The Power of Three

19th September 2014

Triangles Part 3

Maslow identified the importance of safety, both physical and emotional, but we also need to build a sense of self worth, of adding value to the community our students have joined.

For our New Arrivals it easy to cast them as “people who can’t,” rather than “people who can.”  In order to succeed students need to know that they are successful and to be perceived by other students as successful.
If you doubt the power of this validation try the wall experiment. Put a piece of your new arrivals works on the wall and highlight that which is good. Watch them shine and approach all learning with renewed vigour.
 In a Year 5 class the teacher did such a thing, she added a text written in Vietnamese and one in Polish, written by two new pupils. (Both here for about six months.) She praised the work. With support from other pupils and staff, an element of translation was added. This simple activity had many benefits:

  • The new pupils felt validated (“me work wall yes” as one put it.)
  • Other pupils had their language skills validated.
  • We took a tiny step to counteract the view that English is the only language of value in our classrooms.

Pupils may well try to find ways to seek validation. If we are lucky this will be at something positive and helpful, e.g. mental maths, origami, drawing, basket-ball, football, running or gymnastics. If we are unlucky it will be at something less helpful e.g. climbing trees, walls and fences, or fighting. I once watched as a support assistant tried to explain that climbing a fence to seek a ball was dangerous. As this child was from Barbados and had spent many hours up tall trees, his expression showed complete incredulity that a one metre fence posed any danger. He, of course, quickly became a very popular figure thanks to his ball retrieval skills.

So look at the new arrival in your class, find ways to publicly praise them, and make sure that they know that you and the other pupils know that they have skills and talents.