Over the past few weeks I have been writing about the virtuous cycle that begins once students develop higher personal standards and expect more from themselves. This virtuous cycle has been on my mind quite a bit lately, and I have started to discuss the idea more explicitly and more frequently with my students.
This past Tuesday I shared with my class an example of this phenomenon in action. To make this story relevant, I wanted to feature a student from this yearâ€™s class. There are many current students I could have featured, and I decided to focus on one girl whose improvement this year has been phenomenal. (She is one of the two children I mentioned in Part 1 of this blog series.) This girl is usually extremely quiet in class, and it is nice to shine the spotlight on a student who seeks no attention for herself. It is very easy sometimes for quiet kids to go unnoticed, and I make a concerted effort not to let this happen.
Privately, I asked her in advance if she would give me permission to share her story with the class (even the struggles), and she willingly agreed. Her face lit up a few minutes later when I introduced the story to the class. I told everyone that we have been talking a great deal about setting high personal expectations this year and that I wanted to feature one of our students who has done exactly that.
I explained that in the beginning of the year, Jessica (not her real name) had some difficulty taking responsibility for her homework and even missed a few important writing deadlines. She and I had a meeting with her parents about this situation, and then things changed. She began taking school more seriously and working harder. The quality of her work improved, and she began to receive positive feedback from her parents and from me. She began to feel proud of herself, and her confidence grew. The cycle then continued. Her initial success, combined with the positive feelings the success produced, led her to work harder, which made the work better. The feedback became more positive, and the feelings of pride and confidence grew.
All of this happened because she decided she wanted more for herself. She wanted to do better. Her success didnâ€™t happen because of her parents or because of me. It happened because she made a choice and followed that choice up with consistent action.
The other kids were very happy for Jessica when I shared this story.
I try to do everything possible to create a cooperative classroom environment, and I never want my kids to compete with one another. I never want my kids to think that they are doing better than anyone else or are ahead of anybody else. I do think, though, that kids can learn from one anotherâ€™s example. If one student raises the bar - with regard to the quality of work, effort, or behavior - that can encourage everyone else to perform at a higher level.
It is my sincere hope that the other students, who have not yet made the choice that Jessica has made, become inspired by her triumphs and decide that they are ready and willing to make this same choice.