About Mike Dunn

As a lifelong educator, Mike has been working in outdoor and indoor classrooms for over 15 years. His practice is rooted in a deep understanding of History and the foundation on which we have built our educational philosophies and values. He currently serves as the College & Career Counselor at a small independent school outside of Philadelphia.

The concepts behind Love & Logic (L&L) have been around since the early 1990s and were initially developed as a parenting strategy. With the goal of creating independent, thoughtful, caring, young people, L&L is is designed to help encourage students to be active participants in their existence while providing clear consequences and rationale for them to follow. Quickly after the L&L institute was created, it expanded into the classroom — a natural fit for its philosophies.

In the fall of 2008, I was introduced to the ideas of L&L. I am not a purest and neither was the person who introduced the foundation of its philosophies to me. I have never purchased any L&L materials, but checked out the L&L classroom guide from the library for about a month and promptly returned it. I do not love all of the ways L&L is described as being executed in the manual, but what I do love is the framework it provides for teachers to manage their classroom.

Admittedly, I am a big framework guy. I want teachers to maintain autonomy, actively improve their practice, and view their work as a true art. Similar to the framework that the L&L philosophy provides is the framework of Understanding by Design. Not a script or a minute-by-minute execution plan, both UbD and L&L work to encourage teachers to be daily professionals while providing a broader conceptual model for planning and acting.

One of the key concepts that underpins both of these frameworks, particularly L&L, is commitment. The idea of commitment has become increasingly elusive these days in education, but its power is no less. There are many pressures that often nibble at the strong sense of confidence in one’s practice that it takes to remain committed in the classroom. In my workings with young teachers, I often find that commitment is one of the toughest obstacles they face. They are unsure if their decisions are right/wrong, unsure of whether they may upset their students, and further underconfident in the future necessary follow-through that it takes to maintain such commitment. With students becoming increasingly willing to question and  challenge teachers, it is no wonder why early service teachers struggle with commitment.

The L&L framework that provides the bedrock of on which I have formed my practice of commitment. While maintaining decision integrity and logic, I have used L&L to preview and work through a variety of scenarios in my classroom and other work with students. Here are four aspects of L&L that are core to my practice, plus an example of how this aspect might play out.

Setting Tangible, Logical Consequences.
L&L begins with the notion that adolescents struggle to “see” the consequences of their actions. With this in mind, I act as a partial frontal lobe that previews these consequences for them. Similarly, I rationalize out these consequences so the student can hear what my internal talk sounds like, providing models for essential cognitive function that adolescents have yet to develop independently.

Example
Jimmy: Mr. D what happens if I don’t turn in my homework?
Mr. D: Jimmy, turning in your homework is always your choice. If you don’t turn it in, you will earn a zero on that assignment, which may bring down your homework grade overall. Plus, if you ask for a homework extension in the future, I might not give you the benefit of the doubt because you did not turn in this assignment. The choice is up to you.

Expressing Care And Honoring Decisions.
L&L talks about how to honor student decisions because they are deciding, while maintaining a positive, and caring relationship with that student. For this reason, I stay away from expressing my anger, disappointment (this one is hard), and other emotions when students make a decision that I do not like. The decision making is not about me, it is about the student, and encouraging their responsible actions.

Example
Jimmy: Mr. D, I didn’t do my homework last night.
Mr. D: Jimmy, thanks for letting me know. Not doing your homework doesn’t mean that you are a bad person. I still appreciate you, but not doing your homework does mean that you earn a zero for that assignment.

Staying Positive And Encouraging Explanation.
Sometimes students do not make decisions that adults approve of. Particularly as teachers, we have to work to stray away from shaming students and making them feel bad for making decisions. I know that I have fallen into the trap of asking a student what they were thinking, or why they made the decision they did. Using the L&L philosophy, I try to ask students what decision they did make, and then coach them through how I might make a similar (or different) decision. For many students, their decisions can simply be impulsive adolescent actions. This is fine, and they should not be punished for being adolescents. Instead, they should hear how an adult might navigate a similar decision set.

Example
Jimmy: Mr. D, I didn’t do my homework last night.
Mr. D: Jimmy, thanks for letting me know. Not doing your homework doesn’t mean that you are a bad person. I still appreciate you, but not doing your homework does mean that you earn a zero for that assignment. What did you decide to do last night instead of your homework?
Jimmy: House of Cards was released last night, so I had to watch the first three episodes. I love that show.
Mr. D: I love House of Cards too and I also watched the first episode. I want to encourage you to remember the importance of balance, Jimmy. If I was in your situation, I would have watched an episode or two, but also completed my homework… Just an idea for next time.

Following Through And Keeping Commitments.
This final aspect is the most challenging part of L&L and, in my view, captures one of the most challenging parts of being a teacher. Keeping commitments can be troublesome for many reasons. Students can be combative, teachers can feel like they lose credibility, and much whining/complaining can ensue. But, maintaining consistent commitments helps students understand that there is a framework for thinking, and that their decisions are meaningful and have logical consequences. It’s not always easy, but it is the crux of what makes L&L an effective classroom strategy.

Example
Jimmy: Mr. D, I didn’t do my homework last night.
Mr. D: Jimmy, thanks for letting me know. Not doing your homework doesn’t mean that you are a bad person. I still appreciate you. But not doing your homework does mean that you earn a zero for that assignment. What did you decide to do last night instead of your homework?
Jimmy: House of Cards was released last night, so I had to watch the first three episodes. I love that show.
Mr. D: I love House of Cards too and I watched the first episode last night. I want to encourage you to remember the importance of balance, Jimmy. If I was in your situation, I would have watched an episode or two, but also completed my homework… Just an idea for next time.
Jimmy: Is there any way I can get a pass for this assignment, Mr. D? I mean, House of Cards is really only released one time a year!
Mr. D: I understand what you’re saying, Jimmy, House of Cards is only released once a year, but the consequence for a homework not turned in is still a zero. Next time, if you decide to do your homework and turn it in, and you’ll get the credit you earn.

Keeping in mind that L&L is a framework, these examples illuminate some of how it might function in the classroom. Providing students a caring attitude with logical, clear consequences can add volumes of credibility to a teacher’s practice. The challenge of L&L is its requirement for teachers to maintain consistent commitment, establish clear consequences, and continually preview scenarios as they may arise in their daily practice. Nonetheless, L&L is one philosophy on which a teacher can build an exemplary classroom management practice and rapport with students.
Stories of L&L in your classroom? Share below.

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