Children learn how to make good decisions by making decisions, not by following directions.
 Alfie Kohn


November is here! The trees are losing their leaves, the colder nights are here and interesting behavior is surfacing on the playground and in the classrooms, and I am receiving e-mail inquiries as to how children are adjusting and if they are learning anything. Yes, we are settled into the school year and moving from uncertainty toward definition.

Our community approaches each year with gusto and anticipation for a new beginning; ideas, goals and optimism. It’s exciting. Unfortunately, it’s not sustainable!

What happens? For most, the routine of daily work and expectations is easily embraced. Others may need consistent guidance and an environment that offers opportunities to make better decisions.

After the newness of the beginning of the school year wears off, the day-to-day reality of school sets in. Students can resist connecting to their work, following school routines and expectations because they are uncertain, not yet fully committed. Some reasons for this could be:

    • Confidence – the work is challenging (I want to be successful)
    • Connection – struggles with social interactions (I want to be heard)
    • Capability – feeling powerless (I want to be good at something)

How and What Questions are an effective tool to help children think about what they are doing and how they can do things better. For instance,

  • What happened?
  • What’s going on?
  • What was your original plan?
  • How do you feel about what happened?
  • What could you do next time?
  • What steps can you take to get your work done?
  • What ideas do you have to …
  • How can I help you?

These questions provide a clear interactive process of slowing down, thinking things through, understanding why things happened and how different choices can lead to different outcomes. The goal is to get children to talk so they can solve their own problems. This is a process, not a remedy, it requires practice and repetition.

This is where our deeper work lies – there are lessons here for all of us.


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