Your thinking along with Ilana Horn’s about Khan Academy and achievement versus learning sparked a thought for me. I have often seen this this similar mis-assumption about behavior and communication. Often teachers in younger grades are expected to adopt a “behavior plan” from day one. This usually includes a nominal nod to student ownership of the classroom by having students create a list of rules based on their prior experiences with school or home. This one sided conversation between teacher and students is usually strong armed towards what the teacher wants to happen.
Sometimes this plan includes a parent communication piece. A smiley chart, stop light, or stickers are used to let parents know how their children are doing in school. The intention is to create a compliant classroom so that the teacher can teach.
Then the behavior plan is used. It works for a while but then it doesn’t. Often new teachers appear bewildered when they start to lose the shine cast by glowing faces that appeared in September. They can’t understand why the behavior plan is not working.
The teacher laid out the rules, sent home the sad faces, the teacher hasn’t even smiled since school started. What isn’t working?
I think the answer lies in understanding the relationship between behavior and communication. Just because the teacher has communicated behavior expecations to students or parents it doesn’t mean he/she has communicated the intention behind the expectation. By using a behavior plan this teacher may communicate that behavior is all about compliance. When a new teacher communicates the intention is that the child and parent should feel safe at school and engaged in learning. On the flip side, when a teacher realizes that a student’s behavior is actually a form of communication instead of a form of non-compliance they are able to use “misbehavior” to benefit their students in the long run. They can adjust their practice, build a stronger relationship, or find out why the student is having difficulty engaging with learning. This is why I suggest we are cautious in adopting any plan that doesn’t start and end with the student, whether it is Khan’s formalized plan for teaching math or classroom behavior plans. Without including the communication of students in either process the intention is lost.