Working with children is a SKILL – The rules of the game

Here are the rules of the game.

· Be consistent. If you have a rule enforce it every time on every student. E.g. If you have a question or comment put your hand up.
· Skip unwanted questions or comments. When a student tries to test you (what can often feel like a personal attack or insult) brush past them but if it breaks one of your rules see my advice below.
· Avoiding reasoning. When children are trying to get you into a debate just don’t engage them. They will soon give up trying.
· Detach yourself. Don’t take it personally. This is simply what children do. They test adults. Step back and look at the behaviour and work on a strategy to deal with it.
· Working with children is a SKILL. You need to learn it and practice it over and over until you master it.
· Seek advice. If you are not handling the situation feel seek help.

Class rules

I operate by two simple rules;
1. Play what and when I ask you to.
2. If you have a question raise your hand and wait to be asked.

Here is a typical example of where teacher loses control:

Johnny “Do we have to do this? It’s boring.”
Teacher “Please pay attention and yes we have to do it”
Johnny “Why? It’s just stupid”
Teacher “It’s not stupid. It’s important so please just sit up and concentrate”
Johnny “No! I don’t want to”
Teacher “Johnny. I am losing my patience. Sit up or I will get very angry”
Johnny “Why. I hate it. It sux. YOU SUX!”
And so on….

The teacher is getting frustrated and Johnny is just getting worse. Johnny wants to see (subconsciously of course) where the boundaries are.

So firstly why does this happen?
This child knows that every adult ahs different boundaries. Think of it like your backyard fence. The children can’t go beyond the fence. Problem is some children are not sure where your boundaries are. So they usually go with the boundaries they have learnt elsewhere. They have strategies they use for getting what they want. They may have learnt these strategies at home, at school from TV. Who knows? Who cares? It does not make any difference where they learnt them. They just have to know those strategies don’t work with you.

What do you do exactly?Let me give an example of the correct way to handle this situation

Johnny “Do we have to do this? It’s boring.”
Teacher “Please pay attention and yes we have to do it”
Johnny “Why? It’s just stupid”
Teacher “Johnny I will not ask you again. Please pay attention and remember the two rules”
Johnny “No! I don’t want to”
Teacher “Johnny either you follow the rules or I am going to ask you to leave the class”
Johnny “Why. I hate it. It sux. YOU SUX!”
Teacher “Please stand up and follow me”
Johnny – Tears or complaints but the reaction will vary.
Teacher “Please stand there and I will be back in a few minutes”
Teacher returns to class and carries on as normal and gets the students working on the topic. By now the other students know the teacher is serious and very much in control.
After a few minutes (not long) teacher returns to Johnny
Teacher “Do you understand why I pulled you out of class?”
Johnny “Yes”
Teacher “Well are you ready to join the class and do what I ask?”
Johnny “Yes”
Teacher “Please rejoin the class”

Now they may not say yes the first time and in this case give them more time to think about their actions before inviting them back to class.

In this scenario the teacher has not been angry or upset or even slightly disturbed by the student. They simply have a strategy they apply.

Why does this work?

In simple terms the child needs to know who is in charge of the group. If they are allowed to get away with unacceptable behaviour they will continue. If they realize that their actions only ever result in exclusion from the group they soon back down. Once they realize that any attempt to take over the group through unacceptable behaviour will result in expulsion they look for a new way. That new way is almost always to focus on the work at hand and to try and become the top students. You will see this scenario again and again. But as sometimes happens (if they have the option) they will seek out a new group.

Good luck…Let me know how it goes for you.

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