Bob Sullo

Consultant K - 12

Sandwich, MA


  • Posted 8 Years ago
  • 1.1k

"The Motivated Student" Archived chat 5-6

Carolyn, ASCD Moderator: Welcome everyone.  Bob should be here shortly

bob: Good evening, everyone

Steve G.: Hi Bob

bob: here's the thing: eveyone wants a "good relationship" with kids. Questions: are

 good relationships "necessary" or just "nice"

bob: do YOU define a good relationship.

Steve G.: I guess I had a question...

Steve G.: You talk about the surprise when that teacher didn't say she "liked" the


Steve G.: I guess my question would be do you have to "like" your students in order

 to teach them?

Nat: I do not think you have to like all your students, I think you have to learn to

 understand them and appreciate them for who they are

bob: i'm turning the tables on you, steve. do you think you need to like kids to teach


Steve G.: And what I mean by that -- sometimes at least I think, in order to teach

 kids, it's not about liking them so much as wanting the best for them.

guest903353: I agree

Steve G.: And helping them see a way, if they aren't so great as people, to get


guest903353: bob it's me shelley....still only here as a guest but i guess this is better

 than last week

bob: is "wanting the best for them" part of "liking them"? or are those two concepts

 completely independent

bob: welcome, shelley! you can change the nickname at the bottom if you want.

shelley: thanks

shelley: it worked!

Nat: I think they are connected to a point, what I mean is even if a student which I

 know I have had is not the most likeable, I still want to do what I can to help him/her

 develop into productive members of society

bob: i think there's a subtle but important difference between "liking kids" and always

 "liking" what they are doing.!

Nat: I agree

shelley: absolutely

bob: the teacher I refer to in ch 7 simply didn't seem to like kids much. period. it

 wasn't just that she sometimes found them annoying (that's true for most of us

bob: her thing was a deeper "disconnect"

bob: so switching it to that more general "liking kids" that essential?

bob: i believe it's essentail and say as much on p. 74

bob: it doesn't mean you'll become a great teacher, but if you are in love with your

 subject but don't like kids, i think you're doomed to a ceiling of mediocity. what do

 you all think?

shelley: I think what is essentiial is that you do that best that you can to teach and

 reach every kid......regardless if you truly like them or not

Steve G.: I think you are right on the one hand in terms of the way the teacher was

 inconsistent in her behavior -- she liked the kids when they behaved.

Steve G.: I think she had to be more even.

bob: exactly. her behavior was very "conditional" that's going to get you into a lot of

 uncomfortable situations when working with kids.

bob: on p. 75 I say "while good teachers don't condone off-task behavior, they never

 let (it) erode a positive working relationship."

Steve G.: You get into a ton of uncomfortable situations.

bob: equally true in the role of parent!

Steve G.: But I wonder if it's about "liking" the kids in her case. Did she seem like she

 wanted the best for them?

bob: so i'm still interested in your one-sentence definition of a "good relationship"

Steve G.: In other words, was it her attitude or was it her approach?

Nat: I think she liked and respected them for who they were

bob: i'm pretty certain she wanted the best for them. i think her "error" was that she

 thought that was enough and she didn't even consider developing a positive

 connection with kids

shelley: yes, sometimes you don't like what they are doing.....the choices that they

 are making........but you still like them.....just not some of ltheir choices

bob: maybe it can be reduced to her "approach." that would be nice because that

 puts it on a "behavioral" level and not a "values" level

bob: absolutely, shelley. there are times when we don't like the choice. but it doesn't

 change the fact that we honor and like kids

Nat: I agree

Steve G.: I agree too, that in order for her to be successful she needs a positive


bob: i keep asking about your definition of a "good relationship" because I think we

 use language loosely sometimes and erroneously believe that others mean the same

 thing when we use the same language.

shelley: and i understand so well, it can be difficult to seperate the

 two.....but we must

bob: it's not especially important for us in this chat, but if we worked together in the

 same school, it would be helpful if we had a common definition of a "good


shelley: It is necessary to make a conscious effort to do this

Nat: A good relationship with my students means that even if i am dissapointed in

 their action, the know the next day is a nw one

bob: shelley and i were in a "live" book chat e couple of hours ago and we talked a lot

 about the importance of being conscious and intentional in all we do.

shelley: true , each day is a new dawn and a new beginning

bob: thanks, nat.

shelley: yes respect, but trust as well

bob: respect is one of those "wonderful" words. do you and the students share the

 same definition of respect?

