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Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Essential 55

I’m always on the look out for common sense ideas that enhance more than just academics. In my field of Speech Language Pathology, pragmatic skill development is as important to us as receptive and expressive language development. Pragmatic skills are the social speech skills that help us become effective communicators, critical thinkers and problem solvers. People who are not strong students academically can do well in life if pragmatic skills are well developed and expectations are high.
I recently picked up the book The Essential 55, An Award-Winning Educator’s Rules for Discovering the Successful Student in Every Child, by Ron Clark winner of the 2001 Disney Teacher of the Year Award. The title caught my eye, I see so many kids that are bright but seem to be lacking the tools for success. In the Essential 55, Ron Clark gives his opinion on the 55 rules that can make every child successful as a student. His rules are not on the order of study more, read more or stay after school for help. Clark’s rules are rules for life. The focus of the rules is on enriching pragmatic awareness, improving pragmatic skills and expecting basic etiquette. Not to mention his rules make sense.
The Essential 55 also focuses on providing clear cut expectations for a child. If you read my blog, you know I am BIG on providing expectations for children. Six of The Essential 55 that I like best are:

#1 Responding to Adults
Mr. Clark suggests that you tell/expect children to say, “Yes sir” and “no ma’am. He says it set the tone for the kind of respect he expects from his students. For him a nod of a head or a “yeah” is not good enough. I sometimes feel the child/adult relationships, especially in schools, are too casual. This is great tool for kids to have, saying, “yes sir” and “no ma’am” usually makes a very good impression on others.

#2 Eye Contact
Eye contact is so important in communication. When you make eye contact, you are attending to and acknowledging the speaker. From my perspective, eye contact is also important because without eye contact you miss many of the non-verbal cues that clarify messages. Plus it’s polite. When a child’s disability effects their ability to make good eye contact, I spend a lot of time trying to get eye contact to the best level possible.

#6 If you are asked a question in conversation, ask a question in return
This is an excellent habit to get into. Again, it shows people you are listening and interested. This is a good foundation for developing good conversation skills.

#11 Surprise others by performing random acts of kindness
This is an excellent suggestion and should jut go without saying. However, we all need reminders to do this from time to time. How many times have you said to yourself “I should have helped……..”, when regretting that you did help someone out. This one goes in effect at my house today. We all seem to be lacking in that lately. Recently, one of my very disabled students in the middle of a tough moment said to me “Stop being nice to me!” When I responded with a smile “No, I can’t do that, I am just a nice person”, he was so taken back by my kind response he calmed down almost immediately. A little kindness actually made a tough situation easier and almost humorous for me.

#15 Do not ask for a reward
Mr. Clark rewards his student’s often but asking for a reward is out of the question. He feels students should strive to do their best all the time not just for a reward. He states that in the real world rewards are not always given for a job well done. He feels that that this rule helps kids appreciate their efforts over their rewards.

#48 If anyone is bullying you let me know
He wants the kids to feel safe in school and know that he will stand up for him. Kids should never have to put up with bullying in school (we would not expect or put up with bullying at work). A big step to preventing bulling is to empower children to report bullying incidents since most happen out of earshot or view of adults.

If you notice Ron Clark’s rules are not just school or student rules they are rules for life. It was hard to pick just 6 to highlight. I would like to tell you more of them but you will just have to pick up his book.
With the Essential 55, Ron Clark has developed a “hidden curriculum”. A “hidden curriculum” is defined as the rules we all know but are never taught. I could see his Essential 55 presented weekly or expanded and presented daily at announcements instead of (or in addition to) “word of the day”.
This is a good read for both teachers and parents. The reality is if you expect good things from kids and are willing to teach them, they usually deliver.

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