Two weeks ago in my post, “Spring Break,” I stated how I was perceiving that things appeared to be settling down in my classroom now that we have been back in school for a few days, only to jinx it and have things fall apart again that Thursday. This past week, it was perceived by the rest of the world that things are falling apart between North Korea and South Korea as tensions continue to rise between the two neighboring countries. However, if you listen to the news casts, people in South Korea appear to be going about their lives in a business-as-usual fashion. This past Monday, everyone’s perception changed regarding the safety of running the world-famous marathon in Boston. I couldn’t help but be reminded of my student Henry, from a few years ago.
Henry’s perception of his behavior was very different from how the rest of the world saw him (but, isn’t that true for most of us?) I’ve been told for years that I talk too much, and I do, but it took years to understand what people were saying to me (and even though I have worked at not doing this as much, I mess up when I am with family and friends). The reason we do not see ourselves as others see us is because “it is just what we do and who we are.” Gandhi said, “…your actions become your habits, your habits become your values, and your values become your destiny…” So, when any of us habitually engages in the same behaviors, we don’t see them as problematic because they are just part of who we are (and who wants to view himself as having a problem?). I highly recommend the book, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business
by Charles Duhigg. This book is an excellent resource for anybody, but especially for teachers and parents trying to understand the how and the why of habitual negative behavior and how to stop it and change it. For years, I have taught that if we don’t conscientiously replace a bad behavior with a good behavior, we will subconsciously pick up another bad behavior to replace it.
Twenty-plus years ago, I had a friend quit smoking. He announced his decision while several of us were camping and we all supported him in this decision. During the conversation, I asked him what he was planning to replace smoking with, and he said, “Nothing, I’m simply going to quit.” I went on to explain the concept of conscientiously replacing a bad behavior with a good behavior or a substitute “bad” behavior is sure to ensue. Everyone thought I was being too “school-teacher-ish,” so I backed off. Later that night, I told my husband that I gave our friend a year or less before he either started smoking again or until he picked up another bad behavior. Within six months, he was chewing tobacco, and he has never stopped. I can name case after case where this has happened. And if you think about it, you probably can, too.
So, let’s get back to Henry and his inability to see his own behaviors. He could talk out in a period of 30-minutes up to thirty-seven times. It drove everybody crazy. Yet, when it was brought to his attention, he would deny he was talking out. The definition was clearly stated as to what constituted a talk-out and this concept was explicitly taught to Henry, as well as the rest of my students. In my class, the definition of a talk-out is anytime the student makes noise with his/her mouth without getting the teacher’s attention and permission first (sneezing, coughing, etc. excluded). When he talked out, I would say, “That’s a talk-out,” and he would deny it. His perception was completely different than that of reality.
In order to change his habit and replace it with another more appropriate behavior, we had some work to do.
See you next week, when I will be telling more about how Henry did with this reshaping of behavior program, where he is now, and give examples of how we shaped his behavior to have almost zero talk-outs. In the next couple of weeks, I will be explaining how I go about putting this into a Behavior Plan.
Be kinder than necessary, be grateful, and have a peace-filled week,
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