Bright Future Campaign - Week 26 - Closing the Attitude Gap - Chapter 4

Bright Future Campaign - Week 26 - Closing the Attitude Gap - Chapter 4

How are you challenging yourself to the messages delivered each week during our review of "Closing the Attitude Gap" by, Principal Kafele? Are you finding the reflection powerful? Are you finding time to do it? Are you discussing it with others? 

Maybe you are interested in learning more from Principal Kafele or are interested in sharing his work with others. He can be found on:

Youtube: Search Principal Kafele as he has video messages for Young Men, Parents, Teachers and Aspiring Principals

If you want to review the past couple of weeks or are still searching for the time to sit down and begin the powerful reflection, you can find the past posts at the link below.

Chapter 4 of "Closing the Attitude Gap" is Compassion for Students - Do I Care About Them? 

Before reviewing chapter 4, look into your mirror and ask yourself the following questions about your students:

1. Do they perceive that I care about them? 
2. Do they perceive that I like them? 
3. Do they perceive that I appreciate them? 
4. Do they perceive that I respect them?
5. Do they perceive that I understand them?
6. Do they perceive that I have empathy toward them? 
7. Do they perceive that I am patient with them? 
8. Do they perceive that I treat them equally and fairly? 
9. Do they perceive that i am committed to them? 
10. Do they perceive that I fear them? 

As you will see as we work through chapter 4, it is not about what YOU think! It is about the perception YOUR students have about YOU! 

Principal Kafele stands on the foundation that we must express compassion for students and its given far too little attention by the education community. Students must feel and know that their teachers care about them if they are to succeed. As his book states, developing compassion for students requires building a relationship with them. (The reverse is true as well: Relationships without compassion are like plants without water - they wont last very long.) Your students must know they have a teacher who truly cares about them, who is in their corner, and who does not believe that quitting on them is ever an option. 

Showing Students That You Care About Them

​Principal Kafele speaks to educators around the world and one of the questions he asks is, "Raise your hand if they care about their students?" Of course, all the hands go up. He then proceeds to explore the question of perception. He reminds the audience we can claim to care about our students all we want, but the true test is whether or not they preceive that we care. Studetns will work hard and give their best when they know that their teachers care about them and their progress, because they are motivated to make their teachers proud. 

When Principal Kafele speaks with students in small groups, he likes to ask whether or not they feel their teachers are about them. It is astounding how many students respond that they do not feel their teachers care about them. Its painful to hear from so many students who do not feel their teachers are in their corner, regardless of how accurate their perceptions are. 

What would your students say about you? 

Showing Students That You Like Them

Do you like your students? Do you like them all? Are there any students in your classroom you do not particulary like? 

One question Principal Kafele is asked an overwhelming number of times is, "Can nonblack teachers effectively teach black students?" I would certainly add nonhispanic and hispanic students to that same equation at Sigler. His reposnse, "A teacher's race or ethnicity is NOT the issue. Effective teachers must, above all, like children - ALL children! 

Children know when they are not liked. Teachers may in fact like a given student very much, but the students perception is differnt and perception is what matters. 

Pay attention to the way your studnets react to you. Guage their percetions of whehter not not you like them. Studnets formulate an optionon as to whether or not you lie tmne based on how you trem them in the clssrooms. Do you demonstrate appreciate for them? Your actual interactiosn communicate more than your intended meaning. What you say and how you say it lets your sutdnets know exactly how you feel about them. 

Can I repeat that: What you say and how you say it lets your students know exactly how you feel about them. 

Lets take a real example we are walking through now at Sigler. BREAKFAST

I understand breakfast can be inconvenient for our teachers in their classrooms as students enter in after the bell and have yet to eat. It takes away from time in the classroom, but how can you argue with the research? When your student/s arrive late with breakfast in their hands, what perception does the student have about their teacher at that given moment? Do they feel they are a burden or do we make them feel welcome? Do students feel like we are about them? 

Thank you for making sure you care about your students! Care about them enough to make sure they get to eat breakfast each morning! 

Showing Students That You Appreciate Them

​Each student in your classroom brings his or her own special and unique characteristics, talents and challenges. Each student is different, but all of them are special. Each come with the ability to maximize their potential, based in large part on your ability to make solid connections with them. One way to do this is to show students you appreciate them. Easy to do with students who have ideal home lives and are already self-motivated, but what about the students who challenges outside of school manifest themselves in the classroom? What about the students who come to school unappreciated? We must pay regular attention to these students and show them through your interactions that you appreciate them for the work they do in the classroom as well as simply for being who they are. 

​If there is a student who poses a particular challenge for you, it is incumbent upon you to identify his good qualities and exploit them. You want to find excuses for letting the student know you appreciate him/her. Chances are that he hears more than enough criticism about this poor grades or behavior, he doesnt needs more of the same from you. Our role is to counter your criticisms of his negative behaviors with expressions of appreciate toward him. Speak to him in a way that makes him feel good about himself so that he begins to feel that his inappropriateness has no place in your classroom. Speak to him in a way that allows him to develop trust in his relationship with you and to know that he always has your support. Remember, what's key here is attitude transformation - closing the attitude gap in your classroom.
Showing Students That You Respect Them

Do you respect your students? Do your students respect you? Often times when students are misbehaving in the classroom one of these two questions, if not both are playing into the problem. We must be mindful of the interactions with our students. Anytime you shout at students, for example, you run the risk of alienating them and making them feel as though you do not respect them. Students want to feel respected, particularly by you in the presence of their peers; it is important for many of them to "save face" in front of classmates. 

Again, it is not what we say, it is what they perceive. In your interactions, you must demonstrate your respect for students through what you say and how you say it. 

Showing Students That You Understand Them

Principal Kafele is quick to remind his audience that life in urban environments is real. It is not some television show that resolves itself in an hour. It's real - this is students' lives. There is no switch that students can turn on and off. 

Do you understand your students' reality? Do they perceive that you understand them? 

I believe we have all encountered a student or two who we would consider an "angry" student. Kafele reminds us that some of our students return to neighborhoods and homes that we our selves could never imagine enduring. Of course they are angry! Who wouldn't be? Imagine what happens when angry children come into a classroom led by a teacher who doesn't understand the extent of their anger or where they anger is coming from. Your role is to make your classroom an oasis where students can temporarily remove themselves from their outside realities - where they can focus on their education so they can one day permanently escape those realities. You have to demonstrate to your students that despite the obstacles them may face every day, and despite the challenges that these obstacles pose for you and your mission as a teacher, you genuinely understand what they are dealing with inside and outside of school on a regular basis.

In closing out this week and showing you that the work Principal Kafele is sharing is just not his own understanding of the importance of connecting with students, I wanted to share an article with you that was shared with me via twitter. 

It was written by a 5th grade teacher in Wisconsin, whose name is Pernille Ripp. @pernilleripp for those of you on twitter; she is worth the follow. The name of the article is "I Don't Know What It Means to Be My Student".

Let's work hard this week on creating an oasis in the building for our students to escape the outside world and then on Thursday night, be ready to showcase our oasis to the parents who drop of their children each day. 

Matt Arend
Sigler Elementary