Defer to Students at All Times
Deferring to students at all times is really an easy segue. Students will never care about disappointing you as their teacher. That’s probably not accurate. Students might care about disappointing you as their teacher, but not enough to change their behavior in class; impressing their friends will always outrank impressing you. Some teachers look at this as a sad fact of life that makes students bad. Smart teachers use this to their benefit to help avoid explosions and arguments.
If you walk through a school, you’ll notice that Level 1 Screamers always refer to themselves as the emphasis of their classroom management. “I have a master’s degree and I deserve more respect!” “I work hard to achieve my best possible self and you should be more like me!” “You’re all disappointing because I expected you to be better!” “This isn’t what I taught you!” “You should know the rules because I know I shared them with you throughout September!” Notice the prominent, italicized “I” in all these false but illustrative statements.
These students created what I believe they called "the triangle of feet?" All three finished their work that day. To an adult, working with your feet attached to other people's feet is absurd, and could easily cause you to explode on students. As a middle-school student, working while your feet are touching other people's feet represents the single, most important thing to a middle-school student: being accepted.
This requires a few careful moves to achieve. As a teacher, you have to defer to students at all times. Make it clear that the rules are for students. You’re not assigning an arbitrary detention to one student, you’re helping 17 other students learn better by creating the perfect classroom atmosphere for students to learn. Take a look at the following chart to clarify how Level 1 Screamers can simply modify how they word their reminders to maximal (though entirely unproven) effect.
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So much of the writing published about education is published by people who don't teach. I figured it was time for a teacher to write about teaching. I've been proud to teach 8th-grade ELA in Dunkirk City Schools since 2007, and to serve at Fredonia State University as an adjunct professor, teaching educational technology since 2017.