Dictator or Relaxed Guide: what's your teaching style?

Discussion in 'Behavior Management' started by teachercreature, Feb 8, 2011.

  1. teachercreature

    teachercreature New Member

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    Feb 8, 2011

    How do I marry "me me" and "teacher me"?

    One on one with a student, I find it easy to remain light-hearted and easy going, while still being firm and ensuring learning. But I cannot for the life of me figure out how to remain firm about rules in the class without an intense teacher look and a less personable demeanor. I in now way intend to be the student's friend! But I find it incredibly disconcerting that I value excitement, fun, and an easy going nature, but cannot be all of this simultaneously and enforce the rules.

    How do you balance this? Can you? Should you?
    What's your authoritative style?

    Clearly remarks of a novice:whistle:
     
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  3. Auter12

    Auter12 Comrade

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    I really can't help you too much; I find myself doing this same thing!! I am interested to hear some responses for you :)
     
  4. bandnerdtx

    bandnerdtx Aficionado

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    Feb 8, 2011

    It takes awhile to find your teaching groove (for most people anyway), so it might be another year or two before you really start to feel comfortable.

    What I tell most new teachers is just to be yourself. If you're normally a fun-loving, silly person, be that in the classroom. If you're normally a little more straight-laced, then that's okay, too. Kids will respond to you no matter what your personality if you're sincere, fair and know your subject. Just relax and be YOU.
     
  5. Peachyness

    Peachyness Virtuoso

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    Like Bandnerd said, it does take a while. Eventually, it'll become second nature. You'll be able to control the class just by giving them the look. You'll be able to joke around, and then get right back to work the next second. It's hard for me to explain it. Read Tools for Teaching by Fred Jones. I read that book my second year of teaching and it really made a huge difference for me.
     
  6. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    Feb 9, 2011

    Benign Dictatorship.

    We have fun when it's appropriate, we know when to laugh, but most of all, we know, in no uncertain terms, who's in charge.
     
  7. Peachyness

    Peachyness Virtuoso

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    Oh, yes, this. For sure. Start off stern and strict. Then, ease up. That way, when it's time to get back to business, they know you mean it.
     
  8. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    Feb 9, 2011

    Well, they did call me "Sarge" when they were out of my class. But, they also got upset when they got stuck with the other math teacher. I guess I did something right :D.
     
  9. swansong1

    swansong1 Virtuoso

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    Feb 9, 2011

    Set the ground rules firmly from the beginning until they become second nature to the children, then your easy going side can appear and the children won't react the wrong way. I agree that it is something you will experiment with and you will find your "comfort spot" as you become more experienced. As long as you are treating your students with respect, fairness, and kindness, you are doing fine!
     
  10. Cerek

    Cerek Aficionado

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    I have the same issue. I have a fun-loving personality and like to bring that out in the classroom, but the kids often take that as a cue to cut-up themselves instead of getting to work.

    Yesterday when I wanted the class to get ready for work, one of my boys decided to make a snarky comment. When I confronted him about it, he was looking at one of his buddies with a smug grin and giggling a little bit. So I cut his water off in HURRY over that. I explained that THIS was the reason I could NOT joke around in class, because there is always some students that will try to take advantage of my good-nature.

    I do always wonder how I can strike a happy medium between my "fun" personality and the authority I have to be in the classroom. As others have said, I'm sure that will come with time and experience.
     
  11. Mrs. K.

    Mrs. K. Enthusiast

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    Feb 9, 2011

    I like things done in a certain way--for example, my seats have numbers, and students must put their seat number on their papers (period 1, seat 5 is 1-5) and pass them up in numerical order. These routines help reinforce my authority and counteract a little bit of my natural "easy-goingness," but after about my third year of teaching I decided to embrace my own personality, which is very maternal. My kids are all "my darlings," and I routinely call them by all manner of pet names. (This also masks the problems I have remembering names!) It works for me.
     
  12. CandorWit

    CandorWit Rookie

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    I agree with others. It takes time to find a balance. You can be warm and approachable while still remaining firm and respected as a person of authority.
    There is a difference between being the students "friend" and being friendly to students. If your quirky and silly by nature, I agree with others, you shouldn't oppress that side of yourself in the classroom. You may want to direct your sillyness into activites to make them fun and exciting, and less about how silly you are as a person.
     
  13. shouldbeasleep

    shouldbeasleep Enthusiast

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    Feb 9, 2011

    After all these years, I'd say I'm a happy teacher and the kids know it. I don't usually get bent about things. I'd rather not argue or get mad. If you don't do your homework, I take out "the book", mark your name, and say "See me for recess." and move on. I really don't much care why.

    I am organized. I have folders for the days of the week and I know what I am doing the next day.

    I don't hold back much. If they can do better, I tell them so. Not much coddling from me.

