Accountability: Mechanism of Change (because hugs just aren’t enough)…

Posted: July 17, 2012 in For Educators, For Parents and Guardians
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Everyone needs to be held accountable to grow and evolve. Without accountability, people are likely to become satisfied and complacent. As teachers, you can hold your students accountable for their effort, performance and behavior, or you can hold yourself accountable for your effort, development and reactions to your students. You are accountable to your administrators and supervisors, and you are accountable to your spouses and families.
Knowing how to effectively hold others accountable, especially your student’s, is a skill that will have a direct impact on your classroom climate and your credibility with your students. Many people, especially many young teachers, confuse punishments with consequences. It’s easy to lose sight of the goal of holding students accountable.  Holding young people accountable for their actions and inactions is necessary for their development. When they make mistakes, they need to be held accountable to lessen the likelihood that they make those same mistakes in the future. When they underperform, they need to be held accountable so they learn how to improve their performance in the future. When they cause harm to others, they need to be held accountable so they can know how they’ve affected others and what they can and can’t do in the future. Accountability can happen in many shapes and sizes. You can hold a student accountable in class when they speak out without raising their hand by simply letting them know what is and isn’t acceptable. You can hold your students accountable by giving them the grade they earned rather than the grade they felt they earned. You can hold them accountable by referring them to the Deans office when they show a disregard for your authority or for the welfare of other students. And you can hold them accountable by calling their homes when they don’t display the work ethic required to pass the class.
One key to holding students accountable is in the delivery of your administration of  the consequences.  You want to make sure that you’re delivering the message as clearly and calmly as you can to maximize the likelihood that they understand why you’re reacting the way you are. If your reactions are too emotionally charged, all the child will see and react to is your emotion… they won’t see their mistakes or put thought into what they need to do differently.
The most important element to your child or student “getting it” is reflection. Somehow, you need to be able to hold the young person accountable in a way that allows them to reflect on what they did, and why it was wrong.  Another key to effectively holding your students accountable is consistency. If one day you assign a detention for hurtful language towards a peer, you need to assign a detention every time they use hurtful language, otherwise, they’ll continue experimenting with what they can get away with.
Understand that every parent and every educator has different comfort levels with playing the role of “authoritarian,” but your comfort level MUST take a back seat to the student’s need. And they NEED you to set the limits in the classroom. As young people, the only way they’ll learn how to conduct themselves, how hard they need to work and what is expected of them is to be held accountable when they don’t meet standards… and this means you’ll need to add accountability to your list of job responsibilities (because positive reinforcement alone just won’t cut it). Fortunately, holding your students accountable for all the big and little things they do doesn’t just benefit them. Holding your students accountable early, consistently and with even-temper will also make your jobs a whole lot easier (as parents or teachers)… because once they fully absorb that you mean to teach and your expectations aren’t negotiable, they’ll fall in line (well, at least most will).
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