I returned to PCR yesterday for my 2nd visit with the 6th grade. The topic of the day: Decision Making. We talk a lot about making good decisions in 5th grade, and I started by reminding the kids about the decision making card game we played last year and about our peer pressure discussion about a teenage girl that is pressured to drink alcohol. Then I had them write down a method for making good decisions:
- Stop – whatever the situation, and take a moment to …
- Think – about your options, before you …
- Act – on your best plan, and then
- Reflect – on how you did, so you know what to do nextime.
I think its obvious why this acronym appeals to me (STAR Program … S.T.A.R… get it???), but it’s also good advice against our impulsive moments.
After getting that down in their folders, we did a quick decision making exercise where the kids stand up or sit down based on the choices I give them (stand up for cake, sit down for pie, etc). Many of the kids got very worked up over the arbitrary choices I was throwing out, so when I was done I asked them to imagine how it would go if they were making decisions for real. I suggested to them that it might be a good idea to spend a little time thinking ahead to the typical situations all teens go through from time to time (moments where peer pressure come to play) so that they have an idea of what they want to do when they are in that situation for real. If they think about how they would want to act beforehand, then they have a better chance of making a good decision (and not freezing up) when it counts.
We spent the remainder of class going through two decision making scenarios. The first was about a girl named Janet that steals money at a convenience store. After a great sidebar story about the time Mrs. Chang returned a wad of money outside Panera Bread to its rightful owner, we talked about why Janet should not have taken the money. First, $20 is absolutely not worth the consequences Janet faces if she gets caught. Secondly, even without thinking about the consequences, Janet shouldn’t take the money because stealing is wrong. We finished the scenario with a skit about Janet that involves 5 students, a gavel and some handcuffs. Lot’s of fun was had by all.
The second skit involved a boy named Jose that got caught holding marijuana:
Jose was talking to some other kids behind the gym. One of them pulled marijuana out of his bag and passed it to Jose. Jose took it and looked at it for a few seconds.
When I asked the kids if Jose had done anything wrong, the majority said “No”. This happens with most of my classes, and they usually don’t understand Jose’s problem until I ask them to imagine themselves in the same situation and then in the next moment their teacher and their mother walks around the corner and sees them with the drugs. Jose might not have ever used the marijuana, but just being in possession of some sort of contraband is against the rules. Using it would be breaking a different rule. We wrapped Jose’s story up with another skit (spoiler alert: Jose gets suspended and loses his girlfriend).
I finished the class by emphasising that we should make decisions based on:
- what is the right thing to do, and
- what is the risk vs what is the reward involved.
We should always try to make decisions first on “what’s the right thing to do?” By 6th grade all of the kids know what they should or should not be doing as long as they take a moment to think about it first.