assurance and belief in their convictions.

Does it Protect Property is a baseline tenet crucial to living a productive and prosperous life. Being haphazard and not taking care of personal items, lackadaisical in returning borrowed tools, misusing or abusing equipment and/or showing negligence in general can be devastating both financially and damaging to one’s personal reputation. Students need to know from the onset they are responsible for property–their own and others. Schools spend tens of thousands of dollars to buy books, equipment, supplies, current technological devices, etc., which need to last for years. Taking care of items that support a better working environment or providing recreational enjoyment is of the utmost priority—abuse it, you lose it.

Does it Support Learning follows a student far beyond his/her school years as it is also a mainstay in the work milieu. Being collaborative, valuing the input of others, building team synergy, etc. are essential characteristics to be relevant in the 21st century marketplace. Realizing the attributes akin to ‘supporting learning’– listening, sharing, validating, and promoting positive interactions–dovetails into being a productive member in the world of work. By embracing and imbuing these qualities as a student could be instrumental in paving one’s path to greater future success.

The Four Questions are not a panacea, however, when braided together they definitely serve as a solid base point to establish a plan to meet the changing and complex circumstances encountered in life. Being a critical thinker that is well tooled in the practice of using solid decision-making skills to guide judgment, could be the launching pad to living a fecund and meaningful life.

In a future article I will delve into the importance of students understanding the difference between ‘Natural Consequences’ and ‘Logical Consequences’ to shape their behavior.

Thomas Cooper has been a lifelong educator for nearly 50 years and over his career he has gained a wealth of insights and innovations that he wants to pass on. Currently, he is the Director of the Professional Resource Center at Concordia University Irvine.

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