Effortless English Archives

Automatic English For The People

Friday, September 23, 2005

Don't Treat All Students The Same

by AJ

Jimmy Johnson was a very successful American football coach. He won a College National Championship with the Miami Hurricanes,... and two (I believe) NFL Super Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys. He also helped resurrect the NFL's Miami Dolphins.

At the beginning of training camp each season, Johnson gave a speech to his players. He informed them that he would NOT treat all of them the same. He told them he would be very strict and tough with some players, but very relaxed and easy with others. Why?

Because some players had a proven record of discipline, excellence, and success. He was very relaxed with these players because he knew they were self-motivated and did not require external motivation.

But other players, especially rookies or players fighting to keep a spot on the team, got a very different treatment. With them he was tough as nails. He pushed them. He did not tolerate excuses or shoddiness.

He gave the following example in an interview (paraphrased): "If Troy Aikman (Hall of Fame level quarterback) falls asleep during a team meeting, I might whisper in his ear, 'Troy, wake up'. But if a rookie falls asleep in a meeting, he is going to catch hell".

Its a popular belief in teaching that we should treat all students the same. They should all get the same tests, the same assignments, and the same treatment.

I think that is a flawed, factory approach. Students are not the same and therefore each must be treated differently. Some are like the hall of fame quarterback-- they are exceptionally self-motivated. Others are like rookies- they have potential but they need a great deal of guidance.

This analogy suddenly hit me today. Bang! I realized that most of my problems first semester came from trying to treat all students the same. When I was relaxed , loose, and "easy"... my "Troy Aikman" students responded gloriously. But the "rookies" floundered without stronger guidance. They slacked off and lost motivation.

Id see this and react the other way... try to get tougher. The "rookies" would shape up, but the "Troy Aikman" students then became annoyed, frustrated, and de-motivated.

Next semester, at the beginning of the first class, I am going to give a Jimmy Johnson speech:

"I will not treat all of you the same. If you show me that you are self-motivated.... if you display initiative and excellence,... I will be very relaxed and easy with you. I will bend or break rules for you. I will fudge deadlines, change assignments, "grade easy", and play with the "points".

On the other hand, if you show me that you are not self-motivated... if you seem to need external motivation and clear guidance... if you appear passive.... I will be quite strict. I will not bend rules for you. I will not fudge deadlines. I will not make changes. If I must, I will push and cajole you and you will have to earn every single point."


Another change I will make next semester: rather than have an "attendance grade", I will use a "get noticed" grade. Students will be able to earn the "attendance/participation" points in one simple way: If, at the end of the semester, I know their name, their goals/learning plan, and something about them-- they will get the full points. If not, they get nothing.

This is a simulation, of course.. but a bit closer to how things work outside of school. In most aspects of life, you don't get "points" (results, pleasure, whatever) just for showing up and falling asleep. Getting noticed... being engaged and involved and personable-- doing something interesting-- thats what counts.