For awhile now, I have been thinking about a conversation I overheard between two elementary students. During stations, one girl wasn’t using the materials in the writing center correctly and she was disrupting the students around her. Without hesitation, another student called her on it. He started to remind her how to correctly use the materials, but the girl interjected with, “you aren’t the boss of me.” At this point, I was thinking about stepping in to praise the efforts of this boy and to work on getting the other student back on track. Thankfully, I wasn’t fast enough. The boy quickly shared that while he wasn’t the boss of her, it was his responsibility to remind her of the class promise. He said we don’t act like that in our classroom. The way he emphasized, “our classroom” sent a far more valuable message than I ever could have. He didn’t say it in a rude tone, it was just a reminder that that behavior wouldn’t be tolerated.
The boy went back to his work and the girl stopped what she had been doing. After awhile, she began to complete her work, correctly this time, and her friend gave her a smile. It was clear that the culture in this classroom was one where students knew they were responsible for holding each other accountable. Coming from me, the same words wouldn’t have been as powerful because I am not a part of their classroom, I am not a member of their “team.”
This type of accountability can be seen on the football field if a player isn’t performing. You can see it at a construction site if someone isn’t producing quality work. But what about in education? Are we doing this in our schools? Our districts? Are we comfortable calling out the negative talk we hear? Are we comfortable reminding each other that we are here for students? Are we willing to encourage others to take a risk with new practices because the students in front of us aren’t the same as they were 10 years ago or even the same as last year?
A respected colleague always reminds me that when we don’t say anything about someone’s actions, we are actually saying we are okay with it. The student that day wasn’t okay with the behavior he saw on his team, so he said something. He held the other student accountable. Sometimes our youngest learners can teach us the best lessons.