“Is This More Important Than Grades?”


First of all, let's dismiss the notion that grades are overrated or not important. They're crucial –tremendously so.

However, when it comes to your lowest-achieving kids, the ones teetering on the edge of failing and big trouble, it's wise to focus your "big picture" efforts on factors other than sheer grades. You absolutely must think outside the box if you're going to motivate the unmotivated.

So here's a better question . . . Are grades the most accurate predictor of success? The answer is probably not.

Studies have shown that scores on a test of hope are more accurate than the SAT at predicting college grades. The same is true of a test on optimism.

This makes common sense. We've all taught overachieving kids who made it to the front row on guts, determination and pure perseverance. And we've certainly seen our share of smart kids who drift astray on cruise control and bad influences.

Let me put this in terms you can relate to . . .

Let's say you have two kids in your class: One earns B's without a lot of effort, and the other works really hard to earns C's.

Your "C" student shows up every day, has a good attitude, and can handle mildly stressful situations and make adjustments and decisions easily — all with a smile on his face.

On the other hand, your "B" student misses class, tends to be a bit cocky, has a simmering negative streak, frowns a lot during mildly stressful situations, and often makes poor adjustments and bad decisions.

So here is when your "C" kid shines:

 1. Whenever the teacher (or his future boss) comes in mildly upset or has the flu.

 2. When teacher tells everyone, "Wednesday is a substitute teacher and I need you guys to be real good and to do x and y."

 3. When another student has a bloody nose and the teacher needs a student to walk him to the nurse.

 4. When two other kids gossip about another kid who does not fit in and he is able to say the right thing to turn the situation around.

And here is when your "B" student shines:

 1. At test time.  That's it.

So let me ask you: which kid will fare better in this world once his mortarboard falls back to earth on graduation day?

Society is filled with semi-talented millionaires and gifted failures. So if you're in the position of trying to save a foundering student, it makes sense to use everything at your disposal. Creating an optimistic mindset might serve you well if you're getting nowhere through traditional channels.

Should you start thinking in terms of EQ instead of IQ?

As you might already know, EQ measures "Emotional Intelligence." It's also known as EI.

The simplest definition of EI I've seen is this one: "Emotional intelligence is the ability to integrate thinking and feeling to make optimal decisions." (That definition is from Joshua Freedman, who wrote a book titled, "At the Heart of Leadership.")

There's no consensus yet on just how soft the "science" of EI is, but it's hard to deny its basic worth when we see real-world results that ring true with common sense.

For example, is it really surprising to learn that research has shown that 80 percent of adult success comes from a healthy EI? Not when I look around me, it doesn't. Ditto for studies which show that referrals to the principal's office drop by as much as 95 percent after students undergo EI training. As educators, we'd be foolish to ignore the "inner game" if we're looking to boost outer results. Whether EI is a real, quantifiable science or not, there's no question that your attitude determines your altitude.

If you've read my book for teachers, you'll know that I'm a huge proponent of teaching your kids how to be accountable and make wise decisions.

When we teach kids social skills and how to be more likable, when we show them how to slow down, when we use role plays to demonstrate how to think and act in potentially life-changing moments, we are handing them a toolbox that lasts forever.

Let's face it, our job is to teach the 3 R's, and the better we teach them, the more opportunities our kids will have. But once our kids are done filling in little blank ovals with No. 2 pencils, they soon discover another set of rules, and they go something like this: We hire people we like and we fire people based on their attitudes. We gravitate toward those with high EI scores, and we shun the guy who frowns at us, even if he has a wall full of framed diplomas.

We can't ignore that as educators.

Finally, a story that ties this all together for us educators . . .

I once taught at a high school founded more than 70 years ago. As a result, a lot of our staff were alumni. One year, on the first day of school, the principal asked with pride, "Can we have every staff member who graduated from this high school to please stand up?"

A lot of folks stood up, but then there was a slight murmur in the crowd as a few folks in one area playfully snickered, "Hey, sit down Joe."

Joe was the school's head counselor. He had indeed attended this school as a youth, but he wasn't exactly Ivy league material. In fact, he was kicked out before graduating. Then a judge sent him to the youth authority, and it wasn't long before he was sent to Vietnam, where he stepped on a land mine.

While recuperating, Joe decided to go into education. He earned his chops at a really tough school, and then I had the good fortune to see him work small miracles on a daily basis at this 70-year-old high school.

I can't tell you the number of times I walked into his office and said, "Joe, does this kid really belong at this school and in MY class?" and then 15 minutes later be given a completely new way "into" the situation I hadn't considered. He could read a troubled kid (or any teacher) better than Joe Montana could read an opposing defense.

He listened intently and he could get you to do two things: think through the situation, and get you to laugh about it. He had a way of getting to the heart of any breakdown of a teacher-student relationship. And you usually left his office feeling good about repairing it.

Remember in my previous article when I said my absolute favorite days in teaching were seeing kids graduate who were headed for jail or worse just a short time earlier? Well, Joe was the one who helped make that happen every day.

And that's why I remain driven to think outside the box when trying to reach seemingly unreachable kids. Because I know it can be done.

YOU can do it, too, no matter your level of experience, whether you think you're a "natural" or not, and what type of kids you have in your classroom.  All you need is a set of effective strategies that emphasize all the positive emotional intelligence qualities that help kids succeed. 

My special teacher training package gives you the blueprint I've used for more than 15 years to do exactly that.  Take a look at this resource right now by clicking here.