Using the Levels of Development to Resolve Problems

I had an experience with one of my students that I call, “Level D at the Beach!”  While on a field trip, I had an opportunity to use the Levels of Development  with a child who had shown a high level of integrity. I was able to help him recognize the fact because of the Raise Responsibility System.

I had another situation in which I was able to use the Levels of Development to help a child feel a bit better about her dealings with a difficult desk partner. I thought I’d share it because I think it’s helpful to hear stories of classroom experiences and because I want to encourage people to remember to use the hierarchy to help children acknowledge not only their misbehaviour, but also to become aware of their higher level behaviour as well.

One little girl in our class this year is showing escalating signs of emotional disturbance. And no wonder, she’s had an extremely difficult life so far—far more difficult than anything I’ve ever experienced. Sadly, because of the anger and pain she has to deal with in her personal life, she is frequently quite cold or even mean in her comments to the other students. Although very articulate and bright, she often speaks impulsively and without much regard for the feelings of other people. Her classmates do their best to live with her and be kind but sometimes her sharp tongue is just too much for them to handle.

Such was the case when I returned to the classroom after lunch. There was Sarah, at the door, waiting for me. A very sweet child who is always smiling, she seemed near tears and was obviously worried. She explained that the other girl was going to “tell on her”— and that she “hadn’t done it!”

I didn’t bother to find out any more details because I believed Sarah; she’s never given me one moment of trouble and I knew I could trust that she was telling me the truth. If she told me that she “hadn’t done it,” I knew that she hadn’t—whatever it was!

I took her over to our hierarchy chart and asked her to show me where she generally operated. She pointed to D and I said, “Sarah, you’re right. You are generally always operating at C or D.” Then I went on to ask her about what kind of relationships students who operate at the higher levels build with their teachers? She was able to answer, “good,” which doesn’t really say it all, but I knew she understood what I was talking about. (We’ve been talking a lot about this same topic lately because a couple of weeks ago we had an outbreak of snapped pencils and deliberately broken pencil tips and on several occasions have been talking about people being trusted with classroom items that are intended for use by all.)

Then I  explained further, “You’re right, Sarah. When people operate at the higher levels, it means that other people come to trust them. If, day in and day out, you are behaving yourself and being honest, teachers know that they can count on you to do the right thing and to tell the truth.”

“Now, what do you think, Sarah? If someone does come up and tattles on you, and you tell me that you didn’t do it, will I be able to believe you?” She said, “Yes”, and I said, “That’s right, Sarah. You have shown me day after day that I can trust you, so if you tell me you didn’t do it, I can easily believe you. That’s one of the great things about operating on a high level; other people trust you and you don’t need to worry that someone is getting you in trouble for something you didn’t do.” And with that, the look of worry disappeared; she seemed quite relieved as she went off to her seat.

I love the Levels of Development!

Kerry in British Columbia, Canada