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Posted by on in What If?

There's bad news and there's good news about classroom discipline. The bad news is that sometimes we are the cause of the discipline problems in our classes. We cause them because we inaccurately assess our students’ needs, fail to plan adequately for emergencies and daily activities, misread our students’ reactions, or unknowingly commit any number of mistakes that challenging students are quick to capitalize on.Discipline problems that we do not cause ourselves are just not as easy to manage.

The good news about the mistakes we make in our classrooms is that we have control over them. in fact, most of the time, we can usually prevent the ones that we cause. In the following list of  teacher-made mistakes, you will find some of the reasons why you may have inadvertently caused the discipline issues you've had to manage. With each mistake listed here you will also find a way to avoid making it into a discipline problem.

Mistake 1: You refuse to answer or give a poor answer when students question you about why they should learn the material you want them to master.

Solution: We need to be careful to provide students at the start of a unit of study with the reasons why they need to learn the material in the unit. Start each class with a review of the purpose for learning the information in the day’s lesson. Also, make sure students are aware of the real-life applications for the learning you require of them.

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Posted by on in What If?

Whenever I conduct workshops to help teachers support challenging students, by far the most common concern that I hear is always about students who are defiant and disrespectful. For some, the defiance is overt and loud. For others, the defiant act is less obvious: eye rolling, heavy sighs, mumbling under the breath, extremely slow compliance, or significant glances to classmates that seem to signal "our teacher is being unreasonable again."

No matter the form of the defiant action, the toll that student defiance takes on teachers can be harsh. After all, few teachers go home at the end of a successful and productive school day worried about what will happen next class. Even the most stalwart of us find it hard to leave the emotional problems caused by defiant students at school. These tend to be the problems that cause us to sleep poorly and to contemplate changing careers.

Unfortunately, many of us do not handle defiance as successfully as we could. It's easy to just react out of anger and dismay instead of taking a systematic approach geared to actually resolve the problem and prevent it from happening again.

Instead of just reacting, take a few minutes to determine the cause of the problem instead of the general effect the disruption has on the class. When you take the time to do this, several positive effects happen at once.

You treat the defiant student with respect despite the bad behavior.

You send a message to the other students that you will not lose your cool.

You preserve the dignity of the misbehaving student.

You will be far closer to resolving the situation than if you just reacted to it.

The cause of defiance is usually something that the student has been seething about for a while. Given the nature of the modern classroom, there are plenty of opportunities for students to have wounded feelings or a sense of frustration. And it is often this frustration that causes students to react impulsively and to lash out.

To find the cause, first talk gently to the student who has been defiant. This is best done in private. If you both need a few moments to cool down, then be sure to allow that time. No one can hear even a reasonable explanation when they are stressed and upset.

As you talk, don't be accusatory. Keep your language as factual and dry as possible. Describe what you saw and heard. Then, tell the student that you want to listen carefully to what he or she has to say.

Listen carefully. Ask a tactful question or two. Figure out what caused the incident.

Try not to be preachy. Do not induce guilt. Your relationship with the student has no place in this discussion. Stick to the facts at hand. Determine the cause and act accordingly.

Once you have had this conversation with the student, then you can make the decision about how to proceed. Not every defiant act deserves a harsh consequence. Your innate teacher's judgement will allow you to make the best decision that you can make now that you are informed about the cause.

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Posted by on in What If?

shhh

If you are ever going to have classes that are too noisy, you can bet that the time for this particular teacher nightmare is right now near end of the school term. Even those timid students who were too shy to speak above a whisper at the start of the year now appear to be completely comfortable shouting across the room. The classroom noise level this time of year isn't just stressful; it's a sure indicator of unproductive behavior.   

Although could be dozens of approaches to consider when your students talk excessively and loudly, using just a few effective strategies may help you begin to solve this problem for yourself and for your students. Examine the following approaches in view of your own experience and adapt the ones you find useful to make the remaining time you have with your students productive, peaceful, and quiet.

Be emphatic and explicit when you speak with your students about this problem. You should make it very clear when it is okay for them to talk and when you want them to work silently. If you are clear in communicating your expectations to your students, they will be less likely to repeatedly test your tolerance for noise.

Avoid the sound-wave effect of a loud class time followed by a quiet one followed by a loud one again. Be consistent in the way you enforce the rules in your class about excessive talking. Teachers who aren’t consistent spend their time getting a class quiet, allowing the noise level to build to an intolerable level, and then getting the class quiet again in an endless and ineffective cycle.

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Posted by on in What If?

reluctant student

Reluctant learners have been a staple of school life since the earliest teachers and their students huddled around fires in smoky caves long ago. Popular culture abounds with images such as students staring dreamily out a classroom window, feeding their homework to the dog, and playing truant.

All of us have been reluctant learners at one time or another. Even the most serious students don’t always feel like doing homework or paying attention in class or completing school projects. The difference in being an occasionally reluctant learner and one who never wants to work, however, is serious. When students don’t do their school work, they lose their ability to stay apace with their classmates. Over even a brief period, they fall behind and then find other, even less acceptable ways to amuse themselves in our classes.

There are two easy mistakes to avoid when trying to help reluctant learners achieve academic and behavioral success. The first is to ignore the causes of the child’s reluctance. Too often teachers just view a student as lazy or react in anger instead of taking a problem-solving approach. Just a few minutes of friendly and supportive conversation with the student can often yield valuable information about why the student is not engaged in the work.

The second mistake to avoid is to assume that the student is deliberately choosing not to work. While that could sometimes be the reason for temporary reluctance, it is rarely going to be a long-term choice by a student. Teachers who can look beyond the off-task behavior to determine the areas where a student may be frustrated or lack confidence have a greater chance to build a solid relationship with a reluctant learner and provide the support necessary to help that student be successful.

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Posted by on in General

There is a question that I’m getting more and more at workshops and trainings and that is "how do I motivate my students to work?" I hate to break it to you, but there is no “magic bullet” solution to this. Every student is going to have their own solution to getting motivated.

However, there are some things you can ask yourself when a student feels “unmotivated” or is unwilling to put forth the effort to learn that you think they are capable of. Instead of assuming “they just won’t work”, ask yourself these questions: 

Question 1: Are They Engaged?

Engagement is one of the most powerful motivators when it comes to your students. Are the learning opportunities you're providing worthwhile to your students? Do they peak their interest? Are they varied enough to keep them interested?

This is probably one of the most common things I see when motivation declines in learners. Either the tasks are repetitive and monotonous (example: constant textbook work), or they are “worksheet” driven and don’t allow students to interact with the world around them.

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