Happy New Year!
I had the coolest experience in a classroom back before break. This is the conversation I overheard in an EBD classroom (Emotional-Behavioral Disability)
“Mr. X, I don’t get this.” said student So-and-so
“Are you asking for help?” said Mr. X “Say it...”
“Mr. X! Okay. I need help.” said student So-and so
“Did So-and-so just ask for help?”, asked the teacher to the rest of the class
“TIGER WOOOOODS!!!!!!” yelled the class
The teacher grabbed a golf club out of the closet, gave it a swing, laughed, and put it back. He then went to So-and-so and helped her with her question.
The class laughed along with him and then got back to work.
Wait -- what???
It was a weird -- but profound -- scene.
The teacher chuckled and explained that he had shared with the class about Tiger Wood’s caddy at the beginning of the year. Tiger Woods is one of the most successful (and highest paid) golfers of all time. He has gotten just about every golf award and honor he can and makes more than most of us can dream of.
But Tiger Woods is known for “checking his ego at the door” -- when he’s uncertain of his next shot, he calls his caddy over for a consult. Mr. X taught his kids that even though Tiger Woods is one of the most successful and wealthiest athletes in the world -- he still asks for help when he needs it.
Mr. X then made it a routine and a part of the classroom culture to ask for help. He taught his kids that nobody has all the answers and so there is honor and courage and brains in a good help request. He made it fun and powerful for his students. His kids ask for help -- by saying the actual words. And then, the rest of the class celebrates that asking by shouting encouragement and reinforcement. And -- it’s fun and silly to yell “Tiger Woooods!!!” in the middle of class.
I admit that it’s unorthodox. Not a lot of teachers could pull off the “whole-class-shouting-out” thing without everything getting crazy.
But there are a lot of teachers who CAN build a classroom culture of asking for -- and sharing -- help when needed. It would make a nice New Year’s Resolution in your classroom to emphasize the honor and courage of asking for real help when necessary. (*Note -- I’m not talking about the kid who asks for help when he’s having a lazy day. That is best handled through the power of your relationship with your students. I’m talking about a student who genuinely needs help. True, it’s often hard to know the difference. I tend to err on the side of helping).
Students who ask for help when they need it are more successful. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, right? But not a lot of people DO ask for help.
There are many reasons people don’t ask for help when they need it -- often they don’t want to seem weak, needy or incompetent. I’m pretty sure I have refrained from asking for help before for those reasons.
As you think about teaching your students to ask for help -- I want you as a professional to think about your own asking for help.
We as teachers have crazy-tough jobs. We have to teach, motivate, engage, inspire kids. Kids with complicated home lives and personal issues. Kids with learning disabilities and enormous gaps in background knowledge. Kids who don’t care about our courses as much as we do. Kids who have too many other courses to keep up with. Kids who are more worried about the next boyfriend or girlfriend than they are about our content. Kids who are kids.
It’s a super-tough job. No teacher is perfect.
Let me say that again. No. Teacher. Is. Perfect.
Not me, not you, not the teacher of the year. Not Marzano himself.
So, in the spirit of New Year’s resolutions, in addition to fostering a spirit of asking for help in your students, I want you, as a professional to ask for help too.
Because if Tiger Woods asks his caddy for help, surely you and I can ask a colleague, a neighbor, an administrator, a coach -- for help.
- Sometimes, a neighbor down the hall has a great motivational strategy that you might get some mileage from.
- Sometimes, a colleague or an administrator has a solution to a problem that you haven’t thought of.
- Sometimes, an instructional coach or a friend might have a different teaching activity to try with that class that isn’t “getting it” with your usual lesson.
Ask that neighbor, colleague, administrator, coach, or friend. It doesn’t have to be a person in your department. It doesn’t have to be a person at your school. It can be a colleague that you met at a training or in the lunchroom.
Ask for help.
If Tiger Woods can put his ego aside and ask for help, so can you and I.
In what areas do you want to ask for help? Are you as imperfect as I am? Can you pull a “Tiger Woods” and ask for help?
As always, I love to hear from you! Email me!