Monday morning, and hallway noise threatens to blow out your smart phone’s volume meter app. You glance at the clock. Precisely four and a half minutes until that classroom door swings open and that noise surges into the room, sucking you into its agitated vortex.
The mere thought of that cyclone begins to twist you out of shape. You try to smile, but your brain bullies you with an inner vision of yourself veering off into an unending void, tormented forever by raucous, badly behaved problem students.
The door flies open, and you order a smile to perform, but it shows no inclination to obey.
Two boisterous students engage in a shoving match, intentionally trip other students, and cross the room. A tripped student throws punches at the two, prompting loud calls of “Fight!” A dozen students rush to circle the three, clapping as they chant, “Fight! Fight! Fight!”
Teachers – what you can do about problem students just became “Challenge #1” at that moment, if you had not already labeled it that.
“Sit down and get quiet!” you scream. The students award you with increased pandemonium. How is a teacher to get attention? Must you grab a megaphone and screech into it?
No teachers – what you can do about problem students is to become a solution teacher. You will find that, in this war, solution teachers usually overcome problem students. The challenge is not what you can do about problem students, but what you can do to become a solution teacher.
In this and the following articles in this series, we want to look at steps you can take to become what you must become – a solution teacher.
RESPECT – Build firm respect into your core being. Respect for both yourself and your students must become a priority, and you will have neither without conscious effort.
Value people. Begin by imagining that you open a new business. You have value as a business owner. Your products have value, too.
Imagine that each student is one of your products. (Indeed, they are products of your teaching and interaction with them.) You must determine your own net worth, and you must set a “suggested retail price” on each student.
A list such as this will help you visualize the task. Write each name, with a comparative price. Be careful. Most people tend to think of themselves more highly than they ought to think – and less highly of others. Think soberly about the fact that you are an adult and they are not. What difference does that make in evaluation?
Dress to your value level. Owners of the best stores dress for success. Do you? Look in the mirror. Do you consider yourself so important to those students that you dress in business casual or better? You should. Too many teachers have decided to dress in less than casual clothing. They send students the message that school is not important. “Relax! Get comfortable! Put your feet on the desk!” That message shouts from a low level of casual dress. Casual does not mean sloppy or inappropriate clothing pieces. Avoid stained or wrinkled clothing and overly revealing or offensive attire. Always be neat and think about how you appear to students. Dress as though you have value or you will have trouble convincing students that you do.
Speak and act to your value level. Students should speak and act respectfully toward you, but you make that difficult when you sink to their level of speech and actions. There is a difference between being approachable and being a dirty doormat. Clean up your speech – and keep it a few notches above that spoken by your students. Set an example of good speech and they will follow. Try to look at your actions through the eyes of your students – all of your students, not just those dubbed “problems”. Do you make fair demands on them? Do you hand out impartial demands? Do you discipline students who break rules, or do you shirk law enforcement duties? Detention slips have their place, but solution teachers refuse to settle for mere “time out” in detention hall. Solution teachers’ value of themselves and their work makes them seek creative ways to help students master proper behavior.
Consciously recognize students’ value. Solution teachers see true value in every single student. If we think again of teachers as business owners, they see true value in every product. They do not toss a handful into a tray labeled “problem students” and mark them with a big discount price to get them out of the classroom (store). Nor do they decide to toss into the garbage dumpster those in the “problem students” tray as though they no longer had any value.
Solution teachers work to get the best return possible on their investment of time, money, and labor. They take time to examine each student carefully and determine steps they can take to increase the value of those students. They jot down quick notes about an individual student throughout the day. They study those notes after class time, deciding how they can “repair” the student’s behavior in creative, attention-getting ways.
Teachers – what you can do about problem students depends on how much you value your students – which reflects the value you see in yourself and your profession.
Respect sees the value – the worth – in self and in others, including those so-called problem students. (Read Part 2)