A lesson from a wise parent

I spent last week in Vancouver. Beautiful city.

Vancouver seen from the English Bay Seawall. http://www.stare.ca

Walking down Granville street, we heard a familiar and unwelcome sound: a small child screaming from within a shop. It only took a few seconds to figure out what was going on. A child, maybe 4 or 5 years old, didn’t want to leave the shop for one reason or another. The mother, likely fed up, simply walked out of the shop onto the street. She got the desired reaction.

The child screamed in terror, ran out into the street and caught up with the rest of the family. We’ve seen and heard this scene hundreds of times. I braced myself for the inevitable lecture. “You see what happens when you don’t come along. We’ll leave you behind next time. What were you thinking? Blah Blah Blah.”

But it didn’t happen.

The mother smiled and held out her hand. “Would you like to walk with us?”

The child wiped away a tear and held out her hand. Her mother took her hand, and they both smiled.

It was fantastic.

How many times does a student arrive late, misbehave or whatever and the teacher cannot resist the urge to lecture? It does no damned good and we all know it. On Granville street, as soon as the mother walked out the door, the child knew that she had done wrong. No words could make the point any more strongly. In fact, words would have weakened the case. Every child recognizes the difference between being corrected and being browbeaten. And every child resents a browbeating.

When a student arrives late to class, welcome her or him. Acknowledge their arrival–they know they’re late, and they know that you know. Invite the student to sit quickly and quietly and to join the class. If further intervention is necessary, do it later. Whatever you’re doing is important; don’t interrupt it with unnecessary conflict. Conflict is bad for everyone.

What’s more, the late student recognizes that she/he is welcome and that class is a good, welcoming, safe place to be. I can make no guarantees, but I’m confident that welcoming will do more for student timeliness and attendance than conflict every could.

Granville street at night. (The story was mid-afternoon, but this is prettier.) http://www.traveltocanadanow.com

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