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.”

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