    I never ever ever try to do other work when the kids are in there. I hate being interrupted, so I don't put myself in that situation. So I'm "on" all the time.

    I need to be a better reading teacher. I'm glad I don't teach it.
     
  14. Mr.E

    Mr.E Rookie

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    Feb 13, 2011

    I think many teachers (including myself) struggle with this issue because each student will respond differently to a teaching style.

    I teach students with behavior disorders and they generally do not respond well to strict authority, so I try to maintain a very calm, relaxed, positive attitude.

    However, I have a few students that require very clear boundaries and strict authority, so I find myself performing a difficult balancing act. Just remember that it's not easy and it will never be perfect.
     
  15. AnonyMS

    AnonyMS SpEd Para! BASE room aide! RTI Facilitator!

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    Feb 13, 2011

    I was going to post something similar and call it, " "But I was just..." "

    It's the little things that I can't seem to get a hold of. I KNOW I shouldn't get into power struggles or "arguments" with the kids but I get pulled in! Here's what I'm struggling with right now:

    Kids are talking. I know where in the room the chatting is coming from (back corner, for this example's sake). I look in that direction and simply state, "Stop talking, please." in an even-keeled voice, slightly stern but not so much so (first warning). The reaction I get?? "BUT I WAS JUST..." [fill it in... 'giving her a pen,' 'telling him to shut up,' 'telling her to stop humming,' ETC.].

    Okay. Seriously?? I just want them to STOP TALKING. I really do not care what they were saying... just stop.

    What do you do??

    The other day, a kid was eating orange chips (those cheese things) in my class. And then using his orange fingers to turn the pages in my Literature book! Yes, he was getting the book all messy. I stated, simply, "We don't eat in class" or something like that (might have been, "Put away the chips.") and the student immediately shouted (well, between a shout and a talk... what's that called?), "I'm not eating chips!!"

    He was. But since he didn't see me as I caught him, he denied it. Two minutes later, I catch him red-handed!! Seriously? I have to catch you putting the chip into your mouth as I ask you to stop? Otherwise, you aren't doing it?
     
  16. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    Feb 13, 2011

    That's when a really well developed "teacher look" comes in handy. If any of my kids ever tried the "but I was just..." trick, they normally stopped before they could get the second word out because of the immediate, piercing glare they got. I think 90% of stopping that sort of argument is body language, not actual words. Same think with denying behavior. I would just give this "you've got to be kidding me" look, and they'd slink back and know they'd been caught.
     
  17. AnonyMS

    AnonyMS SpEd Para! BASE room aide! RTI Facilitator!

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    Feb 13, 2011

    MMSWM - I have a great "teacher look" but it is not working with some of my students. I started mid-year and I know they are testing me so that IS part of the problem.

    It's just running me ragged with all the "but I was just..." or the flat-out denials! OMG (as the kids say)!
     
  18. CindyBlue

    CindyBlue Cohort

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    Feb 14, 2011

    Maybe you can use the check in - as in a calm statement "Johnny, what did I ask/tell you to do?" The only answer that is acceptable is that they tell you what you asked/told them to do (unless they really didn't hear you, in which case a repetition is appropriate) and then do it. If they want to argue ("but I was just...") I tell them that we're fiinshed talking about it now and if they wish to discuss it further, they can come in at lunch or after school (or meet me at the dean's office after school, etc.) They rarely do, because then it interferes with their personal time. If the student is defiant/disruptive on a regular basis (meaning more than a couple of times) I talk with him/her at lunch or after school, contact parents, and tell the dean what is happening and work out a plan with him/her that the next time, I will send the student out of class to the dean and the dean will already know why the student is there. I also document every incident briefly on a form I made up and keep in my gradebook for quick reference, because having evidence that this student has been exhibiting defiant behaviors that occur often and are disrupting the learning and teaching environment is very helpful if you need it in the future.
    I got this technique from the book "Setting Limits in the Classroom", by Robert J. MacKenzie. Lots of other good techniques in this book, too!
     
  19. Sarge

    Sarge Enthusiast

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    Feb 14, 2011

    I've often told people that teaching is a good job for people with multiple personality disorder. Once second you are Miss Frizzle, the next you are Mr. Hand from Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

    To be honest, I found the drama classes I took in high school and college to be very useful - enabling me to appear stern and angry when that just wasn't the emotion I was feeling that day.

    Hey! I think that's a copyright violation.
     
  20. teachercreature

    teachercreature New Member

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    Feb 15, 2011

    THANK YOU!

    :thanks: This is one of the first discussion groups I've joined and I can't tell you how much peace it's brought me.

    I don't have to have it perfected the first year (let alone the first month!)?
    I can start off stern and then become more playful?

    It's all making more sense to me now! Of course, implementation is a whole other story, but I actually don't feel like I need to be Ms. Frizzle every time I enter the classroom. It makes sense that I lay out the boundaries and then allow children to have more fun within them.

