Saturday, August 28, 2010

Tell Me What You Want

My husband and I have been married for almost 12 years.  We are starting to figure each other out.  Just now.  Recently, we had a very long, emotional "discussion" at 1:00 in the morning -- when most of our relationship breakthroughs occur.  I will spare you the details and simply say that in the end, I realized that if I want my husband to be the husband I need, I need to tell him what that means.  This is not to say that he has never been the husband I need.  In fact, with as little direction as I have given, he has done an amazing job of figuring it out.  But ultimately, he can only do so much when it comes to reading my mind, and even more difficult, my heart.

As hard as it was, though, for me to tell him exactly what I need from him in our relationship, the impact it has had on us has been tremendous.  Now, for some, being as direct with someone about what you want or need is not a challenge.  I have always struggled with it, though, because I feared hurting him.  I worried that sharing what I needed would make him feel judged or betrayed.  What I had to realize was that what I saw as protecting him was actually keeping him from growing.  It was like giving a plant water and food, but hiding it from the sun.  When we do not tell people what we want, we diminish their capacity to meet those expectations.

With my parenting, I have had far less trouble with this.  In fact, I work quite hard at not just telling my children what I need them to do, but modeling for them the appropriate responses and requiring them to practice.  For example, if one of the boys demands, "Get me some milk!" I do not say, "Please ask more nicely next time," have them agree and then proceed to get the milk.  Instead, I try to say, "That was not a nice way to ask for milk.  Instead, you should say, 'Mom, could you get me more milk, please?' Now, let me hear you say that." This does not always translate into perfect behavior (what an understatement!) but I am confident that the boys are  clear about my expectations and because of that, the likelihood of them responding and interacting in appropriate ways is increased.

In the classroom, I have been somewhere between these two ends of the spectrum.  I believe my students always sense the expectations that I have for them, but I do not think I have been as conscientious as I need to be in this area.  Over the summer, I read a number of books by Dr. Marzano.  While much of what I read matched up neatly with my philosophies and practices, I realized that in terms of clarity and focus in terms of what I need my students to learn, I had some growing to do.  Not only do I think my students in the past have been fuzzy about exactly what they were expected to know, I was fuzzy, too.  I had a sense of what I wanted them to be able to do, but truly showing them how to get there was a leap I wanted them to make without the kind of direct instruction they needed to do so. 

Recently, we have been working with the concept of archetypes and their influence on literature.  Giving students a list of common archetypes is useful and all, but the skill I expect is that they can analyze the influence archetypal characters, images, and motifs have on a work of literature.  That step, from recognition to analysis, is one I have asked my students to make in the past without ever actually showing them how.  Honestly, the process is so natural for me, I had to slow down, and really think about what I do to move from one to the other.  This sharpened my ability to transfer this knowledge to my students and, in the end, resulted in their success.

Telling the people in our lives what we want or what we need is not selfish or hurtful if we are doing so to help them grow and if we do so with a heart and spirit of kindness, encouragement and love.  I believe this is happening with my children, with my students and with my husband (You can read his blog about our recent date to hear more!). Success is sunshine to their flowering confidence.  And if it makes me happier, too -- even better!


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