Ms. Rita Said…

Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like! – June 2016

Rita Pierson has been an educator for more than 40 years.  In her 2013 Ted Talk, she passionately and clearly stated that “kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.†(Pierson 2013)  She further discussed the importance of building relationships as the “human connection†or human behavior part that impacts learning.

I must confess…it’s not always easy to build relationships with students and it can be time consuming.  However, I love the way Rita speaks about the simple actions she took (the behaviors she engaged in) to build relationships.  Taking the time to build relationships with our children makes it possible to have a positive impact on their learning process.

So, what did Rita do behaviorally to connect and build relationships with her students?  She listened to students and gave encouraging remarks (pairing with reinforcement).  Rita apologized when she was wrong (modeling appropriate behavior).  She also put smiley faces on students’ work for making improvements toward learning targets even though initially they were several steps away from the mark (positive reinforcement for close approximations of target response).  By modifying and being intentional with her own behavior, she systematically changed the environment in her class and created the best space for her students to learn.

She speaks of the relationships she built, but I see much more.  I see the behaviors she engaged in.  She provided reinforcement for close approximations of target responses and consistently joined herself with reinforcing items and activities.  Rita did more things than I have mentioned.  However, it is clear that everything she did and every adjustment she made increased the likelihood that her students would achieve.

Ms. Rita addressed educators in her 2013 TED Talk, but as you engage with your child and build relationships with them, you become your child’s first and most important teacher.  By making changes to your behavior, you can change your child’s environment to one that increases the likelihood that he or she will engage in behavior that leads to the acquisition of the goals you have for them.  This is the human connection or human behavior part of learning.  Your behavior affects your child’s behavior because it directly impacts the environment they are learning in and shapes the way they interact with the world around them.

This sounds too simple…right?  To get your child to reach the goals you have set for them, all you have to do is give lots of praise, smiley faced stickers, and say you’re sorry… NOT SO!  As Rita puts it, “this job is tough… You Betcha… But it is not impossible… [You] can do it!â€

“Every child deserves a champion, an adult [and/or parent] who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection, and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be.†(Pierson 2013)

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