Make your class great: Simple tips for lasting change
Minor adjustments can go a long way when dealing with behavioral challenges
By Adam Meyersieck
In light of shocking statistics about teacher training and longevity, professional development must focus on maximizing easy-to-use strategies for teachers to use in their classrooms. If you are new to the field or find yourself wanting to raise a white flag in surrender, here are a few tips to give you and your students the greatest chance of success.
Don’t try and reason with kids
Kids are not little adults, and when we try and reason or argue with kids we react to their behavior rather than respond to it. It is important to remember that they are just kids. This does demean their ideas and opinions, but acknowledges their developmental phase. When we manage a large class full of kids it is important to remember that you are the adult. The second you attempt to argue with a child, you lose!
Avoid disciplining the whole class
What if your entire staff team was made to work late because one of your colleagues showed up late to a staff meeting? There is no justice in this, yet for some reason schools are often places where entire groups of children are disciplined because of the choices of 1 or 2 pupils. Make sure that your discipline is just and your consequences as natural as possible.
If they like to say “No”, give them choices
Some students like to argue, but we can phrase questions in a way that provides choices. This gives us control, builds trust, and gives students agency and autonomy.
One defiant student did not like being asked to join our group for music lessons. Knowing this, I pre-planned my requests for him to join our group. I said, “Fred, you can (1) stay seated in the back of the room and do nothing, (2) play with the dinosaurs on the floor, (3) play with the dinosaurs at your table, or (4) join us.”
This built trust between the student and I and let him know I would give him time to make a decision. I did this consistently and our music lesson eventually became his favorite time of the week. I even wrote a song called The ‘NO’ Song for him where he got to shout “NO!” for the entire song.
If a student is refusing to move from a situation, give them a choice for how long they can stay in whichever space they’re “stuck” in – 1 minute, 3-minutes, or 5-minutes. I find this to be helpful with students who need time to unwind or just be alone for a few minutes.