Soft psychological approaches have taken a beating over the years as neuroscience made its way on stage. Our new data driven society has not made things easier for more qualitative approaches to the human condition.
The name of the game is Numbers, Statistics and Central Tendency.
It is difficult to explain to a child that they are performing poorly in class and that the proof is in the numbers. This mentality removes the innocence of childhood and teaches children that the world is cruel and they are reduced to nothing more than a numerical symbol.
We need to take a step back for a moment from the numbers and recall how and why administrators, school boards and teachers got involved in education in the first place – to help kids grow.
Reviewing a person’s qualities stems from a mid-20th century school of psychology known as the humanistic approach.
Humanists focus on the unique qualities of individuals and less on the problems that other systems view as plagues or disorders. They believe there is no cookie-cutter answer to every issue in people’s lives and focus more on the goals of seeking self-improvement.
Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is one of the most well known tools adopted from this school of thought.
Carl Rogers’ theory of client-centered therapy can be applied to education in that its attention is on unconditional positive regard . According to Dr. Stephen Joseph of the University of Nottingham, UPR goes beyond smiling and gestures of pleasantries.
” The thing to understand is that UPR only makes sense as a way to be with others if you think the theory behind it is right. But more than that if you don’t buy the theory you won’t actually be able to do it no matter how hard you try,” explains Joseph.
Applying Unconditional Positive Regard in Schools
How do we apply unconditional positive regard in the classroom? First, address children with an honest, genuine desire to help them grow. Data can help you discover who might need help. Put the spreadsheet aside and get to know your children:
- Discover the environmental factors that affect their behavior.
- Spend more time actively listening than speaking.
- Echo, restate or ask for clarification of the barriers to their self-improvement
- Confirm your students’ feelings and accept what is verbally expressed (Don’t play know-it-all.)
- Reflect their feelings in a non-judgmental way if you notice changes in body language (“You feel a little irritated?”)
With unconditional positive regard you may find the cause or some link to student performance. In the doing so, you may have also found a student who will be more open to communicate with you if grades or other matters get in the way of their self-improvement.
Never forget that every child deserves an active listener with unconditional positive regard.