Thursday, February 15, 2018

What are you doing that I can't allow?

Almost 20 years ago, I was a 17 year-old high school student heading to southern Colorado to spend my summer working at a camp in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. As a "camphand" I was preparing myself to clean toilets, wash dishes and do anything else necessary to help the camp run smoothly.

During our 2-week staff training at the onset of the summer, I learned not only how to be a camphand, but also how to help campers who where showing behaviors not allowed at camp. NOTE: I also learned how to drive a stick-shift on the side of a mountain in an old rusty truck nicknamed "The Beast"; but I digress.


That summer, I learned and practiced using a standard set of 3 questions that can help a child self-regulate and independently identify an alternative behavior that is responsible, respectful and safe.

These 3 questions have served me well since because:

  • They are quick.
  • They give power to the child, without embarrassment or condemnation.
  • They keep me calm in the face of a behavior that is irresponsible, disrespectful and/or unsafe. 
  • Just like Dr. Sharroky Hollie suggests, these 3 questions help validate and affirm the child, while building and bridging between the students' home culture and language with the school's culture and language.
Any time you encounter a child showing an unexpected behavior at school you consistently ask these 3 questions:

  1. What are you doing that I can't allow?
  2. Why can't I allow that?
  3. What will/should you do instead?

It is important to understand that children will most often answer with "I don't know" or "I don't remember" at least at first. If you encounter this, BE PATIENT! Calmly tell them that that is okay and that you'll give them time to think.

If after giving a student the appropriate wait time you believe that they truly don't know how to answer these prompts, take the opportunity to make it into a teachable moment. Again, this is the Build & Bridge part from Dr. Hollie.

Remember: All behavior is communication. Perhaps a student is running because they think it is a more efficient way to move down a long hallway. Maybe they are talking to an adult in a way that seems rude and disrespectful, because that is the way they've learned to communicate in order to be heard. If a student doesn't know how to read, we help them learn. We also have the responsibility to teach them the skills necessary to be able to demonstrate expected behaviors in school. 

Note: In a recent communication with my former camp director , I learned two things:

  • This technique is known as (or based on) "Perception Check". Even after doing a quick Google search on "Perception Check" I'm unable to identify to whom this technique might be attributable. 
  • The technique actually involves 4 questions, with the fourth being  "WHAT do you feel you need to do now?" I feel like this question is appropriate when some sort of reparations are called for.

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