Will Your Monkeys Pose?

Will your monkeys pose when you want them to pose?

Will your monkeys pose when you want to take an end-of-term photo or yearbook photograph? Do they gather quickly into a neat group? Do they stand straight and still – or do they fidget, annoy others, and slump? Do they smile pleasantly – or do they pout, make silly faces, snarl, or frown?

We are not talking about actual monkeys, of course. We are talking about your students. Preschool through high school, in any educational setting, young people often sabotage situations that call for presenting themselves respectfully. Why?

As you might expect, respect is a big missing piece of the character puzzle. Other missing pieces can be self-control, a lack of integrity, and patience. Keep naming, and you can accumulate a long list of missing character traits that cause students to disdain posing for photographs or anything else.

You know you have taught every one of those character traits in your classroom. Evaluation tests show that your students understand the meanings of all 66 character traits, but they will not cooperate. Not only will they not work with you on taking photographs, but also with being quiet when told, arriving to class on time with all supplies at hand, focusing on your lesson, and a host of other behavioral issues.

Want to know why that is? Monkeys!

Monkeys hold the secret to why children and young people frustrate efforts to get a good photograph – or at any time bring their behavior into line with good character.

You have probably heard the old saying, Monkey see, monkey do. Monkey see, monkey do first appeared in American culture around 1920. It is a way of describing how people learn a process or behavior without even understanding it.

Monkeys learn, to some degree, by responding to parental vocalizations. That is, young monkeys learn to adjust behavior to perform what monkey parents dictate. Parental discipline that follows quickly on the heels of disobedience achieves this.

However, that is a minor learning method for monkey youth. The majority of their learning is of the monkey see, monkey do variety. That is, monkeys learn behaviors more by watching and imitating others than they do by listening and understanding.

Some refer to this as “observational learning”. Monkeys learn from those around them. Monkeys see what others are doing, and then monkeys do what others are doing.

Let’s go back to our example – posing for a photograph.

Your students learn from your words what acceptable behavior is when posing for a picture. They hear that they should stand straight, be still, and smile. They learn that they should exercise respect, self-control, cooperation, etc. But they misbehave!

They misbehave because they learn more about “acceptable behavior” from watching than from listening. They watch others and model their behavior after what they see. They learn from watching older siblings “foolish” selfies of their groups. They learn from television cartoons, video games – and they learn from watching you.

Young people observe the behavior of the models in their lives. You are one of those models. Young people who see you exercising respect will begin to respect others. Young people who see you exercising self-control and cooperation will work to act the same way.

“Monkey see character, monkey do character!”

Will your monkeys pose when you want them to pose? Will your students exercise proper behavior when you want them to do so? Model what you want and you will soon see positive behavioral changes.

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