Thursday, October 23, 2014

How to Win Students and Influence Kids

I recently attended a training on classroom management. In layman's terms, the training gave us ideas on how to promote acceptable student behavior. While the behavior in my classes is usually excellent, I wanted to hear additional tips that I could add to my repertoire of strategies.

Students need to feel that you care about them. Point Blank. If they think you want them to succeed and be the best that they can be, you will have more latitude to shape their behaviors. I cringe, however, at some of the maligned attempts to foster this type of environment. Please give me a moment to get up on my pedestal so that I can provide a clear description of what I mean.


I have seen this boundary crossed, and the results make life harder in school. You must maintain a boundary with students so that you are not perceived as their equal. If you allow students to think you are "on THEIR side," then you are pitting yourself against other teachers, and other standards of practice. Eventually, this group of students that you have empowered begin to view themselves as superior to other students and teachers. Not all empowerment is bad; when students are empowered with the knowledge that they have the tools to succeed in life, you have done a great job educating kids.  However, teachers who empower students with the idea that they are "above the law" destroy the character of those impressionable kids. I have 20 years in this profession, and although the place may change, the results stay the same.

All students must be held accountable for their actions. If you allow students to "use your authority" to evade consequences, then the students learn that they are held to a lesser standard of conduct. Let me provide an example:

You are the yearbook sponsor for your school. When selecting students to be in yearbook, you include both students who are hard workers as well as students who are the children of your friends. On picture day, the yearbook members are taken from classes to help you with the event. Students are told that they will be sent back to class if they are no longer helping with pictures.

While taking pictures, a few students start playing around instead of doing their part to assist with the flow of the process. These two students were picked not due to their work efforts, but because of your friendship with their parents. If you do not send these two students back to class (as you clearly defined prior to picture day), then you have empowered those two students in a negative manner.

 Kids flourish with clearly defined, consistent expectations. When looking at the rosters for upcoming classes, I realized quickly I needed to be on top of classroom management. The first day, I told the classes expectations that I had for their daily performance. I discussed these behaviors with a stern voice, providing examples of what I needed to see each day.  As they left my room, I could see that they had lost their equilibrium, and their usual behavior was in a state of unbalance. The second day, I reviewed the goals of the students. On this day, however, I told each class that I knew they were going to be my favorite. We created a "contract" that would outline what they thought actions a teacher demonstrating respect would exhibit. Then, the students created a list of behaviors they thought would garner the right to have a party at midterms. You can see one of the class charts below:

The contract was signed by every student in blue pen, and hung on the wall. To my amazement, the two classes that created contracts have become my favorite classes! It takes time and reinforcement to encourage those positive behaviors, but it is well worth my sanity to take the time out each day to praise them for their hard work and respectful manners.

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