It often astonishes me how few social skills some students have. Among other tendencies, they exhibit an inability to accept criticism, to delay gratification, to express frustrations in a positive manner, or to know when it’s best to keep a particular thought to themselves. “How is this possible?” I sometimes wondered in the past; having a child whose verbal abilities and cognitive skills increase daily has taught me: these students simply haven’t had sufficient direct instruction.
There are so many things that kids pick up on without being taught directly — chief among them, the most unique characteristic of humans: language — that it’s easy to forget that some things we take for granted actually have to be taught. We think that correction is teaching.
Tonight, I came home with a bit of spare change in my pocket, and as the Girl is saving for a Barbie camper, I give her a bit of my loose change when I have it. I gave her a quarter; she smiled and asked, “Can I have more?”
The easy response — the response I suspect a few of my students got as children — would be, “Can you what?! Don’t you go asking me for more when I’ve already given you something!” And that would be the end.
Tonight, I took the quarter back and explained calmly that, when someone gives you something, it’s really not very polite at all to ask for more. “Let’s try it again,” I said, directing the Girl to return to the spot where she was standing.
“I have something for you,” I smiled again.
“What!?” she asked in almost genuine excitement — she’s a good play-actor.
I gave her the quarter, raised my eyebrows ever so slightly, and she replied, “Thank you!” and put it in the piggy bank.
Explicit teaching followed by directed practice. Sounds like I what I do eight hours a day…