How do we deal with the ding dongs? We all know that without a solid classroom management foundation there is little chance for success in the classroom, but even with a good plan every educator is destined to find themselves face to face with a ding dong in their classroom. A ding dong is that kid, who, for whatever reason, has an itch to disrupt, be a goofball, ask silly questions or engage in what many would see as attention seeking behavior. In a perfect scenario that behavior would be eliminated with enforcing “the rules” but as we all know, none of us live in a perfect world. All of my advice assumes you have steady rules, good mojo with your kids, and most importantly, LIKE KIDS (but not in a creepy way). With that in mind, here are five strategies to deal with that everlasting ding dong.
1. Be subtle. Ding dongs want to disrupt your flow and want to be scolded, in fact, they expect it. So rule number one, is never give them the expected attention they seek. Use your body, use your face, use your tone to send a subtle message that their behavior has been recognized. Try not to stop the class mojo. If you are lecturing, try sliding in your behavior modification, “So when we study the elastic clause we can see that it empowers Congress to use the powers of the Constitution to pass all laws necessary and proper in order to calm Johnny down and give him the power to pay attention”. Hopefully Johnny will get the point and your class will get a giggle. Use humor, come up with canned lines for scenarios…. phones out, ask them for their number so you can text them to put the phone away….. John Renn on Twitter has a great comeback for silly questions designed to get you off track; when Johnny asks, “Isn’t it true that George Washington smoked pot” respond with, “Perhaps, but did you know that ice cream doesn’t have bones?” Curse words? If they say “sh**”, you say, “Please put that word back where it belong, because it’s nasty in your mouth”. You can come up with the rest.
2. Be daring. If you really want to convert a ding dong you need to form a human relationship with them and that probably needs to occur outside the classroom. Find ways to cross paths with the kid. Follow them in the hall and talk to yourself so they can hear you, as you mumble “I love teaching and if I could only find a way to reach Johnny’… wait for him to turn around and nod and walk away. I used to resort to bringing my lunch to the cafeteria when a kid was being annoying, I would sit next to them and eat as I explained this would happen every time they disrupted the class, then I would lecture about history. Find out what the kid likes and make an effort; you showing up to their basketball game may have a bigger effect than any ten point action plan.
3. The pullout. Now I know many of us may do this. We take the kid into the hall and give them the riot act. Sadly, this does not work that often, and if it does, it does not last. So try pulling them out and connecting with the kid, recognize their power, their intellect, their humor and try to win them back. I used to offer them stress balls in the hall or give them permission to doodle, if it was about the content. Sometimes I would just bring them out and explain that I had to, and if we could just walk in like I yelled at them, I was cool. This in many cases made the kid an ally.
4. Outsource. I do not recommend calling admin, security or parents. If you must, make sure it is absolutely the last resort. It is always best to deal with kid 1 on 1. But if you must, first find a teacher the kid trusts. Have a meeting with them and the kid and try to “bury the hatchet”. If you have good classes, you can also turn to a respected student or two in class to help you facilitate; so when Johnny begins to act out the class gives him a little scowl face. Generally, a kid who wants to annoy you doesn’t want to annoy their peers.
5. Good teaching. In the end, it is my belief that if a kid is being a ding dong, there is a reason why, and in many cases they are bored. So find what the kid is good at and exploit it. Make them the video person, or the illustrat,or or the narrator. There are multiple literacies beyond listening and writing. If we can tap into each kid’s strength and allow them to make meaning in your class, there is little chance they will want to be a ding dong.
If I had a six, it would be there is no magic bullet and teaching is less of a science and more of art. So listen to your intuition and be the teacher ninja you are. And always remember, where attention goes, energy flows.
Now if you want to see me say all that, here ya go!