As a kid, I went to a small, private school. Because of its affiliation with the local Lutheran church, every Wednesday morning the entire school met in the gymnasium for “chapel.” It was a fairly standard Lutheran service, but every week a different teacher gave a talk. These weren’t exactly sermons—more like pep talks or updated parables infused with little nuggets of pop-culture inspiration to get us through the rest of the week. One particular talk still stands out.
Looking back, I presume this teacher’s goal was to help us count our blessings. And, by gosh, if we weren’t going to count them, he’d do it for us: We didn’t have to work. We didn’t have to put food on the table or pay for our tuition—all we had to do was come to school. We had it easy, so why did he hear so much complaining all the time?
He was right, of course—at least generally speaking, but from the sound of it, he wasn’t privy to the bullying that went on every day, or the fact that the school graded students on a three-point scale, which made getting A’s extremely challenging. In our inexperienced minds, life could be overwhelming. Our job felt pretty darn hard.
This teacher’s heart was in the right place, but I doubt his message resonated with many of the students simply because he approached it in a way they had trouble relating to.
We can’t expect to reach students, or truly connect with them, by dismissing their challenges. Most teachers know this, of course, but it’s easy to forget. After all, we’re the ones who have to create dynamic lessons, meet Common Core Standards, and help thousands of students succeed throughout our career. That’s challenging.
But students have their own burdens to bear and part of our job is to help them negotiate these challenges. To help you do this, we’d like to share two lesson plans we found through Jon Gordon’s site, Positive School. He is the author of several books including The Energy Bus, The No Complaining Rule, Training Camp, Soup, and The Seed.
To download a PDF version of the lesson plan, simply click on the links below.
“Feed the Positive Dog-News Stories”
There is a parable about a positive dog and a negative dog at odds with one another. Which one wins? Whichever dog you feed. This two-part lesson is designed to show students how, many times, the negative dog is fed through the news media. Students will take note of the amount of negative news, then in part two, take action to increase the amount of positive news that’s reported.
“They Refused to Complain-Research Paper”
In this lesson, students will be introduced to a wide ranging group of people who have overcome hardships of many different kinds. They may have had complaints and desperation along the way, but in the end these people refused to let that stop them; they refused to let their problem define them. They pressed on and pursued their dreams.
Through library, Internet, or any other available resources, students research the person of their choice and write a paper about that person. Through their research, they are instructed to focus not only on that person’s accomplishments, but also on the adversity that person faced on their way to achievement.