Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Olympics, The Donald, and Non-Complementary Behavior: Three thoughts to start your year.

Some of you are back, others will be soon. Here at the Underground, school starts next Tuesday so once again It's Go Time! I've had a little time to think over the summer, and here's what's buzzing around my brain as this year begins.

The Olympics

While watching this year, my oldest son asked, "Do you think we'll ever stop breaking world records?" In sports that require equipment (golf, tennis, etc.) there's no question that improvements in equipment enhance the performance of the game. But why do we run faster today? Look at his image from the New York Times:

It compares Usain Bolt to the fastest men in the world since 1896. I don't think it's just the shoes. I told my son that when I was a child, the things athletes are doing in the American Ninja Warrior competitions were unimaginable, like superheroes. It's not just physical, the Flynn Effect is the well documented increase of I.Q. over the last century. 

For us, that means that we can't dismiss the human potential that we're entrusted with every day. We spend so much time in awe of the progression of technology that it is easy to forget that it is the human that drives progress in our world, and this is the most important element of our classroom. So this year, I won't stress so much about how to be innovative and novel as much as trying to answer the question: "How do I help students that are smarter, faster, and stronger continue the road to human improvement independently and collectively?"

The Donald

I'm so glad that I don't have to teach US Government this year. How did we get here? Most of America will make a decision this year by voting for the person they dislike the least. -- if this election isn't an argument for greater support for Social Studies education in the United States I'm not sure what is. For some voters, he is a middle finger to the establishment. He has a base of support that will not waver even if he were to,"stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody" . Certainly it doesn't apply to all voters, but it does apply to all of those who believe that they've been left behind, who believe there is no longer a place for them at the table. This leads me even more so this year to ask myself: "How do I make sure that my students know they have a place at the table in my classroom?"

Non-Complementary Behavior

Thanks to a recent episode of Invisibilia, this term is making the internet rounds. I won't rehash the concept, but basically, it's human nature to react to one another in reciprocal ways. Repay kindness with kindness, spite with spite. Another element is dominance and submission-- we tend to react to dominance with submission and vice-versa. The podcast describes several tense situations that were de-escalated through the use of "non-complementary behavior." For example, a victim offering an armed robber the invitation to sit and join him for a glass of wine. 

That's my final thought as this year begins. "When does the situation call for me to pause before reacting in the normal way, and consider the impact of a non-complementary response?"

Have a great school year.