I'll begin today with a few recent pictures:
We're growing lettuce in our apartment window. We attempted to grow it in our garden but quickly discovered that slugs REALLY like lettuce. YUCK! So we are attempting to grow it in pots! Here's a pic of our sweet little lettuce...lett-i? What is the plural of lettuce, anyway? Lettuce, I think...
Secondly, my summer officially began a few days ago. On day one of my break, I managed to pop these out. I expect to be 300 pounds by next week:
Now onto the purpose of my post. I've been thinking a lot about a phrase that I once heard spoken by a very wise man, whom I'll simply call "The Dr.". In response to something wonderful done by another person, he said to him/her, "THAT is what I LOVE about you." On the surface level, this can be interpreted plainly as his expression of thanks towards the kindness of another. However, this wise man is also a very wise teacher, which implies that there is a deeper intention behind his statement.
Not only is he saying "thanks", he is also administering positive reinforcement, which we all need on a very deep level in order to grow with confidence, yet frequently fail to recognize. Not only is he administering positive reinforcement, he is acknowledging and suggesting social acceptance of a person for their positive attributes. These are all teaching skills that can and should be used more frequently in our daily lives.
As a society, we Americans have accepted a norm that is focused on drama, fear, and negativity. Our nightly news very rarely covers any "good" news, and if it does, it is shown at 5am. Perhaps we simply are not recognizing the positive attributes of those around us. If we are, we are surely not telling them that "that is what we love about them."
I'll never forget the first time the wise teacher said that to me. I had done something small, that on any other occasion would not have been recognized. On this occasion, it was recognized and announced, not that I was a good person for having done what I did, but that what I did made me a valid member of the group. "That" was why they loved me. I felt accepted, validated, worthy. Isn't this what we all want? Acceptance.
While teaching this summer, I decided to use these words in combination with a strategy to enhance the social skills of a student with disability. My college social skills class had encouraged me to promote the student's social acceptance (for which he had very little) by acknowledging something GREAT that he had done in front of his peers. Apparently, research has shown that students with social skill deficits can enhance their skill set if an adult (especially one that is respected by the student's peers, as well) vocalizes acceptance of this student in front of his peers. Because I was teaching dance in a public school, this was a simple task to take on. The MOMENT I saw the child follow one of my movement directions, I asked him to come to the front and be my assistant because he was dancing "with excellence."
Now, I've seen excitement, and I've seen pride, but I've NEVER seen emotion like he showed. Surprise, fear, excitement, and confusion was painted on his face and carried through his movements as he wandered up to the front of the class. I don't think this child had ever been told that he did good in front of his peers. I'm sure his teacher had told him that he did well every now and again, but he is in a special education class with 4 other students. In dance, he was with 20 peers...his entire general education class. As he walked up to me, his peers were clapping for him, and I saw it....PRIDE. He performed the dance move with me while his peers watched. Applause! Jumping up and down, throwing his hands in air, this child not only felt like he belonged, he felt like he had something to give to his society. PRICELESS.
When the applause had settled, I took his hand (this child craves physical attention due to the lack of ANY attention at home; although we aren't supposed to do that in the schools...shhh...don't tell) and shook it high in the sky as if he had won a big race. Then I asked the class, "What was EXCELLENT about his dancing?" The class gave 3 or 4 responses, all of which made his smile widen further. To their responses, I simply said, "Those are some of the things that we love about him." (I'm also pretty sure we aren't supposed to say that we love a child in the public schools). Later that day, I witnessed the student playing with kids on the playground with whom he had NEVER played.
Thank you, wise teacher, for giving me the words to say and the personal experience to know their power.