I read ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens’ when I was the same age as the students I teach today. I still remember how the concepts gripped me and I was left charged and motivated to apply them in my life! Cut to 15 years later- when I walk into the GGIS campus. I see a huge poster covering the wall, mentioning the 7 Habits and I realize that years had gone by since I read the book as an adolescent, but I’d failed to translate any of those learnings into practice!
So you can imagine how conflicted I was feeling as I stood before my Grade 7 for the first ‘The Leader In Me’ session. I genuinely believe, ‘what we are, teaches a child far more than what we say, and so we must be what we want our children to become. If so, how do I push my class to follow the habits, when I was unable to do so myself?
Operating from the premise that ‘we must be what we want our children to become’- I’d like my students to become lifelong learners who are not afraid to make mistakes and see failures as an opportunity to improve and grow; and this meant that I had to be comfortable with admitting my own shortcomings. During the first session, I made my confession and established that we were all on a similar level when it came to practicing the habits. The honesty helped because the nature of our sessions became more exploratory than moralistic. By now, I’d realised that taking the tone of ‘you should / must / have to…’ creates resistance in children, especially teenagers, because they perceive it as their freedom, choice and autonomy being taken away. Instead, we started having conversations like ‘Why do you think being proactive is Habit #1? Why is it so important?’ or ‘What gets in the way of thinking win-win / synergising?’
There’s a boy in my class who’s one of the more challenging students to teach. Krishna swings in his chair as he gazes out of the window while the session is on, probably imagining how he is going to be a world-class football player when he grows up. Halfway through the class, he’ll stroll up to the cubby and get his books. Where the rest of the class has begun writing, he’ll choose the ‘right’ pens, write the date, the heading of the topic with a neat line drawn under it… By the time he starts writing the important stuff, the bell rings and it’s time for the next session.
Talking to him, I found out that those tiny details like the heading & the line under it, writing sections and subsections in differently colored pens, etc. was really important for him. The beauty of Habit #5 – Seek to Understand, is that it creates ease in conversation. When he saw that I was willing to hear his version of the story and not just scold him for his incomplete work, he was more relaxed. We discussed the issue for a bit longer and then he went back to class. A couple of days later, when I walked into the class, I saw that he kept looking at me expectantly. I looked down on his desk and saw he was ready with his books! He grinned at my surprised look and I gave him a ‘I am proactive’ sticker in recognition of his efforts.
Between that day and today, he has one of the highest number of proactive stickers in class. Being ready with his books for the next class has now become a habit for him and not something he needs to consciously think about. Now I wish I could also share that his notebooks are all complete and well maintained, but for now, Krishna is feeling quite proud of himself and I’m tempted to allow him to enjoy that for a little bit longer before I nudge him out of his comfort zone and persuade him to set another goal for himself that’s a bit more challenging…
By Shivani Raval
Academic Leader @ GGIS
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