“I don’t understand why you have all suddenly completely forgotten how to behave in a classroom. To help you remember, I want a two-page essay for homework about what the expectations are in our class and why you can’t behave today.”
When the whole class has taken leave of their senses and you end a class period in a state of extreme frustration bordering on homicidal rage, an essay like this makes a lot of sense. It induces suffering—always good—and feels like a natural consequence of their behavior—also good. There are a few problems, though.
First, if you’re lucky, two-thirds of the kids will actually complete the assignment. I can guarantee you that it will be the students who had nothing to do with the misbehavior. The actual instigators are definitely not going to write the essay, which means that either they get away with whatever havoc they’ve wreaked, or you have to find a new and exciting way to make them suffer.
Second, you have to grade those essays. And that’s awful. Why would you do that to yourself? And third, all those essays are going to say exactly the same thing. “The expectations are that we do our work and listen to directions. We didn’t do that today because we were being crazy. We should do what the teacher tells us to because we are at school to learn.”
A couple of years ago, I tried something new to replace the Rhetorical Essay of Shame and Suffering. I asked the same questions … but I actually wanted to know the answer. Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of how I now handle whole-class chaos:
Step 1: Kids act crazy.
I deal with it in all the ways I normally do—humor, focusing on the kids who are doing what they’re supposed to, changing up the activity, whatever. If all this fails, I move on to …
Step 2: Sit down and wait for silence.
It will come eventually. Don’t make eye contact with kids. Just sit and stare at your fingernails until they get curious and shut the hell up.
Step 3: Complete honesty.
“I’m really frustrated right now, and I’m trying not to take it out on people who are doing what they’re supposed to. You guys don’t usually act like this in my class. Can somebody tell me what’s going on with you today?” Then you wait. The first time you try this, chances are nobody will say anything.
Step 4: Offer suggestions.
Did something happen in another class? Do they not understand the assignment? Did they have multiple tests today and just need five minutes to move around before getting focused? Yeah, this may burn up some class time that you were planning to use on something else. But let’s face it: They already weren’t learning anything today, thanks to their ridiculous behavior! At this point, they probably still won’t tell you anything. Don’t worry! Move on to the next step!
Step 5: Give the assignment.
“So it looks like you need some time to think about why you’re acting this way, and that’s fine. But I want to understand what’s going on, because I usually leave your class feeling great, and today I’m Googling what kind of health insurance Walmart offers their employees. So here’s what I want you to write about for homework. What went wrong today? Why was your class having so much trouble getting it together? And what steps can I take as your teacher to help you out and make sure we have a better day tomorrow?”
Step 6: Bring the pain.
“I was hoping we could do this fun activity today, but I’m too frustrated and I don’t think you guys are focused enough to do it. So I think we’re going to get ahead on next week’s grammar notes instead, because I want to save a group project for a day when you can handle it. I look forward to reading your suggestions tomorrow so we can figure out a way to make fun activities work in our class.”
You’re done. Here’s what happens next. The kids do the assignment. At least, most of them do. The good kids, instead of being punished for the other kids’ actions, have had a chance to share their side of the story and be heard. The kids who were misbehaving, in many cases, will actually give you good suggestions. Maybe they need a seating change. Maybe something is going on in the class period before yours that needs to be addressed. Maybe somebody brought cupcakes to lunch yesterday and they were just on a sugar high.
Regardless of why they were acting the fool, you now have some insight into their behavior. More importantly, you’ve positioned yourself on their team. This is a class problem and everyone—including the teacher—is working together to solve it. You’re looking for ways to change your behavior as well as theirs, and kids will appreciate that. And the best part? While you do have to read their responses and adapt your class accordingly, you don’t have to grade them or track down late assignments. Less work for you, less resentment from the kids, and hopefully most of them get their shizz together so that you don’t have to do this again for at least a few weeks.
How do you handle middle school classroom chaos? Please share in the comments.
Why Is Good Behaviour Important In School?
Behavior comprises of the mannerisms and actions exhibited by a person. Good manners are not just about following set rules. Relating well with people, hard work, being able to stand up for oneself and others for the right reasons and knowing how to control emotions are also critical. Instilling discipline in children at an early age makes them grow up confident, respectful and knowledgeable of what is right and wrong. Poorly behaved kids not only create bad publicity but also cause a lot of embarrassment.
Every school has rules and regulations. Breaking them seems easy and fun. Many students see getting into trouble frequently as cool, but this is not the case. It takes gut and courage to constantly do what is right amidst negative pressure. Behaving well attracts favor and honor from peers, parents, school staff, even the administration. All this respect boosts self-esteem. Many would settle for leaders with good conduct. Moreover, well-behaved students always have the best recommendations.
Need an essay customized under your requirements? We can help you
According to Duckworth and Seligman, good character is more integral to good performance as compared to IQ. (M.E.P, 2005). Morals enable one set priorities. Upright students do not permit any distractions. At school, they only focus on one thing; their quest for knowledge. When everyone else is busy trying to look good, they struggle to excel keeping in mind that their time is coming. They channel all their efforts and concentration to their books. Success in later life is commonly attributed to academic prowess. Directly or indirectly, it is evident that behavior influences people’s life outcomes.
Good behavior sets students apart. Everyone else will use you as a point of reference. Parents would wish for their children to behave like you. Your age mates and those younger than you will always try to put themselves in your shoes before making any decision. In case of any problems, they will run to you for counsel and help because your personality has earned their trust. Overwhelming, right? But it is all in good faith.
The whole issue about good behavior in schools may raise different opinions. Some may think that it’s a plot for the administration to be domineering and strict, making everything about learning boring, definite and predictable; but it is not so. Imagine an institution with self- driven learners; all focused on their education, active in all school activities, following all the set rules, engaging their teachers and guardians adequately in their learning process and presenting their grievances confidently through the right channels. What an epic situation! The school will run efficiently, and classes will be very effective as no one will create distractions of any kind. Learning will even be more fun because more benefits and rewards might be introduced.
In as much as school is meant to instill knowledge, it also presents challenges that can only be overcome by wit and wisdom. Being of noble character from a tender age puts you in a better position to solve more and bigger problems that may arise in the future. Wise people remember lessons learned from their past experiences; good or bad and apply them when a need arises.
Emotional intelligence is a strength very few have. Principles of morality are incomplete without it. Attributes such as self-control, perseverance, and sociability are very essential when it comes to relating with others. It is very common to find students fighting just because one of them bad mouthed another, or one hating a math teacher because of a failed test. Knowing where to direct negative anger emotions helps in building and sustaining relationships. Fighting and hating is not a solution. At times silence is the best medicine. Seeking help can contribute to improving grades and even kill the bad attitude.
The society we live in today is quite rotten. Demanding good behavior from students is quite tall order. Some institutions even go as far as giving incentives for students to behave well. How shameful! Ultimately, winning is the game of those with proper conduct.