Many of us have heard and often live by the Golden Rule: Treat other as you want to be treated. This is the basis of how we often expect others to interact and what it means to treat one another with respect. This was a rule in almost every classroom or sport I was in and one of the classroom rules when I was teaching. If we see everyone as the same, and expect everyone to value, be, and do the same things, this make perfect sense. However, the more we recognize that we all have a variety of strengths, interests, motivations, experiences etc that shape patterns and behaviors, we can see that the “Golden Rule” has limitations.
If we truly want to empower others and move from a culture of compliance to one that values creation and innovation, the platinum rule might serve us all better: Treat others as they want to be treated. Really, it makes perfect sense. When we honor the uniqueness of individuals and people get what they need, they are more likely to be inspired to do more.
“We have three innate psychological needs—competence, autonomy, and relatedness. When those needs are satisfied, we’re motivated, productive, and happy.” Dan Pink
As I think about how we support individuals in schools and the learning process, we have traditionally provided learners with what we think they need to get to a standardized goal and not always prioritized what the learner really needs to feel valued, motivated and learn to improve. In the #IMMOOC live episode this week with George Couros and Sarah Thomas, we were talking about how to encourage teachers to try new things and be more innovative in their teaching. If we embrace the platinum rule, we have to understand that the “right” support looks different for different people.
See Me. Know Me. Grow Me.
Treating others how they want to be treated, requires that we know the learners first, which can include administrators, teachers, students, parents, etc. These 3 questions from Brandon Wiley help frame my thinking about how to best support a variety of learners: Do you see me? Do you know me? Will you grow me?
Do you see me?
Have you taken the time to get to know the person as an individual? Do you know what they are interested in? What do they value or care about?
A teacher recently shared with me that he changed his beginning of the year survey from standard questions like How many siblings do you have?, What are your favorite subjects? and so on to an open-ended list of the “Top 10 things I Need to Know About You.” Instead of static answers such as 2 brothers and art, he got responses like: It takes me an hour and a half to get to school each day. My parents just got divorced. It takes me longer to figure things out and so I am quiet but I really do care about school. I love drawing.
There are multiple ways to connect and get to know learners to better support them and often it begins with asking the questions and being willing to listen and connect.
Do you know me?
Can you name the strengths of this individual? Do you know what success they have had? What drives them?
When we see people for what’s right with them and how they want to be treated we build confidence and encourage people to focus on what they excel in instead of dwelling on challenges. Our whole team has taken the StrengthsFinder assessment (In case you are wondering, mine are: Woo, Relator, Activator, Positivity, Communication) and it has made a considerable difference in how we see one another and work together. We make a point to acknowledge and build off strengths rather than focus on weaknesses. As a result, we often take things less personally and are more able to communicate about our competing or complementary strengths and work styles. When we know our strengths and others do too, we can be more open about how we can work together to accomplish our goals and more transparent about our needs.
Will you grow me?
Do you know their personal goals or aspirations? How is your support connected to who they are and their goals? What resources, pathways, or experiences are the best fit for this learner?
Supporting individual requires moving away from the notion that we all need to (or even can) learn the same things at the same time. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t things that we all need to learn but acknowledging that the pathways we take, where we learn and the resources we use might need to look a little different depending on the individual.
Sue Aplin‘s post about how she engaged in the #IMMOOC this week highlights the range of possibilities for learners.
I love that I was able to put in my bluetooth earbuds and listen to George, Katie, and Sarah from my phone while I made dinner. I had my laptop open so I could take notes when struck with a particular line or idea. When I sit back and think about it, this type of learning is amazing. Learning from 3 different people who were in 3 different places – awesome. Learning at a time that was convenient for me – even better. Getting to hear directly from experts – priceless.
It is great to see how Sue learned, while I know that some watched it live or listened in their cars, others watched some took a break and came back to view it later. It doesn’t matter how you got the information or even when but that there were multiple resources and entry points that provided diverse opportunities to meet the needs of the learners.
Meeting the needs of diverse learners requires knowing the learners and their needs first and then finding new and better ways to support them. I’d love to hear more examples of how you get to know people as individuals and support them based on their needs in order to grow?