    Thanks so much! :thumb:
     
  21. Pisces_Fish

    Pisces_Fish Fanatic

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    I've gotten more stern as the years have passed (only 3, I'm no vet), but I'm too easygoing to be dictator-ish. I find being firm all the time to be exhausting, it's not my personality. One thing I've gotten better at is not accepting laziness from kids. I struggled with that at first because I wanted them to like me.
     
  22. teachercreature

    teachercreature New Member

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    Please say more. How do you no longer tolerate laziness? Do you have certain consequences? Are there certain behaviors students tend to exhibit that you try to cut before that become bad habits?
     
  23. AnonyMS

    AnonyMS SpEd Para! BASE room aide! RTI Facilitator!

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    Feb 16, 2011

    CindyBlue - yes, I have tried the, "What did I just ask you to do?" thing (b/c I know that 'trick'!) but I still get arguments / explanations ("But I was just...").

    Then, when I don't want to hear it and I turn a deaf ear, I get the "attitude" (eye roll or even a verbal, "Oh my gawd!" or a loud grumble!!).

    I am calling parents and will continue to do so. I am running into a LOT of disconnected phone numbers.
     
  24. dudeteacher

    dudeteacher Rookie

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    Feb 17, 2011

    I think my kids see me as the relaxed style because of the way we do things. I've been teaching for nearly two decades and I must say I have had some great experiences this year. I feel a tremendous amount of validation from the book, Teach Like a Champion. Many of the things in that book I feel like I do....which seems pretty dictator if you have read it or not, but it may be because of some tools I found online that push me more in the relaxed range. I went to a small workshop last summer by the positive engagement project and they had some really good ideas that promoted positive classroom management, but very assertive at the same time. This year has probably been one of my best because my kids have really responded to our class expectations (not rules) and our mountain visual we use each day. I've been in contact with the presenters and they have sent me some suggestions that have been a true blessing.
     
  25. AnonyMS

    AnonyMS SpEd Para! BASE room aide! RTI Facilitator!

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    dudeteacher - can you be more specific with what has worked to promote classroom management that is assertive and effective?
     
  26. Pisces_Fish

    Pisces_Fish Fanatic

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    I began to realize kids are very forgiving, or maybe just forgetful :) No matter how hard I made them work they still adored me. I don't want to be in a classroom where kids don't like me....it's no fun for anyone. When I return a paper and tell them it's not acceptable until it's their best work I certainly get some rolling eyes or whining, but I ignore it. I think kids realize WHY I make them work so hard and that I'm not picking on them or punishing them.
     
  27. Securis

    Securis Cohort

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    Feb 18, 2011

    To answer the OP, my style depends on the class and the specific child. Some only need to be guided and they do whatever is asked of them without any extra assertion. Some you have to stand over and crack the whip from bell to bell. And this is all in the same class.
     
  28. tarkle21

    tarkle21 Rookie

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    I have a lot of those whiners and 'but I just...' kiddos in my class. All I can say is stay strong. Don't back down. If you give in, then you've set the tone for them to believe that you'll always say yes or let them do as they please. Stern yet fair heed good results.
     
  29. passionateacher

    passionateacher Comrade

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    I must suffer from multiple personality disorder. I am not 1 way with my class. This is my 5th year teaching and all 5 years have been in 2nd grade. Naturally kids this age are loving and always want hugs and to please the teacher. But they still TRY me!

    I am fun and I am definitely more of myself in front of kids than with adults. In 1 day I can be caught singing directions, busting out a spontaneous rap because something in my lesson rhymes, dancing and encouraging my kids to join me (for about 8 seconds), whispering to make them get quiet and listen better, fussing (not necessarily yelling though), speaking calmly but sternly with arms folded across my chest, cutting the lights out, having some kids put their heads down to "think" for a minute, making some kids walk several laps alone at recess, allowing them to give me group hugs, brushing kids off when I'm not in a hugging mood, pretending to cry when they say "really smart" things, teaching with a fake accent...

    They must think I'm crazy...I think I'm crazy! :lol:
     
  30. Loomistrout

    Loomistrout Devotee

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    Second Peachyness' pointer to Tools For Teaching. Dr. Jones sat in classrooms for fifteen years observing and collecting data. He wanted to find out why some teachers make discipline seem so easy while others struggle. Jones found teachers producing the most cooperation and time on task were anything but drill sergeants. They had a natural ability to use their bodies not mouths to quell disruptions.

    Jones' thing is making discipline invisible. During training, as a demonstration, Jones moves around the tables (teachers) making small talk, giving prompts about work, using proximity and a quiet voice. At the end (about 20 seconds) he asks the attendees to point to the teacher who is in "trouble". No one can. Jones replies, "Good! I don't want you to know!" Then he asks the "target" what he said to her which was something about turning around in seat and getting some work done.
     
