Correcting Students

Too many teachers are reluctant to correct students for tiny distractions or infractions of the rules in the beginning. The irritations escalate ever so gradually, but overlooking them becomes increasingly difficult. In all likelihood, your students are not trying to anger you at all. They were simply doing the natural thing, enjoying the freedom available to them. When you finally blow up, they are stunned and hurt. Your subsequent tightening of the rules will be seen as offensive, since you will have taken away rights they previously had. If you had addressed the objectionable behavior in the beginning, you would not have reached this point of irritation, and they would not be insulted.

For example, during the first few days they will likely come into the room and go to their seats quietly. You will undoubtedly appreciate the orderly manner in which their good, businesslike behavior allows you to start class. In the absence of direction, however, they will soon begin gathering in groups and enjoying raucous conversations before class. Before long, you will have to ask them two or three times to take their seats. It may even anger you to the point that you will impose some punishment for those not ready to start. They will see this as a loss of freedom and will resent it. On the other hand, had you told them on the first day that you wanted them in their seats and quiet as soon as they entered the room, they would accept that as “just the way things are,” so long as you have continually enforced that expectation. Enforcement might be no more than a gentle reminder as they are entering the room.  Any discussion of how to discipline students should first emphasize that the technique should be a low-keyed as possible.

As pointed out in the first chapter, inappropriate behavior is very subtle, almost unnoticeable, in the beginning. It begins as inattentiveness. The “silent, non-judgmental stare” technique already discussed is all that is necessary to keep your students on task during that first day. Of course, that assumes the lesson plan is lecture, silent seat work or class discussion. Inherently noisy or disorganized activities are very poor choices for the first few days.

So, it is relatively easy to maintain perfect behavior during that first meeting. Indeed, your standards should remain the same for the next two or three days at the very least. As time goes on, though, you and your students need to relax. The rigid structure of those first few hours, if continued, would stifle the give and take between teacher and student that makes education possible and teaching fun. You cannot enjoy your kids, and they you, when they are sitting in silence and rapt attention.

Go to “Your Sense of Humor

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1 comment

  1. Florida Ivory says:

    This is a great article! I’ve been teaching 16 years, and began to have student behavior problems. I believe this article is a great help, because I lost touch with the students!

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