Monday, October 11, 2010

The con-art of teaching

This summer Mr. Lipstick and I tackled the mighty project of watching Lost. We'd missed it when it first came out and quickly realized it wasn't one of those shows you could just pop into during the middle. So in June we started with Season One and made it all the way to the end of Season Three by the end of August. (Now that we've both started our grad school programs I don't think we'll be touching Season Four until next June. So nobody spoil anything- we're avoiding anything Lost-related at all costs so we don't have any spoilers).

Anyway, Lost seems to have a whole underlying con-artist theme- where I learned that the art of conning someone is to make them think it is their idea. Now, this summer I didn't think much of that lesson, after all I am an upstanding citizen who wouldn't ever think of tricking someone into getting my way. When would I ever put that lesson to use?

Enter PJ.

This week we absolutely had to administer a standardized assessment to PJ in a room outside the classroom. Yet PJ had no desire to come with us. We'd  tried everything over the course of a few days- being firm ("you will leave this classroom right now!"), bribery ("look at all the stickers you'll get if you leave the room!"), sympathy ("I know you don't want to go, but we all have to do things we don't want to do"), distraction ("wow, great job with those math manipulatives. Now, time to go!") but nothing worked.

Friday we were desperate. PJ had placed himself in a small confined space in the classroom and was refusing to get out so we asked a friend to go rub his back and lead him out. (PJ responds to his peers far, far better than he responds to adults). So, as PJ and his friend slowly came out of the small space hand in hand, I asked them both to come with me to the testing room. PJ happily went along with his friend and we wandered across the hallway.

I patted myself on the back for getting PJ into the testing room, but then realized we had the friend with us. We couldn't very well test PJ if his best friend was sitting right there. That's not exactly how standardized assessments work (but wouldn't it be great if they did- my SAT scores would be so much higher.)

So we read both boys a book (and yes, it was PJ Funny Bunny- one of PJ's favorites) while I plotted how to get the friend to leave the room without PJ, yet leaving PJ behind in a good enough mood to be tested. Sure we could lay down the law and force PJ to stay, but then he wouldn't exactly be in prime-testing-condition. All our work would be useless.

Right as the book ended I drew upon my con-artists lessons learned from Lost. Make them think it is there idea.

"And now," I announced, "We'll get to play this stuffed animal!" (the stuffed animal who is actually a part of the standardized assessment). "But we can only play one at a time!"
"Who wants to go first?"
PJ, being the super-kind boy that he is, immediately said his friend could go first. Not exactly what we wanted.
I ignored that.
"Raise your hand if you want to go first!"
The friend, being 5, immediately raised his hand wildly, which caused PJ to copy his behavior.
"Wow, PJ wants to go first!" we cheered. "Ok, friend will be back to go second."
I lead the friend out of the room and PJ started to balk.
"PJ, remember- you wanted to go first. If you don't go first by yourself then your friend never gets his turn."
PJ considered this. Yes, he wanted his friend to have a turn.
So he stayed.

And so PJ was assessed, and not only was assessed but believed he was being assessed on his terms. We have our data, PJ was happy, and everyone took very big breaths and was very excited to go home for the weekend.

Teaching Kindergarten lesson learned #3,984- Make them think it's their idea.


magpie said...

Are you sure you're not writing scripts? I'd love to watch this show ☺☺☺

The Science Goddess said...

I believe that you have mislabeled your post. Your activities here constitute "diplomacy." Or, at least that's what we call it when we work that sort of magic with adults. :)