- Jason sharpens six pencils during quiet reading time.
- Asim blurts out in class without being called on.
- Rosita puts her feet on the chair in front of her, disturbing a classmate preparing silently for a test.
- Skippy hums aloud while writing in his journal. Several other students look annoyed.
- Judy has three different colored markers at her desk, although the directions asked students to take only one at a time from the supply table.
- Aiden has his feet out in the aisle as you attempt to distribute the students’ science papers.
So what is a teacher to do? How do you handle these situations in you are a Teacher Talk practitioner? What do you say first?
“Aiden, your feet are in the aisle,” is a positive first step. By simple describing what you see, your words help Aiden get conscious of where his feet are without telling him what to do about it. The silent message here is, “I believe you are smart enough to figure out what to do about it.” Repeat if needed.
When you repeat your communication, consider shortening it to one or two words. “Aiden, your legs.” When you give a reminder make it a fast one. Don’t use a paragraph when a phrase will do. This is one of those situations where less is more.
If he continues the behavior, tell him the negative effect his behavior has on you or his classmates. “Aiden, when you put your feet across the aisle, it is difficult for me or anyone else to get by. Someone could trip or you could get stepped on.”
Another Teacher Talk verbal skill you could use in this situation is to ask him to make a different choice. “Aiden your legs are blocking the path down the aisle. Please make a different choice.” One again, your language leaves that choice to him and requires him to do the thinking and solution-seeking.
To avoid a power struggle with this student, you may have to design choices for him. “Aiden, you can choose to put your legs and feet under your desk or sprawl out in the back by the cabinet. You choose.” Giving choices empowers the student and often prevents unnecessary confrontation. Create a choice that is win-win, one that helps meet his needs while respecting the needs of others.
If the situation persists over a period of minutes or days, you may have to go back to your Teacher Talk tool box for yet another skill. We suggest the One-Minute Behavior Modifier as outlined in depth in The Only Three Discipline Strategies You Will Ever Need. “Aiden, that is space-invading. We don’t do that in common areas in this classroom because others do not get equal access to that space. What we do here is utilize the space under our desk or find another spot that is unoccupied and more wide open.” Several repetitions of this statement may be necessary over a period of days before the behavior subsides. If there is no change, move to another tool.
The Dynamic Discipline Equation, as described in The Teacher Talk Advantage beginning on page 185 and used throughout the chapter on Accountability, might be an appropriate verbal skill to activate next. “Aiden, that is space-invading. We don’t do that in common areas in this classroom because others do not get equal access to that space. If you choose not to utilize the space under your desk or find another spot that is unoccupied and more wide open, you will be choosing to have me find another space for you.” Be sure to use the words choose, decide, or pick (page 189) on both ends of your statement. Deliver the statement and walk away. Don’t hang around looking for a response. You will likely get defensiveness if you do.
If the behavior happens again, modify your statement slightly. Say, “Aiden, that is space-invading. We don’t do that in common areas in this classroom because others do not get equal access to that space. Since you choose not to utilize the space under your desk or find another spot that is unoccupied and more wide- open, you have chosen to have me find another space for you which I will do now.” Follow through immediately with the outcome that he has created by his behavior. Do not give a second chance. During the next day, you can give another opportunity.
The Teacher Talk tools on this page are arranged using the simplest and least confrontational ones first. As you proceed down the page, the verbal skills require greater proficiency on your part. Begin with the first one and move on as needed. The majority of classroom situations will be eliminated or greatly reduced using the verbal skills at the top of the page. Enjoy using these skills and giving yourself the Teacher Talk advantage.
Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller are the coauthors of The Teacher Talk Advantage: Five Voices of Effective Teaching.They are two of the world's foremost authorities on raising responsible, caring, confident children. They publish a free monthly e-zine for educators and another for parents. To sign up for the newsletters or learn more about the seminars they offer teachers and parents, visit their websites today: www.chickmoorman.com and www.thomashaller.com
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