I recently met up with an “ex-student” of mine for breakfast. He left my school recently to enrol at a new school. Over the 4 years I taught Simon (not his real name) in High School, he experienced first hand all my teaching/classroom strategies that I had accumulated over the years – I often felt that almost none of them “worked”! However, I always greeted him with a smile and over time I observed a steady improvement in Simon’s attitude and behaviour in my class.
I was surprised when Simon requested to keep up with me outside of the classroom now he had moved to a new school – a kind of mentoring role. As I sat and chatted with him over breakfast, it was like being with a different teenager – polite, engaged, pleasant …. our time together was valuable and positive.
Why are children in class so naughty?
It is worth commenting that once a child’s reputation has begun to circulate in the staffroom and amongst other parents, it may be very difficult for his/her behaviour not to be interpreted as a ‘sign’ of imputed character traits. Children who have acquired a strong reputation may therefore find it harder to be recognised as good. This is sad, as there are ALWAYS reasons why a child is naughty in the classroom. It is not always the “fault” of the child or his/her parents.
Simon was bored in class. He often became fed up with sitting at his desk, then his ADD would kick in and he would disrupt the class for others. Simon was a master at hiding his lack of confidence behind an excuse of misbehaviour. He had come to the conclusion that most teachers just did not like him and did not expect him to succeed. He entered most of his classrooms with a negative attitude and in his mind, anticipating that the teachers would yell at him for “nothing” and show inconsistency. However, Simon told me that he could ‘feel’ that I liked him because of the way I treated him and spoke to him.
Rather than a plan, strategy or technique, the vital key to good classroom management comes from your attitude and decision to earn the respect of your students. If students like you and respect you they will naturally behave well and pay attention because they want to please you.
Be a mentor not a friend
I count it as a privilege to be a mentor to Simon. I do not see myself as his friend. Rather than telling him what he WANTS to hear (which is what friends do), I have always told Simon what he NEEDS to hear and I will continue to do so. When you mentor someone you are more like an advisor, who makes the other person feel better about life and sets them on the right path.
Your students will trust you if you are consistent, clear in establishing the boundaries from day one and consistent in applying them. Refuse to go on teaching until your boundaries are recognised. If you display inconsistency by yelling at students or losing your cool, suddenly punishing a child unexpectedly, putting them down, being sarcastic or embarrassing them, they will know that they cannot trust you.
Simon and I have already put the next breakfast date in our calendars!