Empowering Scholars Through Choices, Empathy and Failure

About the Author: Mr. Rios has been a teacher since 2009 and feels privileged to be a founding member of Brilla College Prep Middle School. Mr. Rios earned his degree in Bilingual Special Education from City University of New York. Mr. Rios pursued a career in special education because he believes that all students ought to have access to a quality education.

In my ten years as an educator, I have seen many trends come and go as it relates to classroom management and relationship-building. However, upon my first visit to Brilla College Prep, I was astounded to see a culture where young scholars are viewed as advocates, mediators, and independent problem solvers. Educators are able to focus on teaching and need to devote relatively little time and energy to address misbehaviors. Teachers are able to foster dynamic classrooms of joy and learning.

After reading a book entitled, “Teaching with Love and Logic” by Jim Fay and David Funk, I realized that what I saw at Brilla that day was not a miracle. Brilla’s founders strategically chose to utilize Love and Logic in the classroom because of the evidence-based research that points to its success in mitigating behavioral issues in the classroom. What I saw on my first visit to Brilla was the natural consequence of the time teachers had invested in building healthy relationships with scholars, gaining trust, and empowering them to make wise choices.

Definition

Love and Logic is a philosophy based on, as its namesake suggests, ‘love’ and ‘logic.’  The “love” component deals with being loving, nurturing and understanding towards a child even when he or she makes a poor choice. Whereas the ‘logic’ aspect is implemented to help a child develop the ability to rationally think through his or her decisions and consider the impact those said decisions have on their own life and the people around them. The Love and Logic philosophy recognizes that mistakes do not define a person, and rather, could be a part of a person’s journey toward becoming wiser.

How is Love and Logic Utilized at Brilla?

Love and Logic is a method used at Brilla to help scholars not only strengthen their ability to make wise choices, but a way to demonstrate to scholars that they are lovable even upon making poor choices. In our mission towards educating the “whole” child, scholars gain an understanding that their decisions and actions have logical consequences. However, even when scholars choose to misbehave, it does not take away their innate human dignity.

Mr. Rios poses with Brilla students at the Mott Haven Celebration Brilla hosts annually.

An example that stands out to me of a time I used Love and Logic effectively was with a scholar that exhibited concerning behaviors, such as throwing shoes and tantrums during class time. As a result, the social worker and I developed a strong relationship with this scholar. The time we have spent building a relationship with the scholar has helped us both learn this scholar’s interests, home life environment, and academic strengths and weaknesses. Simply building a relationship with the scholar generated positive improvement. Eventually, the scholar was selected as “Scholar of the Week” because of the positive changes seen in both behavior and academic performance. Nowadays, this scholar chooses to talk through negative feelings with a trusted adult, and is therefore provided guidance in thinking through the best options available to address the negative feelings. Sometimes, a simple verbal or nonverbal prompt is sufficient to get the scholar back on track. It is truly inspiring to see the scholar’s continued growth and improvement. My hope is that one day the scholar can look back at the growth achieved with pride.

Love and Logic has equipped Brilla staff with the knowledge to facilitate a system by which scholars can express their feelings without disrupting class time. Thanks to the co-teacher model Brilla has in place, teachers do not have to choose between running a smooth class and building relationships. Instead, one teacher can address misbehavior and another can continue on with the class. If need be, a social worker or learning specialist can be asked to help. Thus, Love and Logic’s philosophy supports Brilla’s mission to help scholars grow intellectually, physically, socially, by first and foremost, teaching them that wise choices are both reasonable and a way of showing love to your neighbor.

Building strong relationships with scholars is a priority because it creates a platform of trust with scholars, and they feel empowered to actively participate in the process of their social and intellectual education. If the philosophy is implemented well, scholars feel that their human dignity is respected and free will is valued. Love and Logic creates a “partnership” dynamic between teachers and scholars, eliminating most, if not all, behavioral issues. A classroom where teachers can foster learning and facilitate self-regulation is one in which a scholar is receiving optimal opportunities to learn both in the classroom and on living their best life.

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