At Traditional Martial Arts Academy, kids earn life skills stripes at every belt level. These stripes are for effort applied at home, school and towards community service. During our mat chats this past month, we discussed one of these stripes each week. Last week, we discussed the School Stripe. Kids earn a red stripe for their belts for effort they apply at school (you can watch a video about life skills stripes in general here.)
As stated above, the School Stripe is earned for effort applied at school. The nature of this effort is something that you would determine with your child. Some families find it helpful to discuss this project with school teachers to get advice on what kids need to work on or even have a partner helping to monitor a child’s progress and give feedback.
As with the other life skills stripes, successfully earning a school stripe should be less about achieving a specific goal and more about generating productive momentum in a new direction. This is in keeping with TMAA’s institutional philosophy of reinforcing effort over achievement. Failing to achieve specific goals or rewards can be disheartening and undermine future effort. But finding value in the effort itself can, in the long term, create better outcomes and encourage children (and adults) to extend themselves when challenged.
Feedback is an essential part of reinforcing this effort though. If it is simply an issue of reinforcing effort, then all effort gets praised regardless of its effectiveness. In the end, this creates the same trap made by giving kids participation awards—children develop unrealistic expectations for their effort and become disconnected from how to improve.
So when you are considering potential projects for your child’s School Stripe, take into account that a good project will include plenty of opportunity for them to fall short. Failing is part of learning how to be more successful. When your child applies effort that doesn’t work (or fails to apply effort at all), it provides them an opportunity to receive feedback and guidance that moves their effort towards better outcomes.
In the end, even in areas where effort is inherently unpleasant, children can find a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment in the learning process which, in turn, encourages them to apply more effort.
Over the years, we have seen a wide range of topics for School Stripe projects. Here are some examples:
· Working to improve handwriting
· Doing extra-curricular reading
· Improving math skills
· Improving organizational skills. For example, one child was very consistent about doing his homework but, because he usually forgot to put it into his school folder, his grades were suffering.
· Classroom behavior such as improving listening or treatment of classmates.
Keep in mind, just like the Home Stripe, what your child is working on needs to be specific and measurable. For example, if the overall goal is to improve the math skill of adding for your first grader, perhaps s/he can be consistently responsible for adding scores during your favorite family game, like Yahtzee or dominoes.
When your child has met your established requirements for effort, write a note to his/her instructor describing what they have done. Their red stripe will then be awarded in class.
A final note: You can have your child work on an academic area of effort that is not necessarily related to their school work. If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to talk to an instructor or Mrs. Espy!