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Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Things I Learned From Having a Difficult Class: Dealing With the Class as a Whole

This is the second post in my Things I Learned from Having a Difficult Class Series. Today I'm focusing on dealing with the class as a whole. In the upcoming weeks I'll discuss the perfect kids, problem kids, and the kids on the fence. But how do you manage all of them together?

My Top Ten Tips for Dealing with the Class as a Whole:

1. If you have a tough group that feeds off of each other, TAKE DOWN THE LEADER FIRST. The followers will settle down when their leader is gone because there isn't anyone to impress or give instructions, and will behave better because they don't need to save face in front of the leader. 

2. Handle behavior issues privately. Kids feel like they need to save face in front of their peers, and they feed off the audience. Take the need to impress their peers and the audience, and you will be dealing with a student that is much more compliant than they would have been if that had taken place publicly, in any way.

3. You do not need to handle every issue at the very second it happens. In fact, there is power in the "delayed consequence" as long as you don't forget about it. If you promise a consequence, you need to deliver a consequence. Which leads to...

4. Never handle a behavior problem when you are angry. You will not be rational because you're angry so your consequence will probably not be appropriate for the situation. Delay the consequence, cool down, and then follow up when you're clear headed. IT IS OKAY and honestly kind of fun TO DELAY THE CONSEQUENCE.

Quick side note with this one.. I had to do this with the entire class one day. They were all just horrible. And you know when your best behaved student is misbehaving - SOMETHING IS UP! They knew they were in trouble, and I was so mad that I couldn't think straight. I ended up telling them that they would find out the consequence the next morning, and were in anxious suspense for the rest of the day. The following morning I announced the consequence, (which ended up being what I initially wanted to do.. maybe I wasn't overreacting!) and they worked super hard the following day to earn back points they had lost. I even heard from another teacher that they were worried about it at dismissal - there is power in delaying the consequence! Just don't wait too long... they'll forget what happened and it won't have the same effect.

5. Work on best teaching practices. Behavior problems often occur when students are not challenged enough, or don't understand what's going on. No teacher wants to hear or say this, but work on your management and improve your instruction, and you will have less behavior problems to deal with. 

6. Be consistent. My class could, and sometimes did, quote me on this because I said it so much: "Every student, every time". Kids notice when you are not consistent.

I once heard a teacher ask, "Can you be 'kind of' consistent?

Well, no. You either are 100% of the time, or you're not. It takes work, but it is so worth it!

7. There is power in being calm. If you're class is pushing your buttons, acting out, doing anything and everything they can think of to misbehave - REMAIN CALM. Take deep relaxing breaths and remain in control. You're the one with the power - act like it and keep calm. I know this is way easier said than done, especially because in the moment you're mad, but this is huge.

8. The students who push your buttons the most and make you feel crazy all the time need you the most. I am not a parent yet, so I know I don't completely understand this.. but can you imagine having to deal with those kids the rest of the day and over the weekend? The rest of your life!? The parents do, and probably feel as crazy as you do. OR, the parents don't deal with them at all, and that's where the behavior comes from.

9. Think about what your body language is saying to the students. We pick up on body language more so than we do on spoken words, so make sure your body language says that you mean business. This video really says it all, and it's a little long and is WELL worth watching!

10. Work the crowd, or the crowd works you. I wrote about seating arrangements and working the crowd before here, but it is so important that it's worth saying again. Move around the room constantly to keep kids on their toes. The goal with this is to keep most of the students doing what they're supposed to be doing most of the time. When you provide feedback as your circulate the room, both positive and corrective, you are working the crowd. If you are in one area most of the time it's likely that you will have to constantly deal with the crowd, and then they're working you.

What tips do you have for handling "that" class overall? Leave your answers in the comments!

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