Our first week of implementing Teach Social First was really fun. I had a lot of fun walking suddenly into each classroom wearing my “Thinking about Me” Kid red baseball cap, cutting off the lights, moving lunch trays, and just basically disregarding the group of children who were present. The students clearly did not know what to do, and knowing I was a teacher created further confusion. As we began this way in each class, it was very apparent that most of us are uncomfortable when someone does something unexpected and definitely when this unexpected behavior disregards the needs of others. Once I “realized” that I was in a group, I apologized and told the students that I had been a “thinking about me” kid. Now, while it is okay to think just about me if I am by myself, I was in a group and I needed to think differently. As I switched my red hat to my blue “Thinking about Others” Kid baseball cap, I was able to tell the students that a “Thinking about Others” Kid: 1)notices that others are around him, 2) thinks about what they want, 3)thinks about what they need, 4) thinks about what they are feeling, and 5) thinks about what they are thinking. Once all of these things have been considered, a “thinking about others” kid decides what to say and do to make others feel comfortable and help the group do what it needs to do. Stepping into the book Chester by Melanie Watt and becoming Chester the cat was so much fun. While Chester’s antics created a lot of laughter, the students were very able to detail what he had done that showed he was a “thinking about me” kind of cat. So, now the real task begins: helping our students to recognize this behavior in themselves, to “think about things differently,” and then to adjust their words or behaviors based on the thoughts, feelings, wants and needs of others.
As the week continued, more and more students happily reported their progress with the classroom challenge phrase each time they saw me in the halls. I responded happily with a high 5 or thumbs up. While I realize the students are undoubtedly motivated by the reward, they are practicing very important “other-minded” thinking and behavior, and are receiving valuable praise and reinforcement from their teachers and peers. The desire to please us and their teachers is obvious, and I am hopeful that this desire to please will generalize to an “other-minded” school and community.
When I think of comments made in this past week, I would like to share a question made by a second grader at the end of our lesson. Once we had discussed the “thinking about others” classroom challenge and writing down the names of “thinking about others” kids, a student asked, “What if we know someone is faking it (being a “thinking about others” kid)?” Now, we have all been there, haven’t we? We know how someone really is, but they get rewarded for doing something just to please. My response: “I have a few thoughts. First, you don’t actually know if he is faking it. He may really be trying to change and think about others. If he is faking it, he is still practicing thinking about others. If he is practicing “thinking about others” then “others” will benefit and maybe the more he practices, the more likely it is that he will become a “thinking about others” kid. Plus, others will see he is thinking about others and maybe they will try to think about others too. Sounds like a win-win situation to me. “
A great and promising start for sure. A big thank you continues to our administration, our teachers, and parents who are supporting Teach Social First in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd grade classrooms at Perry Harrison.
Ginny Thompson, Teach Social First