Every year, without fail, the power play begins. In the first week of school, there’s always at least one class with That Kid. You know, the one who’s testing you. Rolling his eyes. Not-so-covertly texting on her phone. Or, more aggressively, dropping a snarky comment in the midst of your lecture. The battle for control of the class has begun.
Instead of launching the usual path of warnings/referrals/calls home, try using the most effective tool in your Classroom Discipline Arsenal – Respect. Wait, what? Yeah, respect the kid even when he/she doesn’t deserve it. Here’s how the script rolls each and every year:
[Inappropriate moment has just occurred]
Me [in a calm tone]: Steven, I need to talk to you after class. [I continue teaching.]
[After the period is over and the classroom has emptied]
Me: Thanks for hanging back for a second, Steven. I noticed that you were [insert offending action] today in class. In fact, I’ve sort of read a strange energy coming from you and [slight pause] I’m wondering if I’ve done something to offend you.
Steven [stunned silent because this is not what he was expecting me to say]: Um…no…
Me [exhaling deeply and dropping my shoulders in relief]: Oh, good, because I was worried you were offended by something I didn’t realize I had done. I couldn’t understand why you were behaving so disrespectfully in class today.
[Steven remains silent, not knowing what to say.]
Me: You know, I realize we’re just getting to know each other, but you seem really sharp to me. I can tell the other kids look at you as a leader, and I’d love for you to use that gift to lead us all to have a really good year together. What do you think?
Steven: Yeah, okay…
Me: Great. I’m so glad we cleared the air. I’m really looking forward to working with you. And, let’s just forget about [whatever annoying thing happened today] and start tomorrow with a clean slate, yes?
Me: Awesome. I’ll see you tomorrow.
Do I have anymore problems with Steven? Nope. In fact, I haven’t had to send a referral to the front office in more than a decade. When I start with respect (even when they haven’t yet earned it), teens respond in kind.
In my teacher training classes (many, many years ago), I still remember a visiting high school teacher who talked about his positive discipline methods. Specifically, he told us that teens will always be able to bark louder than we can, so don’t engage in that fight. Instead, use your wit and your professionalism. By having private conversations with students, you preserve their dignity and allow for tomorrow to be a better day.
UPDATE: I posted a YouTube video on this topic, showing the script in action and talking about three more things to keep in mind when handing out consequences for poor classroom behavior. If you find this information helpful, be sure to comment, “like,” and/or subscribe to my YouTube channel, which will help other teachers find my video and blog. Thanks so much!
Teach on, everyone!