Unlike the predominating belief that research holds the answers, I tend to think that teachers are the best source to cite for what the best strategies are, and how to use them in the classroom. I also believe that with enough of these strategies, and with enough wisdom handed down from teachers who have been in the business of actually teaching for decades, the number of students you will classify as ‘bad kids’ will diminish to almost nothing. There are a large number of teachers in my building who genuinely attribute student behaviors to moon phases, as though students are behavior-management werewolves. “It’s a full moon! Of course they’re CRAZY!” Effective behavior-management methodology eliminates “werewolf theory” from classroom management decision making.
There is only one golden rule to apply to arguments and explosions in your classroom. As a teacher, you have no reason to win an argument in your classroom; your only job is to end the argument as quickly as possible so learning can continue. This is counterintuitive to many teachers, and many people. Most people believe that control is won by force, and force cannot be mustered when arguments are lost. Those people complain about the students who ‘have to get the last word.’ Personally, I couldn’t care less if a student gets the last word. Do you know why? If the student ‘gets the last word’ it means that the argument is over and we can move on. As long as what happens after ‘the last word’ is learning on the part of the arguing student, and an atmosphere conducive to all the other students continued learning, I have no argument -- pun intended.
This is a much more Taoist philosophy than educational research could comfortably recommend. Force can be dealt with much easier by yielding than it can by meeting it with force. What does force meeting force equal? Arguments and explosions. When students start to argue, yield to them, end the argument, and then move on with class after an appropriate ACTION is taken. There is nothing in the world better than when your class is all engaged with a learning activity when a problem student is silently removed. When you collect the attention of your students, they look around and realize: "where is Xavier?" A brave soul, terriried to argue with you, tenuously raises her hand and says "I'm very sorry this is an off-task question, but I'm using one of my four off-task minutes to ask... where did Xavier go?" Your head will swell with witty retorts to show how much smarter you, a teacher with a master's degree, is than your 8th-grade students. The truth of the moment is, the cleverest will say nothing, smile, and refocus the class on today's learning - where it belonged in the first place.
[Kids are just waiting for you to talk smack about Xavier now that he's gone, and doing that will always make you the bad guy. Saying nothing makes you neutral, and places the learning in the most important, deferential position.]
Remember, the silent manager manages by actions, not by words. Winning the argument is useless. A student won’t learn anything by losing an argument, but they’ll quickly learn not to argue with you when you simply don’t argue, and won’t allow arguments to break out.
When they argue with you, then lose computer privileges, they learn not to argue with you. When the argument ends, and they've won, and they come into class the next day to find a new seating chart, in which they are assigned to the stand at the standing desk in the back of the room, they no longer argue with you. When an argument results in a tangible lessening in their classroom experience, especially when enforced with silence, no one will ever argue with you.
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 Fredoania State University as an adjunct professor teaching educational technology since 2017.