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Putting PAT in Perspective

I've recently had several long conversations about PAT with teachers who have been to our summer workshops. Whether at the primary, elementary or secondary level, the questions tend to be the same.


  • What do I use for PAT?

  • How can I be sure the students will like the PATs?

  • If I already have high interest activities, do I have to come up with additional activities for PAT?


The questions from teachers just beginning to use Responsibility Training tend to focus on PAT. But as our conversations progress, a more basic issue comes to the surface. To paraphrase, “Responsibility Training seems so complicated. What am I really trying to accomplish with it?” Once we put Responsibility Training into perspective, PAT loses its strange, foreboding quality.


To begin with, Responsibility Training is just a clever way of training kids to waste less time during the day. It is a form of Time Management. Typically kids fritter away a huge amount of their class time. They dawdle getting to their seats, they dawdle during lesson transitions, they waste time coming to attention and getting out their materials and lining up and anything else you want to name. Students are Ph.D. time wasters. They know that the alternative is work.


So how can you induce them to save time? In the workshop we ask an analogous question—How do you train a teenager to be responsible with money? (Responsibility Training is generic, after all.) First, they have to have money. We are teaching them money management. Second they have to live within a budget. They cannot borrow against the future. And, third, if they want extra money, they have to do extra work to earn it—like chores around the house. While some errors will be made at first, the school of hard knocks will train the teenager to live within his/her means or go broke.


Responsibility Training with time is analogous in every way. We give the students PAT just as we give the teenager money because there is no other way to learn time management then by managing time. Then, we give the students control over their destiny. If they fritter time away, they run out, and if they save time they become rich. The teacher is not rewarding or punishing student behavior as much as they are simply keeping an accurate record of the students’ decisions.


Typically in a classroom the many are fairly responsible and the few (like Larry, from the book) are irresponsible. Responsibility Training simply induces the many to manage the few so that the teacher doesn't have to do it.


The power of Responsibility Training does not come from the thrill value of the PAT. It comes from the empowerment of the group over its own destiny. The complex mechanics of empowering the many leave you few choices, whereas there are a limitless number of potential PATs. Usually the PAT is something you would have done anyway to have fun with learning.

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