Are your students getting bucky in February??? Lay some VERBAL PRAISE COUPONS on them!

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I was a bit tapped yesterday when I strolled into 8th period.  February is a rough month. All the novelty of the school year and the winter season have long disappeared.  The students and my colleagues have gotten (as my mom used to say…A BIT BUCKY!)

But yesterday, as I hustled into class, I was greeted with a student’s smiling face, and this coupon.  PLEASE LET ME EXPLAIN!  Twice a semester, I’ll copy a number of these coupons, bring them to class, and distribute them for various acts or dispositions:

  • Perhaps, a student excelled on an assignment
  • Perhaps, a student made a wonderful contribution to class
  • Perhaps, a student was a good citizen
  • Perhaps, a student encouraged a peer
  • Perhaps, a student was kind and helpful to a classmate
  • Perhaps, a student wore an outstanding outfit

I will then present this young person with a VERBAL PRAISE COUPON that can be redeemed at a time of her choosing.

Now rest assured, the first time you do this, you’re going to be greeted with a lot of mystified, or perhaps hostile, expressions!!!  If you’re adept at body language, you’ll probably interpret some those non-verbal signals:

What’s this crazy $@#!& doing now? Why in the %$#@ do I want a verbal praise coupon?

Also, don’t be surprised, or discouraged, if you find some of your freely given coupons on the floor or in the recycling bin after class!  DON’T LET THAT SHAKE YOU!  A significant portion of the students will tuck them way and redeem them.

I’ve also found, the second and third time you do this, the students become much more engaged and cooperative.  So, try it a few times, but just not very often!  Maybe, a couple of times a semester.

Oh…back to my student yesterday.  I can’t adequately express what her act did FOR ME!  I was having kind-of-a stressful day.  When she presented her coupon…my face was instantaneously creased with an award-winning smile!  I just laughed and laughed!  Then, I complimented her on her beautiful sweater and learned it was a Christmas gift.  We became closer because of my stupid little coupon.  I’ve found such interactions offer a wonderful segue into bonding with kids!!!  And, my pre-class stressed out disposition ended up in the recycling bin instead of an unwanted coupon…all thanks to a scrap of paper!

Please give this easy, fun, low risk method a try!

If you’d like to learn more about connecting with students, check out my book “You’ve Gotta Connect”

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You can also listen to me talk about connecting with students on the following podcasts:

Talks With Teachers with Brian Sztabnik http://bit.ly/1DwrNMu

Inspiring Educators with Sung Lee http://bit.ly/1yaBkpe

Cult of Pedagogy with Jennifer Gonzalez http://bit.ly/1sFSbBl

Principal Center Radio with Justin Baeder http://bit.ly/1yXcN89

All Sides on NPR’s WOSU 89.7 with Ann Fisher http://bit.ly/1wO2GDX

Middle School Matters http://bit.ly/1uO0dUh

Please visit my website http://jamesalansturtevant.com/ and follow me on Twitter @jamessturtevant

CHALLENGE: You have 24 hrs to craft a video/Valentine for your students. Yes, I think you should add EARTH WIND & FIRE!

Watch the 55 second video, and hopefully, be inspired!

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If you’d like to learn more about connecting with students, check out my book“You’ve Gotta Connect”

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You can also listen to me talk about connecting with students on the following podcasts:

Talks With Teachers with Brian Sztabnik http://bit.ly/1DwrNMu

Inspiring Educators with Sung Lee http://bit.ly/1yaBkpe

Cult of Pedagogy with Jennifer Gonzalez http://bit.ly/1sFSbBl

Principal Center Radio with Justin Baeder http://bit.ly/1yXcN89

All Sides on NPR’s WOSU 89.7 with Ann Fisher http://bit.ly/1wO2GDX

Middle School Matters http://bit.ly/1uO0dUh

Please visit my website http://jamesalansturtevant.com/ and follow me on Twitter @jamessturtevant

SARCASM…The Not So Silent Killer

The Oxford English Dictionary describes sarcasm as a form of irony that is bitter or cutting, being intended to taunt its target.  According to Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary, sarcasm evolved from the Greek word sarkasmos, which means to tear flesh.  It’s time to understand the lethal nature of this tactic.

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Unfortunately, many teachers frequently use sarcasm.  It’s an understandable response borne out of some type of frustration.   Please don’t let it be a staple of your repertoire.

Here’s a typical scenario:

Educator: “Hey Johnny.  Do you have your assignment?”

Johnny: “No!  I was too busy texting my girlfriend.”

Educator: “Wow!  That’s really going to prepare you to compete in the global  economy.”

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Everyone laughs at Johnny and his attitude.  Johnny even laughs, but Johnny knows, even though he displays ambivalence, he just got dissed!  He understands this is now part of his relationship with his teacher, and he will return the favor…BIG TIME!  More importantly, the teacher just reinforced, to the entire class, a negative image of this student.  Sadly, putting aside the arrogant exterior, Johnny’s insecurities just got a massive boost!  He’s probably thinking, Gosh,maybe it’s true…I AM stupid.  Or, I guess I AM irresponsible.

All the other students are now on notice.  It’s clear, that in this classroom, the teacher has no problem making them look bad in front of their peers.  Is this the kind of atmosphere you want to create?

Now, I don’t want to try to come off to Zen-like on this issue.  I’ve taught for 30 years, and I HAVE occasionally engaged in sarcasm with my students.  But I can assure you…IT NEVER ENDED WELL!   The temporary high of making a witty snarky comment at some student’s expense was not worth the damage it did to that youngster, nor the negative impact on the nurturing atmosphere that I’ve always hoped to create in my classroom.

You might think I’m making too much of this, but engaging in sarcasm is a vice, and it needs to be recognized as such.   Like all vices, it feels awesome at the time, but the after-effects can be unsavory.  Most carbon-based lifeforms have tremendous tolerance for their own vices.  I view mine as no big deal, but I’m not sure my friends and family agree.  So sarcasm, if it’s used it all, must be employed sparingly, and directed toward someone who won’t take offense, or be injured by it.

If you’d like to learn more about connecting with students, check out my book “You’ve Gotta Connect”

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You can also listen to me talk about connecting with students on the following podcasts:

Talks With Teachers with Brian Sztabnik http://bit.ly/1DwrNMu

Inspiring Educators with Sung Lee http://bit.ly/1yaBkpe

Cult of Pedagogy with Jennifer Gonzalez http://bit.ly/1sFSbBl

Principal Center Radio with Justin Baeder http://bit.ly/1yXcN89

All Sides on NPR’s WOSU 89.7 with Ann Fisher http://bit.ly/1wO2GDX

Middle School Matters http://bit.ly/1uO0dUh

Please visit my website http://jamesalansturtevant.com/ and follow me on Twitter @jamessturtevant