Nat: my students know i care about them regardless and there are days the tell me

 the hate me - my response is that is ok i still like you

shelley: your students must trust you and believe in you as you need to of them

Steve G.: Probably not. ††††††††††††††

bob: i've seen lots of behavior that i perceived as disrespectful and the kids had

 completely different perceptions.

Nat: mutual respect i believe is important

shelley: very tru Bob

Nat: absolutely bob - i see it daily in the 6th grade

bob: i endorse the idea of "mutual" but i always tell kids i will respect them and be

 honest with them regardless of how they choose to be with me.

Nat: absolutely

bob: kind of like nat telling kids he likes them regardless of what they say.

shelley: yes, since there is only one person that you can

bob: and i will not allow myself to be put into the victim box and being less honest

 than i want to be simply because someone else chooses to be less honest with me.

shelley: agrred

Nat: at first the don't believe me but when i prove to the through my actions the

 develope the respect that we believe the should have

shelley: most definitely agree with you Nat

bob: great point, nat. it DOES take time. but through actions you can develop the

 trust that builds positive working relationships

bob: chapter 8 is about relevance. talk about that. important? no big deal?

bob: the teacher in that chapter (Trish) is very intentional about creating relevant

 lessons. but some of her colleagues think it's "coddling" kids. what do you think?

Steve G.: There's no doubt it's important.

Steve G.: I think if you look at any brain research.

bob: this gets us into the area of "role." is it part of my job to create relevant


shelley: well, I think that when you show kids the "connect" and purpose for what

 they are doing, the particiapation and intereswt goes way up

Steve G.: It's not about coddling it's about what gets through to long-term memory

Nat: Shelley I agree.

bob: this is probably the absolute worst group to be asking! but...if it's so important,

 why do you think many teachers bristle at the suggestion that we create relevant


shelley: simply because they don't know how to

shelley: or they don't want to

bob: inmy experience, those teachers are not simply a small minority. there are lots of

 teachers who are quite comfortable saying that relevance is not particularly


Nat: many don't like change

shelley: because they come from a different school of thought that there way is the

 only way

bob: ok, shelley. like me, you've been an educator for awhile. what do you think it is?

 can't do it or don't want to?

shelley: we just need to show them that ther is in fact a better way

bob: cycles us back to realationships, doesn't it?

bob: if i get into a power struggle with a colleague and show them all the brain

 research, etc... they are likely to resist. but...

Nat: i agree steve

Steve G.: I would agree with all of you. But it takes work.

Steve G.: And that's probably the elephant in the room in our school (and maybe a lot

 of schools)

shelley: but we can bring them in if we allow them to observe us and our kids

 excitement about learning

bob: i don't agree! (not trying to be controversial) but i think that "unmotivated"

 teachers are no different from "unmotivated" kids...

Nat: absolutely i agree

shelley: you know that may be true for the old die hards

shelley: but some, want to change things for the better, they just don't know how

 because they are in a rut

bob: teachers often present as unmotivated but if they saw that they could be more

 successful by developing skills etc (like relevance and relationships) they'd begin to

 see that they would enjoy their jobs more.,..

Nat: I see and hear the same things from my colleagues when we share new ideas or

 new strategies that we see from our studnets when they are confused or don't see


bob: just as kids need to believe they can be successful with effort and see that

 success feels good, teachers need to believe they can be successful and feel better

 about themselves

shelley: yes, and truthfully, most of them want too!!

bob: of course. we all want to succeed and feel successful.

bob: too many teachers are just overwhelmed and don't have a clue where to begin.

 (just like their students.)

Steve G.: I have to say wish more teachers would be "motivated" to do more, but I

 even see that side in myself. "Do I need to do the extra mile here or there?" The

 impulse is there.

shelley: you know how you feel when you come back from a workshop ...feeling

 motivated to try new things??

bob: steve, thanks for your candor. let me ask you, do you feel the same lack of

 motivation when you believe that your efforts will result in feeling good?

shelley: well, that's how to get teachers on board

bob: say more, shelley.

shelley: by them seeing your success and happiness, they are going to want ideas

 from you so that they can feel similarly

shelley: it becomes somewhat contagious

bob: steve, i suspect your "lack of motivation" stems from a belief that it doesn't make

 any difference. I'll bet that you are super-motivated when you think your effort

 matters. am i right or off base???

bob: so shelley, you are talking about modeling things?

