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Educator Articles


The Energy Releaser

By Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller

Anthony Walker teaches sixth grade in Georgia's Clayton County Public Schools. This year, one of his sixth-grade students showed up with a first-grade reading level, low energy, and not much evidence that would lead one to predict a successful school experience for the forthcoming year. Not much, that is, except a former special education teacher who was prepared to handle such situations.

Sammy, the low ability sixth-grader, had somehow slipped through the cracks. He had made it all the way to sixth grade without receiving special education or other intervention services. By sixth grade Sammy exhibited a variety of avoidance behaviors. He became frustrated and gave up easily. He often whined, "I can't do it," and "I don't get it." He hesitated to take risks such as participating in class or answering questions. He refused to read aloud. He often sat in his seat staring out the window. His energy level was low.

Mr. Walker found Sammy's frustration with school frustrating himself. It's not easy trying to motivate a student who is five years behind in reading. Nor is it easy finding appropriate reading materials or designing ability-driven assignments every day.

After accepting his own frustrations and moving beyond them, Mr. Walker began to empathize with Sammy. He came to understand on a gut level that Sammy had not put himself in the present situation but that somewhere, somehow, he had been neglected. He began to view Sammy as deprived rather than as unmotivated.

Mr. Walker, like most Spirit Whisperers, knows there is a source of energy inside every one of us that we can draw on. He also knew that Sammy's energy was shut off so that he was unable or unwilling to call it forth. Sammy was blocking his own inner energy source by closing his heart, sealing his mind, and retreating inwardly into self-restriction. Mr. Walker's first goal became getting Sammy to stop hiding in the darkness within him. To do that he needed to get the energy unblocked and flowing so that Sammy's true spirit could surface.

"My first response at this point to get Sammy's energy flowing was to help him be successful by first appearing successful," Mr. Walker explained. "I told him that I wanted him to look good in front of his peers and that I had a plan that could make that happen. He was intrigued. I then explained my hand-raising plan to him."

The hand-raising plan was a simple construct with profound implications. Mr. Walker informed Sammy that he wanted him to raise his hand in class no matter what question was asked. With Sammy raising his hand so frequently, his peers would see him participating in the class and begin to view him in more positive ways. What the rest of the class didn't know is that Sammy and his teacher had made a special deal.

"I told him to raise his right hand only if he knew the answer and his left hand if he did not," Mr. Walker explained. "I told him I would only call on him if he knew the answer (right hand raised). If his left hand was raised I called on other students and he heard their answers. Sammy immediately began to show more energy in class. Just the act of raising his hand many times a day got him more involved."

Mr. Walker did not stop with the hand-raising deal. "I also worked out some hand signals for multiple choice questions so that I would occasionally give him a correct answer. I explained to him that I would not give him all the answers and that he would have to begin to pull himself out of his situation by pushing himself to learn how to read." The prime-the-pump strategy of providing occasional answers also encouraged Sammy to release more of his own energy.

As Sammy activated his own energy from within, he became more easily motivated from the outside as well. With his energy flowing more freely, he became more open to receive the energy of others and entered more fully into the pace and flow of the classroom. Arrangements were made through the school counselor to get Sammy some tutoring in reading, further uplifting his spirit and his ability to read.

Small actions taken by one concerned teacher helped this student activate his inner energy. As Sammy began to look better in front of his peers and found someone willing to help him with his predicament, he became more internally motivated.

Sammy still has a long way to go, but he is on his way to full energy and increased productivity and vitalization. Asked to reflect on the whole experience, Mr. Walker said, "This has been a life-changing experience for me, and I hope for him."

Without a doubt, Mr. Walker. Without a doubt!

Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller are the authors of The Only Three Discipline Strategies You Will Ever Need: Essential Tools for Busy Parents. They are two of the world's foremost authorities on raising responsible, caring, confident children. They publish a free monthly e-zine for educators. To sign up for it or to obtain more information about how they can help you or your group meet your professional staff development needs, visit their website today: www.personalpowerpress.com.