Tuesday, June 2, 2015

"Perfect" Behavior?


At dinner someone mentioned their daughter had just come home with an award for "Perfect Behavior" from their school. First of all, they go to a school that I don't know anything about, nor have I ever met this child. The particulars of the child and the school have nothing to do with why I can't shake this idea. What I wonder is this - what is considered 'perfect' behavior?

My guess is that 'perfect' behavior looks like the child who stays in their seat, keeps to themselves, and does what is asked of them. My guess is that 'perfect' behavior sounds like the child who only speaks when is called upon, often saying what they think the teacher wants to hear, usually agreeing with what is being said or repeating things previously read or heard.

Perhaps I am wrong, but if there is an award for it, perhaps I am right. Either way, it isn't what I strive for my students to look or sound like. (Though it might be easier to have a room full of students like this, but it wouldn't be nearly as challenging nor rewarding as what I encounter every day.)

I want students who move about the classroom, getting what they need when they need it. Perhaps it is a tissue or an iPad or a dictionary or a stapler or help from a classmate. I want students who stand up when it is what is best for them, realizing that they have the ability to increase their attention and focus for the task at hand by stretching or getting their wiggles out. I want students to walk out of the room when they can't respond respectfully to what is being said (usually because a fit of giggles has overcome them). I want students to respect themselves and one another, choosing a place to sit that empowers their own learning without distracting others.

I want students who collaborate with those around them. I want my room to be a buzz of students learning from one another, coming to a deeper understanding of their own learning by explaining it to other. I want students to look to one another and the resources in the room before they come to me with their questions. I want students to enter into deep discussions, realizing that we don't need to agree, but our greatest learning may come from understanding another way of thinking.

I doubt my room would be seen as a model of 'perfect' behavior, but I love the community of learners we have built and I wouldn't change it for rows of students quietly in their seats doing their work independently.

What about you? Any thoughts on 'perfect' behavior?


  1. We have a "Student of the Month" award. Often, I feel like we're pushing some kid to fit into the box that you described above. Until last year, I honestly agreed with you; this award was a bit silly and was for kids who looked like good students to administrators.

    Then, we got this kid. Let's call her "Hope. " (her real name is equally fitting.) She helps others without being asked, and she stands up to help when she sees another kid looking for something as simple as an eraser. She chooses to sit next to the kid who no one else wants to be near during assemblies. Hope spends her day trying to make the lives of others better. At eleven years old, she is more considerate and thoughtful than any other person I have ever met.

    Around the holidays, I asked kids to write about ways they could change the world. After reading her classmates responses, Hope shook her head. "You all wrote about recycling more, or shoveling snow. You forget what a difference you can make just by smiling. I try to smile at a stranger each day, so that I can make their day better."

    Where did this kid come from? Hope isn't "perfect." (What an awful word!) But she makes me strive to be a better person. Now that's something to be recognized.

  2. Honestly, I like my kids a little naughty. Perfection is boring.

  3. Honestly, I like my kids a little naughty. Perfection is boring.

  4. I want my future grandkids to be in your classroom. Reading your post makes me think that your classroom would be a perfect environment for learning and growing!

  5. I probably would have been a bit naughty when the parents mentioned their daughter received recognition for "perfect behavior" and asked, "What does perfect behavior look like?"

    When we fail to teach students the power of questioning, of inquiry, we undermine the foundations of our society. We damage their critical thinking.

  6. Well I've never heard of such a thing! Perfect schmerfect. What about growth mindset? I'd rather have the kind of classroom you describe any day!