As parents and educators, every one of us attempts to encourage the children in our charge toward their greatest potential achievements. Personally, I have thought about being a father and an educator for most of my life. And I know for many of us, our influence upon children and students is our magnum opus – our great work. Assuredly we have a very satisfying and challenging role to play and we all want to be the best possible parent and educator.
As loving parents, we all have moments when we ask ourselves, “How am I doing?” It is tempting to compare ourselves to others, but it is more advantageous to compare our current actions to our own measuring stick of how we would ideally like to represent ourselves.
I imagine that you, like me, have a highlight reel in your mind of when you were at your best…giving or saying just the right thing, being a disciplined role model, preparing nutritious meals, and patiently doing and saying what needed to be done and said. Conversely, we all have a blooper reel as well… a series of stumbles and missteps making us mentally wince because we did not do or say what needed to be said or done at the right moment with the right tone and emphasis for the most cherished people in our lives.
In a family with more than one child, a parent may need to explain expectations firmly and repeatedly to the oldest child -perhaps offering rewards and/or consequences; while another child in the same family can easily weave parental expectations into their daily lives without needing any other positive or negative reinforcement. Every family member acts and reacts a bit differently and we learn to accept these personal nuances in order to live together happily and civilly.
Similarly, a classroom feels like a family- except a bigger family with more personalities and a wider range of experiences and perceptions.
At Classical School, staff members are encouraged to employ a technique called Warm and Strict from Doug Lemov’s book, “Teach Like a Champion,” in order to create balanced classrooms filled with happiness and rigor.
A teacher can be caring, funny, warm, concerned, and nurturing – but also strict, by the book, relentless, and sometimes inflexible. Consider the difference between “You must serve the consequence for being late” with “Because I care about you, you must serve the consequence for being late.”
When the Warm/Strict technique is being utilized effectively, educators will do the following:
• Explain to students why they are doing what they are doing
• Distinguish between behavior and people
e.g. Teachers should say, “Your behavior is inconsiderate” rather than “You’re inconsiderate.”
• Demonstrate that consequences are temporary.
e.g. After giving a consequence, smile and greet student naturally to show that student has a clean slate.
• Use warm nonverbal behavior
While Warm/Strict is a technique that we use at Classical School, there might be times that you as a parent feel that a staff member is being a little too lenient or a bit too harsh with your son or daughter. Complaints such as these are quite infrequent, yet are not unprecedented.
When I read the comments made by parents in last year’s survey, I was gratified to read so many complimentary and validating remarks by parents regarding our school, curriculum and staff. However, a minority of remarks were critical of our staff, including myself, and I want those parents to know that the Classical School Board and administration take their thoughts and concerns seriously.
With that being said, if you ever have a concern, feel free to communicate directly with that staff member as the first step of the Appleton Area School District’s complaint procedure. Sometimes, parents are worried that speaking directly to a staff member will somehow negatively impact their child or their own relationship with that staff member. I have never seen this fear become reality. Rest assured that speaking directly with someone is the best and most positive path toward change and understanding. We all want to increase the footage on our mental highlight reel and avoid any bloopers. Your perspectives and willingness to engage in meaningful dialogue help us all become closer to our ideal selves.
The staff at Classical School have your children’s interest foremost in their hearts and minds.
Thomas L. Bomann
Principal, Classical School