If you are a middle school teacher, perhaps you have noticed that your students occasionally enjoy testing the boundaries (and your patience). Maybe I’m the only one – but I’m thinking not! With the end of the school year quickly approaching, students just want summer to be here (teachers too) and patience sometimes get thin.
It’s at these times, when I’m not at my wit’s end – but I’m close, that I usually revert to one of my tried and tested behavior management strategies. You don’t need any formal training, no forms are necessary, and it’s completely within YOUR control: Have a sense of humor.
Now, don’t get me wrong. There are times that I may want to scream – and would be perfectly within my rights to do so, based on their questionable behavior and poor decisions. My buttons have been pushed and my professionalism challenged. I’m sure I’m no different from any one of you. However, one of the behavior management strategies that has helped me to keep my sanity with some of my most challenging students, is to find something in the situation to laugh at.
Just to be clear – cursing -not funny. Fighting – definitely not funny. There are lots of other things, though, that my lovely middle-schoolers do and say that would drive me crazy if I let them. I’ve come to recognize these situations, and when I feel annoyed or challenged, sometimes I just laugh or make a joke to lighten the mood and defuse the situation before moving on with my lesson.
There have been times when students have complained, sulked, sooked or been rude that I felt like screaming, “Who do you think you are?” Of course, I can’t do that. And even if I did, who wants to spend their days yelling? Not me. It’s exhausting though, to constantly be nagging about behaviors, rules, poor decisions and what’s acceptable and what’s not – especially when you have particularly argumentative students who are looking for a battle to win.
Let me give you a “for instance”. Not too long ago, there was a student who very rudely demanded to know why I had shut the window. He’d just come from Phys. Ed. and he was hot! I felt like yelling, “What did you just say to me?” Instead I said, (with a smile on my face – which is very important) “You’re not saying that I’m not allowed to close a window in my own classroom, when I’m cold, are you?”… He didn’t know what to say. He just looked at me, rudeness gone, and replied, “No?” The other kids started to laugh. I quickly exclaimed,”Didn’t think so!” and I patted him on the shoulder with a laugh, and moved on with my lesson.
Another example….the Grade 4 and 5 students got to go on a trip out of province. I knew when the tour bus was in the parking lot that morning to load the students, what I’d be met with in my classroom. Can you hear it? Any guesses?…. “Why do the Grade 4 and 5′s get to go? We never get to do anything fun!” I was ready for the poor attitude and general “sulkiness” and responded (with my arms crossed and a slight foot stomp for good measure) “I know! I don’t get to go either! It’s so unfair! I have to stay here and teach! They didn’t even ask me - I don’t get to do anything fun.” Perhaps a little sarcastic – but you do what you’ve got to do, to survive (and thrive) with the hand you’ve been dealt. The kids couldn’t argue with me, because I’d sided with them and basically repeated what they’d just said, although making light out of the situation. They had nothing to say, so I finished with…”Oh well, I guess we’ll ALL just have to get over it!” and I went on about the morning routine.
If I’d outright addressed the blatant rudeness and disrespect in either of these situations, I would have been met with a fight. I don’t need to argue with twelve-year olds, thank you very much. I just don’t have the time, nor the desire.
I think you catch my drift, with the whole – laugh it off tactic. It depends on the day, the student, the situation and my mood. I’ve simply decided, that I’d rather laugh than cry (or scream) when at all possible. Wouldn’t you?
So, the next time your students are frustrating the heck out of you, try to find a tiny bit of humor in the situation and laugh or make a joke. Especially in the beginning, it often stops them cold, because it’s unexpected. The situation is defused, and you’re able to move on and teach (until the next time, that is).
On that note, I’d like to share a sign that was posted by “Fabulous Classroom” on Facebook. So funny ( and true)!
What behavior management strategy do you find most useful in your classroom?
This blog post was written in response to the 5 Star Blog Challenge at The Organized Classroom Blog. Check out her link-up to find more 5 Star Blogs!
Lessons From The Middle