Technically, Basically, Actually...
Posted On:
Friday, October 26, 2012
How to miss the point

We talk a lot at DCAC about rules and exceptions. Most of us understand and accept the relationship between rules and exceptions. We know that the exception happens once in a thousand cases; otherwise, it would be the rule. At DCAC, however, the exception is everywhere. All of our students believe themselves to be the exception to the rule, and this leads to some entertaining (and sad) conversations.

The lessons are straightforward at our school. Follow the rules, don't do anything to draw negative attention to yourself, and admit when you make a mistake. Listen and learn when an adult speaks to you. What we find, though, is that so many seemingly simple interactions with students aren't so simple because we, the adults, just don't understand what "really" happened. If I had a dollar for every time I heard -

Yes, but-----

Technically, what happened was.....

Basically, all I did was.....

Actually, it wasn't like that at all.....

What should have been a concise, focused lesson on adjusting behavior becomes an extended conversation on accepting consequences and getting the point that is being made. The foolishness of it all is that the infraction is usually small, the evidence plain, and the consequence minor. Even in these cases, the student wants to focus on everything but the evidence and the lesson being taught. And so a small thing is made into a big thing, and a day is not successful not because a rule was violated, but because the student believes himself a victim of circumstance or an exception to the rule.

Such behavior is habitual and a barrier to the student's success in school and life. In the same manner, if I had a dollar for every time I said -

When you get the point, this conversation will be over.....

I am not a lawyer. I don't believe in technicalities, I believe in what is right.....

You want to take this little issue this far?

You are willing to ruin your day over this?

Changing behaviors can be difficult, even when the student realizes that his responses never bring a positive result. Habits take time to establish and longer to break. So many times these students don't believe they can control their consequences by controlling their attitude and behaviors. Teaching them the correlation between what they do and what happens to them is in many situations an eye-opening experience. Showing them that adults in authority respond to what they do gives them the power to choose their consequences by choosing appropriate behaviors and attitudes toward authority.

It seems such a simple thing, but it is amazing (and again sad) how many of these young people have not been taught such a crucial life lesson. At DCAC we see students come to us with angry faces and closed minds. Over time we see many faces relax as students see the example of proper interactions and how adults respond when they get positive behavior. Smiles become common as they open up and start to succeed. One of our most repeated statements is this:

"If the adults at your school don't like you, what have you done to make yourself likable?"

A simple lesson in human nature can make a huge impact on life.

View all Highlights