Valuing or Devaluing – The Choice IS Ours

Jun 21st, 2010 | By | Category: Thoughts

In any relationship, all parties have choices involving whether to value or devalue others. When we consider Emerson’s thought that “the ancestor of every action is a thought”, we realize that it is our thoughts that determine our actions and our words . . . and that we do have a choice about what we think.

Conventional wisdom tells us that actions are stronger than words. Yet we also know that words can be delivered “out of sync” with the actions that accompany or follow.  In addition, it is commonly known from research and practical experience that undesirable behavior can be stopped by negative comments, but changed in a lasting way only with positive ones . . . delivered frequently.

There was a study many years ago (source unknown) that involved tallies of comments between parents and their children in their homes for a period of time. Results indicated that parents comments were more negative than positive – a ratio of 13 negative to every positive comment. The data gathering then shifted to a school setting, with tallies of commentary between teachers and students in a typical classroom revealed a 3:1 ration of negative-to-positive. Much better than in the home environment, but still more negative than positive. The research study went on to look at what it took in classrooms to balance off the 13:1 negative ratio when children came so school, and found that it took 8 positive comments for every single negative one . . . quite a lofty undertaking just to even things out!

The thoughts that drive the decisions of “what to notice” have a profound impact on our ability to “value” effort in our students. When we choose to notice and comment on what is “good” more often than commenting on what “isn’t”, changes begin to happen.  Amazing changes can result in students when teachers begin to notice and comment on the positive aspects of any effort . . . attitudes change, successes occur, and confidence & self esteem emerge. A side benefit of these changes is what has been determined to be the single most critical factor in a student’s success in school – their relationship with their teacher.

So what does “devaluing” look or sound like? First of all, it is negative . . . critical . . . judgmental . . . and involves “reacting”. Devaluing focuses on mistakes, what is wrong, or what doesn’t match up to a preconceived idea of the “right” answer. Devaluing also comes from “reactive listening” . . . which actually doesn’t involve much listening at all – just reactions that can be defensive and “fault-listing” .

Valuing is “responding”. It looks and sounds positive and comes out of noticing the efforts students make (the process) and the effort vs. the outcome. Responding involves turning mistakes & misunderstandings into “teachable moments” and setting the stage for “connecting the dots” in a supportive and enabling way. Valuing also comes from active listening and responding to what students say in a non-judgmental way.

Making a conscious choice to respond – to notice and comment on what “is” rather than what “isn’t” – can go a long way in establishing positive student-teacher relationships.  Just remember that we all have the power to choose our thoughts before we speak or act . . . and the actions that follow matches the thoughts we choose.

© 2010  Dave Krupke  All Rights Reserved

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2 Comments to “Valuing or Devaluing – The Choice IS Ours”

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