Monday, November 9, 2015

We Never Win an Argument With a Student

I have had the opportunity to hear Todd Whitaker speak twice. Once I was at the state AWSA conference (2006ish) and the other was just a few weeks ago at the inaugural, "What Great Educators Do Differently" conference held just outside of Chicago. I find him one of the most engaging speakers I've ever heard and his message is one that has stuck with me since I first heard him. At that time, his book, "What Great Teachers Do Differently - Fourteen Things That Matter Most" had only been out for a few years. I had a copy of that book and often referred back to it when I was feeling a little lost and re-reading it became part of my annual mid August routine. Then, in 2013 I purchased the second edition, "What Great Educators Do Differently - Seventeen Things That Matter Most" and while I did my annual read back in August (okay, maybe it was more of a skim this year), I'm currently going through it again right now.

One of my favorite chapters is when Whitaker discusses what great educators do when confronted with challenging students (Chapter 5:  Prevention versus Revenge). First, we are reminded of his three golden rules of the classroom:

Never yell
Never use sarcasm
Never argue

These are rules we all need reminding of from time to time. I've spent quite a bit of time recently thinking about the, "Never Argue" decree. There are always going to be students, every year, who really challenge even the most skilled teacher. There is always going to be one student who the others look to set the mood in a class. There is always going to be one student who tries to run the class. These are the students that teachers can never argue with. The teacher will never win because the student cannot afford to loose with an audience of their peers.  

I find that staying calm, getting to know the student on a personal level so I can redirect emotions and never arguing is an effective way to manage student behavior. I also know the power of a positive phone call home. I try to make at least one a week and often look for something positive in my most spirited students to celebrate with their parents. The parents are usually taken aback by my phone call and have even tried to challenge me on my positive remarks regarding their child. It's a good feeling to make these phone calls and even a better feeling when that student comes to class the next day walking a little taller, ready to learn and works with me. I do struggle with maintaining this positive behavior because there is no magic bullet to managing behavior. This is where making that student feel like they do matter, they are important and they know each day is a new start is important. 

This is how I prevent misbehavior. 

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