Friday, October 12, 2012

Year 3: Week 5 – Giving Them A Voice

It seems like there’s one in every class.

 I’m talking about that kid who is disrespectful, disrupts the class, makes jokes at inappropriate time and doesn’t seem to care when you address his or her behavior. It’s the kid you sometimes wish would be absent so that you could actually focus on teaching.

So how do we deal with these kids? There’s immediate consequences like detentions but this negative stimulus really only hits the lower reptilian part of the brain and in my experiences doesn’t really change behavior.

Sometimes what kids really need is to simply have a voice.

Helping students develop a voice so that can express their thoughts is one of the most important goals of education. This is skill that students develop in every subject and contribute not only to the financial success of a student but also their emotional development. One of the signs that someone is well adjusted is that they can speak or write about how they feel.

Let’s break this down for a minute.

A 2nd grade boy is confused during math class. Instead of asking for help, he disengages and makes distracting jokes. The teachers express anger to this boy and he gets punished. As the kid gets older, this continues to happen. In 5th grade, he is now behind his peers in his ability to self-advocate so instead to get attention he makes inappropriate comments during class. The school has developed a systematic way to deal with discipline so this student gets detentions and looses other privileges.

No one ever asks this boy, what he is thinking or how he is feeling, instead every teacher and authority figure simply punishes this student for his disruptive actions. He has things to wants to say, and whenever a teacher talks to him, which is usually when he is getting punished he is not allowed to speak in his own defense.

Have you ever disciplined a kid and not let them speak about the way they felt about the situation? I’ve done that a couple time, but now I make sure to let the kid do most of the talking when they get in trouble.

The problem is that most teachers have too many students and not enough prep time to have these conversations with students. But we have got to try.

Yes, when you ask them how they feel, they may say things that are immature, they may make things up and they will probably exaggerate but let them finish. Instead of trying to tell them they are wrong, help them express the truth inside of their feelings.

Having an open and honest discussion, not a lecture, but a real two-way discussion about a student’s feelings is one of the fastest ways to build a relationship. No, having one of these talks probably will not immediately change behavior, but it will help.

So next time a kid is disruptive, don’t go on the attack. Of course you need to put them on notice that what they are doing is not okay, but follow up the situation with a talk. Don’t start by asking them how they feel about their behavior. Ask them how their day is going and how they feel about the class in general. You’ll be surprised at what you find out and how it’s impossible to dislike a student no matter how disruptive they are in class when you have heard their true voice.

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