Monday, March 16, 2015

Work is Love Made Visible

I've attended many parent and IEP meetings for students. When I was in the classroom, I always taught (and asked for) inclusion classes. I also wanted to attend IEP meetings so that I could meet the parents and share my input there. As a grade level administrator, I’ve attended many parent and IEP meetings for ninth graders over the last four years.

In a recent meeting, a special education teacher who was conducting the meeting told the parent about the student, her child, 

“He wants to do his work; he wants to make us happy.” 

In other words, the work was about behavior. It was about compliance.

It got me thinking.

About the work that kids do, and the work that we do.

Work is important. It teaches discipline. It brings satisfaction and pride. I learned from a great coach early in my career that self-esteem doesn’t come from telling someone positive things. It comes from completing tasks successfully. Give a person tasks that he can complete with success, and gradually give him increasingly challenging tasks. Praise and recognition of completing the tasks will a positively to a person’s self-esteem.

When the teacher is the only audience for student work, it’s easier for the work to be about compliance. It’s personal. It can become more about “Do this because I said so,” than “Do this because ________ (it will help you learn/process content, you will be able to demonstrate what you know, it will help to make your thinking visible…)

While we all have tasks that we are required to do and may not enjoy or see a bigger purpose in doing them, we are more motivated to do the tasks when we understand the reasons behind doing them. We are also motivated to complete tasks when the audience is authentic. Think about the posters hanging in the hallway for all to see, or the presentation done for a live or online audience. What about the blog post that’s read by a global audience or the athletic skill that’s done in front of a crowd.

What happens when the audience is authentic? Is love still visible?


  1. Thanks for the post Jennifer and a reminder to be an authentic audience. I agree that self-esteem comes from completing tasks successfully. The more work the greater the feeling of accomplishment. Reminded my of Carol Dweck's work on effective praise. Great post!


  2. Jennifer this is so true. I have recently discovered that a big contributor to my stress levels is unfinished work. I now know that when I finish work, instead of putting it off, my stress is reduced. I must imagine that it is the same for many kids. It is easy to put it off and then when they do, it becomes more and more difficult to begin. This leads to stress and denial. Your piece made me really think about this and the feeling we get when we complete work. Today I had a student, who has many difficulties making it through a school day, come into my office and show me three 100's and a 70. He was so proud. It was great to see. Hopefully he remembers that feeling and tries to replicate it.