Don’t Become Too Lax

As the days pass, all of your students will become increasingly at ease. Conversations will break out when you are passing out papers or talking privately with a student when the class would have been silent before. Now that you have such a good rapport with your kids, you are even less likely to fault them for minor disturbances. But that, too, is a mistake. Any behavior is easily checked at first, but once it becomes entrenched, you’ll have a hard time correcting it without an unpleasant confrontation.

A teacher at odds with an entire class, especially when emotions are high, will usually resort to power tactics to correct the situation. Perhaps authoritarian control was the norm a century ago. But permissive child rearing since WWII, a relaxation of standards throughout society, a tolerance of divergent views and an enormous increase in numbers of latch-key kids have given our students a sense of independence that makes authoritarian tactics counterproductive. Control based on power ultimately leads to discontent, sneakiness and rebellion. Students will make a game of circumventing your rules.

So, whenever you need to correct a student, it is best done in private and as good naturedly as possible. What you say should not threaten the mutual respect you hope to achieve with all your students. “I wish you wouldn’t…” is far better than “Don’t you ever…”

Still, no matter how well organized and appropriate your lesson plan and no matter how skillfully you have conducted your class, there will still be a few students who will disrupt the class. That is the subject of the chapter entitled “Managing Individual Discipline Problems.”

Go to “Tests and Testing

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2 comments

  1. Nicole Sellars says:

    Going on our 3 wk of school, I am completely new to this. I was a sub last yr and rules were alrdy made. just need some suggestions on how to gain control without being mean to all the students.

  2. Peter Holden says:

    I’m sorry to hear that you are having some trouble, Nicole. You said that rules were already made by the previous teacher. Is there some school requirement that you have to use her rules? If not, you are their new teacher and have every right to make your own rules. True, some students may resent that as they are already comfortable in the old setting. But you are a different person, teaching new material to kids who are now a year older. They ought to adjust to the the idea that everything is likely to be different.

    The idea that you risk being “mean” to them is totally wrong. Your job is to educate, not to win friends. Obviously you want them to like you, and THEY WILL once they accept your rules and respect that you are teaching them — doing your job.

    Perhaps you need to stop everything, explain that the old rules aren’t working as you had hoped they would, and then set new standards. After that is out of the way, use the non-judgmental stare discussed in my first section. Keep your class periods busy with rigorous learning activities so there is no free time for misbehavior. Immediately, but dispassionately, correct (see the Correcting Students section) the slightest deviation from your new rules. Your students will ultimately accept their new academic environment although it may take a few weeks.

    Once you have won their respect, then you will be liked by most. Good Luck!

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