Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Shifting Monkeys to Their Proper Place

Another school year is about to begin and, as most of us do, we start with a goal or two in mind. These goals typically improve quality outcome for students.  One thing I will be more conscious about this year is in the "art of shifting monkeys".

I am a fan of the publications from Todd Whitaker, and today's blog is reflecting on his book, "Shifting the Monkey:  The Art of Protecting Good People from Liars, Criers, and other Slackers".  The title needs no explanation as we all have experienced people fitting each part of that description. They may be someone we work with, or even a member of our family. As the book is intended for leaders to be aware of burdens being placed on the proper people, I can see the success of this skill being used by teachers with their students in the classroom, as well as between students as they work in groups.

Here are my top 5 take aways from the book.

1. My favorite quote from the book helps explain the purpose of being conscious of proper placement of the "monkey".  Whitaker states:
"You can't change minds and attitudes, but you can change behavior".
Placing the job or burden on the right people works two ways.  The first is to make sure students are doing their part/role of a project/assignment.  The second is to make sure that we don't add burdens on students that have proven their capabilities because of the fault of a few.

2.  Whitaker states that one way to make sure the monkey is in its proper place is if we treat everyone well; as though they all can be successful.  When we realize someone isn't doing their job, or that someone is creating drama through manipulated facts, we need to deal with them as though they can be or already have been successful.  We can ask them things such as, "How did your part of the project or research turn out?"

3.  As educators, we make decisions on what is in the best interest of all students, believing they all can be successful.  Whitaker emphasizes, in his second step to putting the monkey in its proper place, to make decisions based on the best performing people.  Those with reoccurring insubordination may need techniques such as "sidle up" and "broken record" to improve success in their outcomes.

4.  The third step for shifting the monkey is to protect the good people first.  When assigning roles in groups, we need to make sure we are assigning the right people to the right jobs, giving everyone an opportunity and to redistribute duties as we allow others to find their niche.

5.  As teachers, we can be guilty of adding unwarranted burdens on our students.  We need to AVOID things such as punishing a whole class, blanket announcements/threats, and even public praise to specific students.  Praise in public needs to be anonymous to show examples of what is "good" and make uncomfortable the "bad". Private praise or one - one repeat of expectations are encouraged.

I look forward to bringing all students to be successful contributors to their learning and encouraging each other to rise to their fullest potential. We can no longer ignore and allow students to be "liars, criers, and slackers".

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