Saturday, June 3, 2017

It's good to be wrong

Depot students having a blast during fitness block.
"I feel like you treat us like delinquents. I feel like we're always being watched with suspicion."

We were sitting around the table, having a little conference. I had been sensing some negative vibes lately between the students and me, and so I called some of them together. The student who just spoke had been quiet, but he drummed up his courage and got right to the heart of the matter.

I was glad he did, because it's good to be wrong. That is, it's good to know you're wrong, because then you can change.

There had been several recent disciplinary incidents, and I had responded by taking away some privileges. On top of that, this year we've vastly increased accountability at the Depot. We added the CHIPS incentive system, ALEKS math block, competency ratings and progress tracking, and careful credit accounting. All this came together to generate lots of stress and negativity. The kids in the meeting had also complained about the Chips and how some students may not be able to go on the outing to Lake Compounce.

As I listened to what they had to say that day, I knew they were right. I knew the importance of focusing on support--that accountability is a poor driver of improvement, but I had lost focus. We had increased support along with the increased standards, but it wasn't enough, and according to our recent school climate survey, compared to last year at this time, more students felt like we don't care.

Time for a course correction. As Brian Tracy says, an airliner is almost never heading straight for it's destination. It's constantly correcting its course. It's constantly wrong, but the pilots know it, and they constantly adjust.

So I reinstated the privileges I had taken away. I reduced the Chips requirement for the latest reward outing, and finally, I made it easier to get math credit through the ALEKS system.

This last adjustment was the result of me looking more closely, after that little conference, at the sources of stress on the kids. I suspected that a few of the behavioral incidents and the slow accumulation of reward Chips were actually due to kids struggling with their math. They were nearing the end of their courses, and only the most difficult topics were left.

It may be coincidence, but since I adjusted the ALEKS requirements, there has been a notable change in behavior and attitude among a few of the students I had been concerned about, and spirits, in general, have been higher since the changes.

Lesson learned.

Being wrong is good stuff.