Soft Skills: Choices and Consequences

Soft skills is a word that’s thrown around pretty regularly at my school, so when I saw this week’s (ok last week’s) #MTBoSblogsplosion theme was soft skills I didn’t think I would have too much trouble coming up with something to write about.  Once I started thinking about it though, I struggled to think of things I thought were “worthy” of writing about because I know it’s nothing new.  I also doubted myself for doing many of them.  Am I just being a crab about some of those things? Do I just need to let it go?

  • It’s not uncommon for me to say at the start of a class before the bell rings to a student or group of students when they walk in the room extremely loud, “Why don’t you leave the room and come back in an appropriate way.”
  • As students are transitioning from their desks to groups, I’m known to say, “Alright, everyone back to their desks.” and before they even sit down typically at least one student already has their hand raised because they know I will ask, “Now why did I have you go back to your desks?”
  • When a student says to me something like, “I don’t have a pencil.”  My response is always, “Ok, so what are you going to do about it?” rather than responding to the unasked question.
  • As often as I can, I try not to let a student interrupt me when I’m working with a another student or talking to a teacher.  Even if the conversation was essentially over when the student interrupted, I will have the student return to their seat and purposefully continue the conversation with the teacher -even if that means explaining why I’m continuing to talk when we were done talking.

There have been so many times this year that I have been frustrated over some of those non-math things that come up.   I know those things are important, but I’ve asked myself at times if it’s worth it to continue to pour my energy into those things when they don’t even directly involve math.  One time I was talking with a colleague about some of my frustrations, and he made the comment that I’m teaching them how to be people.  That struck me.  I needed to hear someone else say out loud what I knew was true -that those things are important and worth putting time and energy into.  I love how Liz Mastalio words it, “Honestly, the math is secondary”.  (I also love how she does Friday questions with her students.  It’s similar to Sara Van Der Werf’s name tents.  I might have to try that out sometime!)

Choices and Consequences.  That is the underlying idea in many of the soft-skill related things I do with my students.

If you would have told my younger self that choices and consequences would be something I would repeat to my students, I would have rolled my eyes at you.  I heard that from my parents all. the. time.  And I now understand why.

That is not an idea that comes naturally to most middle school students.  They struggle to see the connection between their own actions and the consequences -whether those be positive or negative.  As often as I can when having conversations with students, I try to ask questions to help them realize and how their own actions connect to the consequence. I want them to be the ones to actually verbalize it rather than me.

Then there was this day.  This is still one of my most favorite days ever as a teacher.  I think all students left my room that understanding that if they made the choice to engage themselves in class, the consequence was that they might actually enjoy it.  🙂




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