Steve G.: I'm not saying that I don't feel motivated to help the kids learn. I do. I think

 it's there's the effort on the margin. I think I try to do a good job and do all that I

 can. But sometimes it probably falls short on occasion

Steve G.: You're definitely right Bob. When I think it really can make a difference,


bob: well, i think most of us fall short on occasion. i know i do. that's not necessarily

 lack of motivation. that's human nature living with my shortcomings

shelley: yes but also when my kids are into lessons, all participating cooperatively and

 another teacher walks into the room,. they ask me, How come they are all engaged

 and the kids aren't going crazy

shelley: how come they are so involed

shelley: this is what i amtalking about

shelley: things such as this

bob: i think we're touching something big here, steve. as a former administrator, i

 wanted all my teachers to believe that their effort mattered. that's when they were


bob: i think we're touching something big here, steve. as a former administrator, i

 wanted all my teachers to believe that their effort mattered. that's when they were


shelley: Nothing is ever achieved without some kind of enthusiasm

bob: shelley, you're getting into something we talked about earlier today. i think many

 teachers can hear/learn things more easily from a colleague than an administrator.

 (same with kids teaching each other).

Steve G.: And really, maybe that's just a good day/bad day thing.

shelley: yes, i always appreciate things when they are said by another teacher

bob: sure, steve. some of it probably can be tossed aside as good day/bad day. but i

 stil think a lot will come down to feeling like the effort matters.

shelley: when it comes from an administrater, it can be taken differently

shelley: I know this is sometimes the case with me

bob: sure. there is a power differential when it's administrator and teacher. (funny,

 we all "get" this when we talk about teachers and admin...but it's the same with

 teachers and students!)

Nat: In my experience when it comes from a colleague depending on who you are,

 anamosity can emerge because there is not a positve relationship or mutual respect

 amongst colleagues

shelley: you know bob, sometimes I am teaching and a kid is just not getting it, and

 when another kid explains it in "Kid Language" the light bulb goes on

Steve G.: I do think what I do makes a difference. I think the same cannot be said for

 other colleagues though and it gets back to what we discussed a couple weeks ago.

 What if it's just you pushing to try to make things better. But no one else is

shelley: and then i just laugh and say, "Why didn't I just say it likje that?"

Nat: That happens in my classroom  -  but it is usually me explaining it for the kids in

 more friendly terms because my co-teacher is very old schooll and uses vocabulary

 the students just don't get.

bob: great (and unanswerable!) question steve. i think we each need to decide who

 we want to be and if we can be that in our current situation.

shelley: You can only change one person.... that is you......don't concern yourself

 with them right now.....Just do what yo think is right and best for you

bob: so this provides a decent seque into ch 9: realistic expectations.

shelley: They are only doing what is need satifying for them at that moment.......and

 when they finally see the spark or the light, that things can be better and nmore

 need satisfying doing it another way, then they will try something new or different

Steve G.: Definitely Bob (and shelley)

bob: do we put realistic expectations on ourselves? how do we maintain realistic

 expectations for kids, especially with high stakes testing and the standards craze?

Nat: I always tell my students I have high expectations for myself as well as for them

 and my goal for them is see them reach high above my expectations.

Steve G.: I'm a big believer in setting expectations and making kids stretch. It's the

 one way for them to learn. They don't really learn if they don't stretch and go

 beyond what they know

Nat: I tell them everyday how smart they are and how they can achieve anything - I

 make it absolutely clear "I believe in them" even when they don't believe in


shelley: yes Nat

bob: they believe you?

shelley: so many times kids lose  sight of this simply because they are kids,,, so they

 do need to be reminded from time to time

bob: i see too many kids who feel overwhelmed by expectations they believe they

 can't meet.

