I had the best classroom management plan in the world, a foolproof lesson plan and what I thought was a good teaching strategy. Yet I was totally unprepared for what happened next. Kids Logic. For example, did you know there is more than one way to cook a hamburger?
This simple experience led me to find a great tactic when working with any kids and has helped me immensely in my lesson planning and preparation, even to designing effective curriculum, and class activities. It also helped incredibly with classroom discipline.
It all started one glorious Sunday at a camp I was working at during the summer. Every Sunday we took all the kids to the beach to do cookouts. Imagine 50 young boys, multiple fires on the beach, cooking raw meat over the roasting coals. A dream come true for every little man.
It was always a simple menu consisting of hot dogs, hamburgers, chips and soda. To an adult the cooking procedure is simple and ‘logical’. We showed the boys how you cook the hot dog by putting a stick through it and roasting it over the fire. An easy concept that was repeated by the other campers.
Next came the burgers. We handed out the frozen meat patties, the buns, the cheese and the pickles to each boy. Then handed out the grills. Obvious right? Cook the meat, put it on the bun, add cheese, the pickle, ketchup & mustard and viola! One picture-perfect hamburger any McDonalds restaurant would gladly photograph and place on a poster.
Enter kids logic.
We slowly moved around the fires helping with getting the grilling started. Then to our surprise we came across a team of young boys some of whom were already eating their burgers. How is this possible? They are eating while other groups are trying to figure out what a pickle is?
The answer came clearer as we got closer to the fire. There they were 5 youngsters roasting their burgers over the fire…their WHOLE burgers. Picture the bun, meat pattie, cheese, pickle, ketchup and mustard all skewered on a stick and placed over the fire!
It doesn’t get any more logical than that. We cook the hamburgers on the fire. One tried it, it worked, and the others followed. It was a valuable lesson to me. It solidified the perfect philosophy when working with kids over the next decade and a half. A role model is a powerful thing. It may not get you the best burger, but it sure has in influence on you.
The first few years working at summer camps I was introduced to many different concepts about how to work with kids which translated perfectly to the classroom environment. However, at the heart was always the same thing. This concept was introduced to me on my very first day as a camp counsellor.
The director addressed all the staff and floored us with this statement.
He said ‘ I haven’t hired you because of the skills you have. I have hired you because of the kind of person you are.’ Wow what a simple logical concept. We were role models.
It is the most simple yet also the most challenging thing for many of us adults to come to terms with. Ok, just ‘be’ a role model huh? That’s easy…that’s it!
But what does that mean really? I found it to be just one part of it and I gained the final piece to the ‘kids’ puzzle experientially a few years later.
A few years later I was working at an outdoor school where we taught a range of life skills and had different school groups each week. We had schools from wealthy communities all the way down to some of the poorest ones. Every Wednesday was parents visiting day where they also participated in a parents’ workshop and got to interact with the kids.
Over the months I noticed that regardless of where the school came from there were always a number of kids who’s parents would not show up. Often these were also some of the most challenging kids. I then started observing our more directed and enthusiastic kids and whether their parents showed up.
It was a 100% match. I discovered this one commonality shared by all kids regardless of background. Little did I know but I was about to get the biggest piece to the kids puzzle, actually it hit me in the face just the next week.
A brother and sister who I had noticed being in that 100% category, very outgoing, positive, and great to be around, introduced me to their parents. We talked about Australia and the father mentioned if there was hunting there. I said yes and at the odd occasion I had done some.
Coming from a small rural area he said they often go hunting as a family…together. I chatted with the kids about it. They loved it, not so much about the killing of animals, but more because they enjoyed being together. The father told me they would do it as long as the kids enjoyed it. They would do anything as long as they could do it together.
Both the brother and sister looked up and admired their parents. My ideas and assumptions about role models were being readjusted. You might call it an epiphany. All my years of training, observation and mentoring culminated in this moment.