Where Are You Living?

Written by Donna Boucher

Donna has been a teacher, math instructional coach, interventionist, and curriculum coordinator. A frequent speaker at state and national conferences, she shares her love for math with a worldwide audience through her website, Math Coach’s Corner. Donna is also the co-author of Guided Math Workshop.

Our staff meetings regularly spotlight the great teaching that’s going on in classrooms throughout our building.  I’ve learned so much from these segments! This past week, one of our phenomenal 4th grade teachers, Linda, shared a management strategy she has been using in her classroom with great success–even with those kiddos that nothing has worked for.  It came from a training she attended in another district presented by Quantum Learning based on their publication The Eight Keys of Excellence.  She said that what had really stuck with her from that training was the concept of The Line.

The idea of The Line, or living above the line, is based on the idea that each one of us is responsible for our choices.  When we habitually blame others or make excuses for our bad choices, we relinquish our power and take on a victim mentality.  Living above the line creates victors who acknowledge their choices, both good and bad, and experience the power and freedom that comes from making good choices.  The play on the spelling of responsibility (response-ability) stresses the fact that we have the ability to respond to the behavior of others. In other words, we can’t change the behavior of others, but we have total control over our response to that behavior.

Turns out there is a LOT of information out there about Above the Line (just Google it).  I particularly like this video.

So how does this look in practical terms in the classroom?  Linda introduced the idea in Morning Meeting, and it is a daily part of conversations in the classroom. That’s huge!  You can’t just put a poster up on the wall, talk about it once, and expect it to stick.  She set up a pocket chart, divided by a horizontal line across the middle, with students’ names written on paint samples. Each child actually has a different color, and Linda said that while students can’t necessarily read their name from across the room, they know their colors!  All students start above the line each day.  If a student exhibits a behavior inconsistent with making good choices, she merely moves that student’s card below the line.  No fuss, no laborious record keeping.  The student can work their way back up above the line by making better choices.  This idea of redemption is key to the success of the system.

Another key component to living above the line is acknowledging bad choices. Linda has taught her students the proper way to make an apology.  The apology must specifically state what they are apologizing for and how they intend to make it better.  For example, I apologize for hurting your feelings.  Next time I will be more careful about using humor that might hurt others.

I mentor a 5th grade student, and the day after being introduced to the concept of The Line I shared it with him. When we looked at the above and below the line behaviors, he was pretty quick to realize that he routinely makes excuses or blames others for his bad choices.  I now feel like I have a new and powerful language to use with him!  I wanted to make something visual to support the idea of The Line, so I created the bookmark you see below and two different posters, including the one at the top of the post.

Grab the bookmark here and the posters here.  Are you familiar with this philosophy or are you using it in your classroom?  Please leave a comment and share!!

 

10 Comments

    • Donna Boucher

      Exactly, Barbara! I think it’s power comes from the simplicity. You can just look at a student and say, “Where are you living?”.

      Reply
  1. Jody

    Thanks, Donna…and your 4th grade teacher!. This will have a huge impact, not only in the lives of my students, but also on mine Thank you, too, so very much for the wonderful posters and bookmarks. 🙂

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      I’m so happy that you think it’s something you can use, Jody! I think it’s an incredibly powerful concept.

      Reply
    • Trevor Hollenbeck

      Are the posters available in Spanish? I teach 2nd grade at a Spanish Immersion school and it would save a lot of time:-). I can’t wait to try this in my classroom!! Thank you for the wonderful ideas!!!

      Reply
  2. TheElementary MathManiac

    This is new to me but I love the simplicity of it! Definitely something I will be looking into more. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      I’m hooked!! And it’s a really small piece of what Quantum Learning puts out.

      Reply
  3. Stephanie Emberly

    Definitely a piece of a larger picture. It reminds me of Restitution- a program that does not get enough notice. Lovely ideas for helping students.

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      Thanks for sharing that, Stephanie. I’ll have to check it out!

      Reply
  4. CeCe

    I have done the quantum learning training. “The line” works great for middle schoolers, too. It treats them as adults and holds them accountable for their behavior without the adult pointing out their behaviors and issuing punishments. While there does need to be consequences, the behaviors seen to extinguish themselves quicker when they realize WHY they choose certain responses and what are the more appropriate choices. Very successful!

    Reply

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