Steve G.: Bob, I'd like to hear about that. I think there is fine line between pushing

 and too much. Where is that line?

shelley: we need to keep it real and accessable

bob: my belief is that kids will work hard whenthey see the relevance of the work and

 believe success is attainable. agree?

shelley: all of the time so they don't lose sight of things and become discouraged

Nat: Absolutely bob,

bob: that's why i make a big deal out of emphasizing "growth" as opposed to


bob: i'm not sure every kid can meet the standards we set. but i am completely

 convinced that all kids can make growth.

shelley: yes bob,   However with the current grading system as we discussed earlier

 today, this is a challenge for us eduators

Nat: I agree, each of my students are different and expectations have to be tailored.

bob: if we emphasize continuos growth and movement towards a goal (rather than

 necessarily achieving it), kids can (and will) feel good about themselves and


shelley: we have to put things into perspective

Nat: What I mean is that I expect my spec. ed students to try to write a 4 paragraph

 essay, but when they give me 2 great paragraphs I build on that not discourage

shelley: YES!!

shelley: that is what we have to do

bob: shelley, i agree completely. maybe we should look at changing how we grade.

shelley: take it one step at a time

shelley: esp. with kids, because kids just are not abloe to think like adults

shelley: no kidding

shelley: If I was the one in charge of grading and decision making, things would be a

 lot different

bob: expecting a sped student to achieve to the same standard as their classmate

 may be setting the student up for failure....unless the standard is "growth"

shelley: but with this grading things, change is a process and it take s


bob: the emphasis gets switched from "attainment" to "learning." not everyone can

 attain at the same level, but everyone can make gains toward.

Nat: Bob I agree and I am excited that our state is going to the growth model

shelley: Agree with you

shelley: but that is not we are being told to do for the most part

shelley: and we have to live within the system that they give us

shelley: we need to stay within their perameters

bob: nat, tell me more, please! what state? this sounds like something exciting!

Nat: Indiana and all I know is that we are looking for student growth on a more

 individual basis which allows us to focus on students needs - in our districts through

 data driven decision making in the form of data teams.

Steve G.: Steve G.: You know, I agree with all of you -- at least in terms of my

 approach -- but I worry sometimes that we're really afraid of kids "failing" 

Nat: I have done some research on the growth model and there has been  a lot of

 positive said, I am currently researching in more depth so I can assist my colleagues

 as we move to this model in the fall

Steve G.: failure is really what helps everybody learn. I'm not saying we discourage

 them but failure is ok, we should let them know.

bob: wow! that's very exciting. I did a big keynote thing in indianapolis in october and

 something else in january. i thought the state was not moving in such a positive

 direction. i'm very glad to hear this!

shelley: Steve, i do not agree with you

shelley: I do not learn best because I have failed

shelley: beg to differ with you

Steve G.: I don't mean in terms of grades.

Steve G.: I mean failing at task

bob: steve, i'm not advocating "failure," but i agree with you in large measure. it's ok

 to fail. the key is what we learn from mistakes. if we moved from failure as "failure"

 to failure as &quot††††††††††††††art of leatning," it's all good

Steve G.: I guess I worry about the fact that we're insulating the kids a bit. That's all.

shelley: failing does not help me learn and for the most part, it does not help my kids

 learn either

Nat: What do you mean by insulating the kids? 

Nat: I have to admit, I point out to my students my mistakes so they can see it is part

shelley: yes, it is ok to make mistakes

Steve G.: I guess it's like Michael Jordan's story.

shelley: that is different from learning from failure

bob: i don't think we can help kids learn to persevere (something I value) unless we

 have them experience bumps along the way. (That's "nice talk" for failing.)

Steve G.: He was cut from the team.

Steve G.: And that was the best thing that ever happened to him.

Nat: I think we have to teach kids that success takes a lot of effort and with effort

 comes failure sometimes we just need to use the failure to grow from of being human.

bob: great discussion everyone! looking forward to next week!

shelley: yes nat

shelley: i agree

Nat: bye everyone have a great weekend

shelley: ditto

bob: i do appreciate you making time and sharing your thoughts. please remember

 that you can add comments during the week at your leisure.

Steve G.: Thanks Bob.

bob: my pleasure.....later everyone.....enjoy....

Nat: I have to admit, I point out to my students my mistakes so they can see it is part

 of being human

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