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Students feel safer if they know what their boundaries are. Tip 4 is to teach the students the rules and the procedures of the classroom, but that doesn’t matter if you don’t enforce the rules fairly!
That means that the rules should apply to all the students at the same standard, because if you punish one student for doing something and you don’t punish another student for doing the same thing, then you’re not being fair. And one of the biggest things that we as humans feel at a very instinctive level is that if something is unfair, we don’t like that and students expect you as the teacher to be a fair judge.
If you are fair, students will accept your judgment. They will listen to you because they feel like they can trust you and you will do the right thing for the class.
As a teacher, you should also not be too strict. If there’s something small that happens, just turn a blind eye. You don’t want to punish students just for doing something small.
Sometimes it’s better to let it go. For example, if a student says something bad, but it’s not aimed at you or one of the other students, it just comes out in frustration.
If it’s possible, just ignore it as if you didn’t hear it. So, tip 5 is to enforce your rules fairly. Students will feel safer with you if they know they can trust your judgment and they know what their boundaries are in the classroom.
Education author Michael Linsin feels strongly that teachers must make sure that they get their judgment calls right. And if they make a mistake, be grown-up enough to admit and fix it. The teacher must always give the student a fair chance of explaining the unwanted behavior or mistake.
So, Linsin’s three important guidelines for enforcing classroom rules are:
1. Let misbehavior play out: Like a referee in soccer, it’s imperative that the teacher’s call is correct. To identify the correct culprit; to determine what caused the misbehavior and that the verdict is both correct and fair. When discussing the misdemeanor with the guilty students, the teacher should encourage them to reflect on the class rule they broke, admit their mistake and promise not to repeat it.
“Otherwise, the student in question will resent you—sometimes privately, but always intensely,” says Linsin. “This underscores the importance of letting misbehavior play out (unless, of course, someone is in physical danger). Just pause a moment and watch it unfold. Move into position to take in the entire scene… Be a good witness first. In this way, you avoid the kind of arguments and misunderstandings that threaten the positive relationship you have with your students.”
2. Allow for your own mistakes, and fix them: Linsin’s point is that the teacher must model behavior. So, if the teacher made a mistake, the classroom rule should be a promise that you will admit and fix it publicly. If a student feels wronged, he or she (or the class captain/ monitor) should raise the issue in private, but with a public apology. If the teacher is consistent with enforcing the rules, making sure that misbehavior plays out, and if the class is clear about what does and doesn’t constitute breaking rules, and you let misbehavior play out, then Linsin’s point is that this will be a rare occurrence.
3. Respect students: With the breakdown of respect and discipline prevalent in some cultures, the human reaction for teachers is to cut short objections by students who persistently misbehave.
“Our judgement becomes clouded… our cold shoulders, lectures, and angry looks become part of the consequence, or replace it altogether. In so doing, we not only weaken, or completely obliterate, our influence, but we discourage our students from trying. We discourage them from caring one whit about us or our classroom,” says Linsin.
“It does irreparable damage to the relationship, stripping away any influence or leverage she may have had. Interestingly, what the student was most upset about wasn’t that she’d made a mistake.“We lean on our humanity, empathy, and imagination to feel from afar the stress of poverty, trauma, perfectionism, shyness, uncertainty, abuse, family expectation, or learning disability.”
His point is that there is no excuse for denying a student’s right to speak. Unfair treatment by a teacher undermines everything we as educators want to achieve.
The student isn’t bad, but the behavior is unwanted. It is very important for us as teachers to build relationships with our students and if they feel we don’t like them, they won’t like us back and they won’t feel comfortable with us.
So, whenever something happens in the class, don’t get angry at the student, say: “I’m disappointed; that behavior is unwanted and I don’t want to see it again!”
But if you make it about the student, they will feel you are attacking them. The best way to solve problems in the classroom is by going to the student and saying, “This is not the behavior I want in my classroom. I think you can do better. I want you to try harder in the future, okay?” instead of going to the student and saying, “What you are doing is horrible! I hate that you’re doing that!”
Make sure you punish the behavior and not the child.
The first minutes of class are crucial! Every teacher has a routine for their classroom, but teachers of younger students should have a morning routine that includes reading the day and date, a morning question and morning meeting before starting lessons. Teachers of older students must also have a procedure set up for the students to start with as soon as they get into class. Many teachers wait for all the students to come inside, sit down and greet the students and then do roll-call (attendance), but you are wasting precious time! (See Tip 16!)
Instead, have a procedure for when the students come in where they have to open up their books and review work they’ve done, or preview the work that you will be doing. Or they can take out a book to read, but get them into your classroom and get them working as quickly as possible.
You can take roll call while they’re sitting down, instead of having a discussion with the students. I know some teachers like to have roll-call because it calms the students down. If that is what you like, then by all means, do so, but I still think it’s very important to get the students working as soon as possible.
So, when they get into the classroom, they know the teacher expects me to take out my book and to do this. So, you don’t have the problem of coming into the class telling the kids, “Okay everyone, settle down, settle down. Jimmy put away, take your seat…” So, when they get into the classroom, they have to sit down, they have to take out their books and they are ready to work. Trust me, if your principal sees this happening in your class, they will be so impressed with you because teachers generally don’t do that. So, you will stand out from other teachers if you get your students working as soon as they get into your classroom.