Not So Magic Words.

Buzzwords, sadly, are not magic words.

Buzzwords, sadly, are not magic words.

In comics, when Captain Marvel’s younger alter ego shouts the word “SHAZAM,” he gains magic powers making him competitive with Superman. SHAZAM is an acronym, in that he gains the wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Hercules, the stamina of Atlas, the power of Zeus, the courage of Achilles, and the speed of Mercury. Pretty straightforward.

In education there is a “positive behavior expectation management” strategy that relies on an acronym, CHAMPs. Our campus recently adopted it, and it has become a buzzword, if not a magi word, one campus. To define it, let’s look here:

“CHAMPs is a proactive and positive approach to behavior and classroom management that allows teachers and administrators to maximize learning time while promoting a healthy school climate in which all students and teachers can feel safe, positive, and ready to learn. A positive approach involves constructive, encouraging, and affirmative interactions between students and staff school-wide, and CHAMPs is designed to assist teachers in establishing consistent expectations with logical and fair responses to misbehavior, promoting respectful and civil interactions, and developing tools to motivate students to do their best. This results in increased student on-task behavior and teaching time, higher rates of student achievement, and improved school atmosphere.

By following the effective, research-based practices outlined in CHAMPs, teachers can clearly communicate expectations on every classroom activity and transition so that students know what actions are permitted at different times. While expectations may vary from classroom to classroom, the framework for those expectations is the same, making it easier for students to understand the expectations in different classrooms or learning situations within the classroom. Students are taught to meet expectations using the framework of the CHAMPs acronym:

1. Conversation (How do students talk to each other during this activity?)

2. Help (How do students get the teacher’s attention and their questions answered?)

3. Activity (What is the task/objective? What is the end product?)

4. Movement (When and how do students move about during this activity?)

5. Participation (How do students show they are fully participating?)

So…on paper, that looks pretty good. I mean, certainly, making the expectations of class clear at the front end are very important…otherwise, how can any student know what you expect? There is a certain disconnect from the reality of inner city classes here, however, that is no trivially important. It presupposes that students are invested in success, and that they are interested in academic achievement. It doesn’t give a context for a consequence structure for students who want to do things outside of that system of expectations, only the clarity of expectations.

In effect, it is half of the equation. A good half, to be sure. However, it provides a serious disconnect for the administrators who rarely set foot in classes. If a student misbehaves in class, and refuses to follow basic rules, some of the admin team are quick with “are you using CHAMPs?” Or my favorite, “CHAMPs out the business of class. If you use CHAMPs, you won’t have any problems.” From buzzword to magic word, and back again.

As I watch teachers new to our school and our demographic struggle with classroom management, I sometime hear this interaction. The idea that “you need to stick closer to CHAMPs, and it will all work out,” is extolled frequently, without any real attention to the detail of the problem. With teachers leaving our campus rapidly, and discipline problems like fighting in full flower a mere four weeks into school…the magic word has failed. It’s time to move to something more effective, with more teeth.

In other news…

This is honestly how I feel about the mail sometimes.

This is honestly how I feel about the mail sometimes.

I’ve spoken before about the unrealistic expectations of my student loan officers. Tonight, as I look around the house for my checkbook, with full intention of making some sort of payment on my bills, I can’t help but think about the fundamental distrust that I now hold for the mail. Will it have an unreasonable request for a student loan payment? And an unexpected bill? Perhaps propaganda from my teachers’ union, which doesn’t really listen to me or my views? My favorites are the constant credit card applications…I am always “pre-approved.”

I’m hoping that today a watch will arrive from Zazzle.com, with Adequacy art on the face. I’m thinking the odds on that are fifty fifty…about the same as my ever finding my checkbook, given the efforts at “organizing” that occur when I am not looking.

Next Issue: The Dangers of Facebook!

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