  31. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    Hey teachercreature - I agree with several posts here in different respects, including the points: (1) It will become more natural over time; (2) be yourself, and (3) be firm from the beginning. Also very much agree with loomistrout in that so much of behavior management is subtle, nonverbal, attitudinal, and focused on building an atmosphere of shared control and cooperation rather than total ownership by either teachers or students.

    You asked the question though about balance - to me, balance is one of the most key components of discipline. Most of us are blessed with some, but not all, of the essential interpersonal characteristics of working with kids (firmness, humor, realness, positivity, calmness, self control, etc.). For those (majority) of us out there, I think its important to strive to develop those characteristics which we lack in a natural way. So, some people may be more loud and energetic - awesome, and will fit in a lot of situations. But, some kids need a more quiet, gentle approach, and channeling our inner "quiet, gentle" in a way that is still authentic is important.

    Like many new folks who work with kids, I started off a total softy/friend, then after a few years moved to totalitarian drill sargeant, then after a few more years came back somewhere in the middle. BUT, a key thing I learned is that it isn't really about softening your hard side and hardening your soft side - if you do that, you sort of lose out on the strengths of both. Rather, I'd try to be both at the same time - maybe not literally at the exact same second, but if you find yourself being playful and lighthearted for a few minutes, when its natural and sensical, be more firm. I'm not talking about having multiple personalities, being inconsistent, and just randomly changing your approach on a minute-by-minute basis, but I do think its important to allow the situation - not just your personality - to guide your response. People who enter the profession naturally more soft need to firm up their interpersonal skills, and vice versa. People who tend to be more structured need to lighten up and tell a few jokes, and vice versa. People who are always positive need to know that it's okay to "go there" once in a while, and, well, you get it :).

    Growing up in the kind of house/school/neighborhood I did, I wasn't accustomed to confrontation - I can't remember ever arguing with someone in a professional/school setting. I'll also never forgot - after a few years into my experience as an educator - finally "going there" with a child, and I mean going there - not just giving a time out, but raising my level of interpersonal aggression to, let's say, "firmly assertive." I wasn't yelling, not calling names, but I meant business, and for the first time in my career I really felt like the group of kids truly felt it.

    In terms of developing those skills, my advice is learn as much as possible about what you don't know, and get even better at what you do know. Every day, you'll find yourself driving home patting yourself on the back with at least one or two new things you tried that worked. After a while, you'll have a whole bunch of new things that work. At that point - when you know how to expertly be both light-hearted and dead serious, heighten your focus on balance - too many people think you either have to be one or the other - either really firm, or really relationship-oriented. Really energetic or really calm. Without being mentally unstable, incorporate as many different styles as you can consistently.



    Switching gears just a bit - I took had to make that move from being more personable/approachable to be a bit more firm. One thing is to mentally externalize classroom expectations: too often, teachers fall into the "my classroom" trap - "Excuse me, we do NOT run in MY classroom." "Don't lean against MY wall!" Even if they don't say these things, sometimes they still get communicated through tone of voice, etc. Teachers internalize and personalize the rules, as though every violation is a personal offense against him/herself. This encourages kids to think of rules/expectations as only specifically attached to that particular teacher, not as a broad set of expectations/principles which should govern behavior/social interaction/academic performance more globally. Our end goal as educators should not be to have kids follow our personal directives, but to live by a set of standards that promote excellence. In other words, a child should not keep his hands to himself because it vioates our personal rules, but because it promotes positive peer relationships. (Disclaimer: True, younger kids often behave because it pleases adults, but we should encourage higher "moral thinking" over time).

    Along this line of thinking, I have found it easier to enforce rules with less interpersonal confrontation when I am simply a third party to the expectations - they exist not because you want them to, but because they do (maybe the kids created them, maybe they're school expectations, etc.). So, you're almost like a coach, attorney, counselor, etc. - someone who isn't the god of the classroom who owns and created the rules, but simply someone to enforce them. It's a subtle difference in attitude and in thought, but I've found it can make a pretty profound difference in approach.

    (Another disclaimer: I realize that there are those out there who will disagree with my last comments about depowering oneself as a teacher when it comes to rules, and externalizing ownership and responsibility, and this goes back to a very old debate including the authoritarian/authoritative debate, etc. I'm not advocating for abdicating responsibility and control, or final say, but simply in a subtle shift in presentation of discipline that focuses on empowering children to own their behavior - or at least share it, rather than on creating an environment of exclusive adult control.)

    This post is long enough, and its late enough. Good night all!
     
  32. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Feb 26, 2011

    Eded, I just wanted to say: I think you're going to be a huge asset to A to Z.
     
  33. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    Thanks Aliceacc! I haven't been coming long, but when I first visited I noticed the genuine passion and talent that seemed to be in almost every post I read by others - its an honor to be here.
     

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