The importance of clear goals

I have a very clear goal when I’m teaching any class:  I want every student to learn the most they possibly can while they are physically present in my class.

That seems obvious, but being able to state this has made almost every behavioral situation much easier to address.

“Why can’t I just put my head down, I’m not bothering anybody.”  That bothers me, because my goal is for you to learn and you don’t learn while sleeping (sometimes I even get into un-learning through dreaming).

“We can’t chat about social drama?  We’ll do the work at home.”  Unfortunately, you doing the work at home doesn’t allow you to learn as much as possible in class, and it actively interferes with the learning of everybody.  You have great ideas, and I don’t want you to hoard them for yourself.

“I was just asking for help/stretching/looking for a pencil/whatever excuse to avoid doing this difficult problem.”  Unfortunately I’ve noticed that you tend to do this when you’re struggling with a problem and I’ve noticed that avoiding the problem only gets in the way of your learning.  And since my goal is to have you learn as much as possible, I’m going to require that you stay in your seat and only ask for help from the three people directly next to you.  Now let’s make sure that you have a strong start – it looks like you were able to do this, but you got stuck here…. have you tried doing this other thing..?

I used this twice today, and in both cases I saw a complete 180 turn in avoidance.  Now I’ll only have to have that conversation 4-5 more times with each student until they’ve completely shifted attitude.