Today was the 2nd to last day of summer before teachers report back to school. Naturally, my family wanted to spend one last day at the water park so we gathered up the kids, slathered on the sunscreen, and spent some time in the lazy river. It was cool (for South Carolina) so there were not a ton of cars in the parking lot and we assumed it wouldnt be to busy. We have season passes so we can usually judge the lines by the parking lot. When we got through gate though our mistake was evident – it was a summer camp day.
My kids usually stay in the kid pools which is also where the camp kids usually stay too. One of these pools has a fairly large hollow tree slide which is where I was monitoring my youngest when the life guard reminded me of the importance of clear feedback. To ride on the tree slide the swimmer has to be under a certain height. Because some 5 year olds grow faster than others some of the campers where too tall for the slide. I knew it, the life guard knew it, but the kid was not aware of this. The life guard gave a tweet on their whistle.
Life at the pool stopped.
Every child within the sound of the whistle stopped and looked fearfully at the life guard – except the kid at the top of the slide.
The whistle was blown again.
Everyone started pointing at themselves as if to ask “me?”. Those outside of the life guard’s line of sight when about their business happy knowing they had not violated a rule but annoyed their fun had been interrupted.
The kid on the slide was oblivious and prepared themselves.
It was only after the swimmer reached the bottom (after yet another whistle tweet) and was within a few feet of the life guard did the message become clear. The life guard gave a clear verbal direction to the kid who shook his head and apologized.
I know I’m gearing back up for school because I immediately thought of radpid feedback loops and the need for clear and direct feedback in both academic and behavioral issues. How often do I use a water park whistle? I think I am clear in my feedback but the students are confuses about whom it is directed to or what should be done to fix an issue. This is one reason that I am transitioning to Standards Based Grading. Instead of the blaring catchall of a letter grade that has no clear or actionable information SBG holds the promise of clear direction. My school is also in the beginning phases of implementing restorative practices and I have been asked to be part of the vanguard in that effort. I have attempted this at the classroom level but a building level project is daunting. Still, the RP model is similar in its efforts to provide clear and actionable feedback instead of the broad and directionless blast of traditional disciplinary systems.
Who knew a simple Tweet could lead to so many education related thoughts?
PS – I highly recommend swim shirts like this. They are cool and comfy even in 100 degree heat but more importantly they are about SPF 50. Skin Cancer is no joke.