Connection Before Correction for Teachers

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by Dr. Jane Nelsen and Dr. Kelly Gfroerer

Research has shown that a connection at school is the primary factor for academic achievement.

  1. Connection before correction is the best way to encourage behavior change. Examples:
    CONNECTION: Validate feelings,“I see you are frustrated and angry.”
    CORRECTION: “It is okay to feel what you feel, but it is not okay to hit. What else could you do?”
    CONNECTION: Verbalize caring,“I care about what you have to say.”
    CORRECTION: “Let’s find time to sit together and brainstorm for solutions that are respectful to everyone.”
  2. Class Meetings are one of the best ways to help kids achieve a sense of overall connection (belonging). See “Class Meetings” card.
A Positive Discipline Classroom Educator who teaches middle school math recently shared this story which illustrates the power of Connection before Correction. 
I was shocked to find out that a majority of my middle school math class cheated on their tests. When I realized what had happened, I totally flipped. My first instinct was to go into class the next day and let them have it!  I am so thankful that I had some time to cool down and thoughtfully reflect on Positive Discipline tools that could help. Since I really "get" the importance of Connection before Correction, I decided to start there.
The next class I invited everyone to join me in a circle for a discussion about the exam. I started by asking what happened (the Curiosity Questions Tool) and made sure my Tone of Voice conveyed Respect and Caring.  I Listened, and  I Validated Feelings. 
My students started sharing about how much stress they were under from parents and coaches to do well. And, how they had absolutely NO time with all their after school activities. They were all ashamed and shared thoughtfully about how they regretted what they had done.
I was thankful we had covered so many Positive Discipline Essential Skills thus far in our work to prepare for Positive Discipline Class Meetings. The students started coming up with Solutions to make sure cheating never happened again. 
I learned so much about the students’ perceptions and the reality of how much stress they felt. Taking time to Validate Feelings and ask Curiosity Questions about what happened helped build a Connection in which the students felt safe to share what was going on for them. This led to helpful Solutions that they came up with as a group. I feel confident that the CORRECTION the group decided to implement for themselves with my supervision was more meaningful and long lasting than anything I could have come up with on my own. The group decided together the consequence for cheating on the exam should be a grade of zero on the exam! 
This story is a great example of what research shows again and again. Student success (academic, social and emotional learning) is directly related to students’ feelings of connection at school. Connection before Correction is a fundamental Positive Discipline Teacher Tool and will greatly increase your efforts to intrinsically motivate your students and positively mange your classroom on a daily basis. Connection may be the best way to consistently encourage your students, and lays the foundation for many other tools to be effective.

Join us and take the 52 Teacher Tools in 52 Weeks Challenge. This is a fun way to stay focused on Positive Discipline in your classroom or school setting.
We hope you will participate and share by posting comments about your experiences using Positive Discipline Tools for Teachers. Click Here to get a copy of the Positive Discipline Teacher Tool Cards. It would also be helpful to read a Positive Discipline Book.  
The great thing about this challenge is that you can start at any time. It doesn't matter which week you start with, just jump on in and join the challenge! Together we can learn 52 Positive Discipline Tools for Teachers. Each classroom management strategy also teaches students important life skills based on social and emotional learning.