Finally, the bell rang and what felt like hell was over. There were supplies scattered around the classroom, papers on the floor, chromebooks left out and I had never wanted a class to be over sooner. My class was completely out of control, no one was listening, everyone was talking, no one was doing work, it was a total nightmare day. I was fuming mad no one was listening to me and I thought about quitting teaching right then and there. Why was no one listening or doing what they were supposed to? What had happened that day?
I went home and thought long and hard, first if I still wanted to be a teacher and second what I can do better. After extensive research I came up with a simple solution that wouldn’t cost me anything. Stop criticizing, condemning, punishing and shaming my students. I come from a place where this is how you persuade people so this is what I knew. I promptly stopped and everything got better.
Think about yourself, when someone criticizes you how do you feel? Does it make you want to go along with what they are saying? No, you get defensive and you look to justify yourself. Your pride is wounded and begin to resent that person. If the person who criticizes you is a superior you will do as they wish but begrudgingly and probably not to the best of your ability. Now take all of that and wrap it in a child’s personality.
Most children will respond in the short term to commands and criticism and you will find success. That success however is short lived and will disintegrate as soon as you turn your back. Your students will also resent you, justify their own behavior and you will have a hard time creating buy in. When a student goes into defensive mode their pre-frontal cortex goes dim and they start going more flight or fight. This is not a good place to be in.
So what can we do instead of shame students that will have a bigger effect on influence? We can be understanding and forgiving, that’s it. Instead of saying “you’re too loud be quiet,” we can ask why is this student talking so much? Why does this student find the urge to be so loud? Forgive them and be understanding.
When I first tried this I though I’d just be giving them permission to act out and my class would be worse but the opposite happened. My class respected me because I respected them. I treated them as humans instead of subordinates and they appreciated and responded to that. All I had to do after a while was make a simple request and it’d be done right away. My students responded to me because they liked me and I made them feel good about themselves.
Next time you feel the urge to criticize stay calm, stay positive, be understanding and be forgiving. I promise you cannot lose and your class management will magically improve.
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