Thursday, September 9, 2010


 By Olga LaPlante

There is never a shortage of accounts of how limited things are. While this may be disheartening or simply annoying, little attention is given to defining those limitations, because that is where finding solutions starts.

This is not news, I just feel that it is often understated.

For example, there is a problem with a program at a school, which at first made me quite upset. While getting upset and moving forward are not easily compatible, moving forward is more important. By seeing that my needs cannot be met efficiently right away, my choices became a) sticking with the existing program but accepting its limitations - and as a result compensating as much as I could for them - or  b) finding another program which may be freer of limitations.

I did my homework, I know my options, and I know the limitations. For the purpose of my involvement in the program, I am willing and able to compensate for them. Knowing the limitations has freed up my resources and my energy to focus on something else and not worry about the possible breakdowns as I made sure they are less likely to happen. There were a few weak links and it was up to me to follow through.

Once the limitations are known and are accepted, one is less susceptible to the fallouts from them. Getting frustrated is not productive, and quite draining; by accepting limitations, you lower your expectations - and from what I heard that makes you very happy.

By no means am I endorsing limitations. I am just reiterating the benefits of knowing them.

I have been reading a book, Thinkertoys, by Michael Michalko; in one chapter he presents the Phoenix Checklist. Some of the questions are, "What isn't the problem?" "Can you restate your problem? How many different ways can you restate it?" I like that. What isn't the problem? It's as if you are asking, "What are the limitations of the problem?" See? Limitations apply to both the good stuff and the bad stuff. And it's definitely rewarding to recognize that the bad things have their limitations, too.
Now, let's see if this can somehow be applied to this whole Common Core Standards debate...

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Collaborating With Kids

by Bob Keteyian

Too often, we try to solve behavior problems our kids are having without actively collaborating with the kids. We tell them what we want them to do and why, and expect compliance because what we want them to do is reasonable (to us). Sometimes this works and we get compliance, but is it really a “durable solution,” as Ross Greene would call it?

Ross Greene is a psychologist who specializes in helping kids and adults work together on problem solving that not only results in desired behavior change but actively teaches the child skills necessary to be successful in an on-going way. His most recent book, Lost At School offers a clear, usable format to help adults focus differently on solutions. In one way, the book title is deceptive—making it sound as though this is only about school related issues. It’s not: It’s an approach easily applied in any relationship. In fact I sent him an email acknowledging my use of these principles with adults—an approach that makes sense to him, too, which he validated in his response.

Kids want to behave well and do well. Generally, there is no real incentive to do otherwise. I realize there are exceptions, but they are exceptions. Kids inherently want to do the right thing, and most kids by the time they are in school know basic right from wrong. Often, however, they are lagging in the behavioral skills needed to be consistently successful and/or they have a totally different picture of a situation than the adults around them have.

Here’s an example: Eight-year-old Joel often refuses to do his school work and follow directions both at school and home. Whether he’s cajoled, rewarded, or punished, it makes no difference. Joel looks like and is treated like a stubborn, willful, defiant child. On closer examination and approaching this situation from the lagging skills perspective, another picture emerges. The fact is, Joel gets overwhelmed receiving auditory directions in a group situation. He can’t remember sequential things very well and has a poor sense of time (time estimation). These combined factors mean that Joel gets overwhelmed and feels stupid and embarrassed, as well as misunderstood. Working systematically with Joel on solutions to these individual problems over time had very good results.

Too often, we put a psychological spin on behaviors that are causing problems without accounting for a broader range of possibilities. I’ve written about this in other posts, commenting primarily from the communication styles (individual differences) perspective. Ross Greene’s work helps open our minds to connect better with kids (empathy is the first ingredient in his model), collaborate, teach, and respect one another. The result is durable solutions and stronger, trusting relationships.

Featuring the Work of Alan Sitomer

Alan Sitomer talks PBL (Project Based Learning) in the classroom

Alan Sitomer's 8 Tips for Teachers

Free Webinar with Alan Sitomer via eSchool News:

Sensibly Incorporating Technology in Today's Classroom: It's All About the Writing!

Date: October 12, 2010

Time: 2:00 pm EDT Duration: One hour 

Come spend an hour with BookJams author and California's 2007 Teacher of the Year Alan Sitomer as he hosts a webinar on how to sensibly incorporate technology and new literacies.

Your benefits of participating will include:
Understanding why the bells and whistles of technology will not replace the need for students to critically read, write and think
Seeing how cutting edge tech tools can (and should) coexist side-by-side with projects that can be done by candlelight.
Recognizing that successfully incorporating technology in today's classroom BEGINS WITH THE WRITING!
Getting comfortable with the idea that technology is evolving at such a rapid pace that there is no more "keeping up".
Re-conceptualizing our methodologies so that we can allow students to demonstrate their full capabilities without unnecessarily holding them back simply because we, the educators, do not have the same technological abilities that they, the students, possess.