When working with kids from the inner city, you have to celebrate the smallest wins. I’d work hard to find the one little thing a kid did right. They may have done 99 things wrong, but when their parent came to pick them up, I’d highlight the positive thing the kid did. They stayed focused during a conversation– that’s huge. They demonstrated responsibility by showing up on time. They listened while someone else was talking.

Taking this approach reinforced the right behaviors, as well as informing their parents about the values you’re aiming for. I learned not to report negative behavior unless absolutely necessary, since negative reports would often result in overly harsh consequences at home. Instead, by focusing on the positive behaviors, we could grow those and crowd out the negative ones.