Friday, December 30, 2011

How to Talk so Kids Can Learn

Just read an amazing book, which is actually a sequel to another, I'm assuming, equally amazing book:

This book has potential to change how my classroom functions. I feel like I already do some of the things these two ladies talk about, such as:

- acknowldeging the child's feelings with a word or sound, i.e. "I see" or "mmm-hm."

- criticizing without wounding, praising without demeaning (or, describe what you observed instead of judging it, and allow the individual to evaulate.)

But there are many things that were, let's say, "common-sensical", and easy to apply, that I have never thought of. And I love these ideas! It is all about acknowledging the child as a person equal in dignity to teachers/parents/adults, even if they are not equal in experience or knowledge.

Now...some of you might be like I am, more of a "children need to know their place, this society gives children an inflated sense of worth" kind of deal (wow, that sounds sort of harsh when I write it out...I hope you know from this blog how much I treasure my children...) But, as parents and even as community, we have a responsibility to our children to raise them with a sense of respect, a sense of how to treat people, and a sense of humanity in relating to their fellow creatures. Where do they learn that from? From how the people they look up to treat them. For the most part, our previous generation talked to us in orders and requests for such-and-such activity, not giving much importance to our feelings in the matter. Whether said feelings hindered or encouraged our part in said activity was no concern to them, so long as they could force us to get things done.

Fast forward to our generation now teaching the new generation of children, and we inately fall back on the techniques when things aren't going well - sarcasm, belittlement, dismissing the child's feelings, threatening, prophecying (you'll never become a hard worker by...(fill in the blank)). This book suggests giving credence to the child's feelings, you open up communication and create relationship with the child to allow for better and fuller instruction.

In essence, what I gleaned from the book is: Love one another.

Yep...create relationship with the children you teach, the children you mother/father, any children you have some sort of influence on. You need to do more than teach them, order them around, show them the way. The way to help them grow best is by showing them how to be the best person they can be, and this is accomplished through acceptance of their innermost selves as valid. Give them their dignity. Allow them to question, complain, laugh, discover. Allow them to show us what they actually think and what they are actually struggling with that fogs their minds and hinders their focus on school or whatever the task at hand is. Just as adults have a hard time leaving our troubles at the door, children have an even harder time, as they don't have years of experience behind them of this learned behavior.

If you are a parent or teacher or someone who deals with children regularly, I highly recommend reading this book. It's prequel "How to Talk so Kids will Listen and How to Listen so Kids Will Talk" was a bestseller, and is one that I am going to read very soon. I found "How to Talk so Kids Will Learn" refreshing and an easy read, as well as a good reminder of how to treat even "the least of these."

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