I’m a “kids do well if they can” guy

“He does not want to do anything, he just doesn’t care.”

This quote came from one of my excellent teaching staff.  It let me know that it is time for us to work together as a staff to decide if we believe that kids will do well if they want to,  or if we believe that kids will do well if they can.

As an alternative school, we see a lot of kids who present themselves as having the skills to learn, but it seems like they lack the motivation (or have zero motivation.) These “skills yes, motivation no” kids do no exist according to Ross Greene.  He believes that all kids (and all people for that matter) want to do well, they are just lagging some skills or have have unsolved problems that get in their way. That is, kids do well if they can. Our job is to help them discover their unsolved problem(s), the thing getting in their way, and get to work helping them fix it.

The problem with the “kids will do well if they wanna” philosophy is that if you believe it, you immediately put yourself in the motivation business…make them wanna. How often do we fall into this trap? We try to motivate with rewards and with punishment, pouring extrinsic motivators on them, always having to one-up the last motivator. If you write two paragraphs I will give you two stars instead of one! Does that make you wanna write more?!!

This leads us to an alternative to the “kids will do well if they wanna” philosophy: Ross Greene’s Collaborative Problem Solving method. Well, it’s not really a method, more of a way of being. In this way of being, we start with the firm belief that all kids will do well if they can.  Now your role just changed. You’ve gone from the motivation business to the problem solving business. Once you get to work and help these kids solve their unsolved problems you will see kids doing well, because they are already motivated to do well. We all are.

Ross’ ideas have been going through my head all day and night, they resonate.  As a leader of an alternative program, I see many unsolved problems and lagging skills. I am tired of being in the motivation business, so I’ve changed.  I’m a kids do well if they can guy.


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