Thanks to the NYC Collaborates program organized by the New York City Charter Center, on Tuesday afternoon I spent two hours with KIPP co-founder Dave Levin (and 200 other teachers and administrators) IMG_20141202_152314_260

Dave is a rock star in the education world. Introducing him, Deputy Mayor Rich Buery noted that Dave's bio runs to four pages. He's been on Colbert, for God's sake!

Dave has long been fascinated by how character contributes to academic success. Paul Tough wrote about this in the New York Times a few years ago. It's a fascinating read. The bottom line is that some research suggests that non-academic traits like persistence and belief in one's self contribute as much (if not more)to success in life than academic smarts.

Dave gladly shares this gospel with others, and he's a compelling speaker. His thinking influenced many of the decisions we took in planning the ICS approach to discipline and student behavior, as well as teacher training.

And, as he pointed out yesterday, everything he said about managing and encouraging kids applies at home too. For your spouse or partner as well as your kids. So in the interest of encouraging joy, success and Bayt Shalom among all members of the ICS community, let me share a few of the key points he made.

1.) We retain negative comments far more strongly than compliments. Successful marriages are ones where the ratio of positive comments to negative comments is 5:1.  So Kelly Clarkson was wrong when she sang that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.  It makes you feel worse.

2.) About 85% of the perception of our words is non-verbal. In a very important sense what we say doesn't matter. How we look and the tone of our voice. More smiles, lower voice, fewer clenched teeth.  (my personal area for growth)

3.) We all recognize empty praise. Look for specific elements of your partner (or child's) work to show them you're engaged. "That's a nice drawing" is far less powerful than "Tell me how you picked those colors?"

4.) Change is hard. It takes time. You will fall short sometimes.  Writing down key words that remind you of your intentions is one way to help yourself stick to the plan. Put them on the back of the door, or the bathroom mirror.