I was out in the garage Sunday morning,cutting open and then wood burning a gourd to make a natural gourd bird feeder. I was listening to Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer on an I-pod and contemplating educational reforms in Iowa when a thought occurred to me that doesn’t really have anything to do with any of those things. I was probably a little woozy from inhaling smoke and gourd dust. Gourd dust that was probably filled with toxic mold spores and additionally I may have been disoriented in time because of Rudolph playing (shuffle on an I-pod leads to some unusual selections). These confusiog factors were all mixed up with my thinking about educational reforms because I had just read one more article in the Sunday paper blaming teachers for nearly all the ills of society. Then a flash came out of the smoky chaos and confusion when I thought of a good name for what good teachers have done for years. The name I thought of was the Rudolph Principle. Most of you will remember that Rudolph was an outcast and considered a neer-do-well until his special feature, skill, disability, disfigurement? met up with opportunity and the rest became history (well actually fantasy).
Almost all good teachers/ classroom managers look for a hook or an opportunity to give every student in their classes their “15 minutes” of fame. When a child who is currently in the “ugly duckling” stage either physically or academically as well as those students who seem destined to never grow out of that stage do something well the teacher must step up and support that success by showing its value to the student and to the rest of the class.
I am not advocating false or even faint praise I am advocating the idea that all praise is “relative.” The one moment that a child will remember best from your classroom is that moment when their classmates joined with them in celebrating a ‘real” success no matter how small. “Real” success is a necessary foundational step to future progress for all students. Good teachers will not only recognize these Rudolph moments but work to set up their occurrence / reoccurrence if necessary. By creating or seizing opportunities for student success teachers have the power to change their world. Most of your students will not stand on the stage at Carnegie Hall but when you are 6 years old the classroom stage can be just as large and possibly more important.
The Rudolph Principle, simply stated, involves structuring classroom lessons and seizing opportunities when they present themselves such that even a red nose can become a green light on the road to success.