Musical interlude #4
How can we help teachers (and other clinicians) focus on the future?
Teachers who accentuate the positive should have an easy time maintaining a positive view of their efforts. Not only are those actions inherently positive, but they can take comfort in knowing that those efforts will pay rich dividends in the future. Positive reinforcement isn’t likely to work instantly, but over time it increases the chances that the reinforced behavior will recur.
So, teachers, don’t stop thinking about tomorrow. Here’s a song to help you remember that maxim.
Now, I know. I know. Can you believe the clothing! How about the hair—especially on the faces! Well, of course. Fleetwood Mac recorded Christine McVie’s song in the mid 1970s. Since then there have been many changes in what’s stylish.
Also, there have been many cover versions of Don’t Stop. Not only was it used as a theme during Bill Clinton’s campaign for the US presidency (and for later appearances, too), but you can find covers by (I’m not joking) Glee, folk singer Allan Taylor, Lauren Mink, and other artists. If you don’t like this one, find one you do like.
However you hear it, I hope you’ll understand its utility in guiding valuable teaching actions.
Now, as is usual with songs that I use in this way, not every word or phrase of the lyrics fits the theme I’m pitching. However, I hope that the song helps you remember that, as the adult in a classroom, you have perspective. You know that not only does reinforcement work in the long run, but you also know that losing that adult perspective is likely to land you in an excessive focus on the immediate situation and lead you into confrontations (“Do it now!” “It’s my way or the highway!”)…the wrong kind of “here and now,” as most of us recognize that those confrontations can turn ugly.
There are few instructional actions that lead to immediate learning. One is routinely working on tomorrow’s behavior, tomorrow’s answers. It takes lots of practice opportunities for something to become automatic. Students need experiences with many examples of a conept before they can recognize a novel example. And those opportunities and experiences need to be distributed across time so that the teaching engenders enduring learning.
A teacher’s actions in the beginning of the school year (in September, at least in the northern hemisphere) are likely to have important influence on students’ behavior—both social and academic—many months later (April and May!). So it’s important to remember that one is teaching for the future. Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow!