How can you be stern and but not disrespectful to the kids?

Discussion in 'High School' started by love2teach_art, Sep 25, 2010.

  1. love2teach_art

    love2teach_art Rookie

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    Sep 25, 2010

    How can you be stern and not be disrespectful to the kids?

    I've been having trouble with this concept this year as it's my first year teaching h.s. students.
    A social worker advised me to be respectful but stern?????
    Isn't there a fine line of between being stern and being mean?

    Or is it just me?
    I cannot be lenient and have kids walk all over me.
    Yet, how do I gain rapport with a group of kids who is apathetic about learning and they don't even seem to care to be in class.
    Yet, when i enforce rules. they accuse of me of being disrespectful and wanting me to add "please" when ever I want them to stop a disruptive behavior.
    I probably got this all wrong. So please help me out to this newbie h.s teacher!!! thank you!
     
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  3. JackTrader

    JackTrader Comrade

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    Sep 25, 2010

    First of all, I think it's absolute nonsense to have kids accuse you of being disrespectful when you tell them they need to comply.

    The point about being professional, friendly but firm is in the delivery...you calmly tell them that there are expectations and rules that need to be followed, and if there isn't compliance, there are consequences. You can put the burden on the student by phrasing it, "the rules for this are so-and-so. if you don't comply with that rule, then the consequence is A. It's your choice on what road to take."

    My take is that you never raise your voice, never yell and scream (even when you're frustrated) because the kids are used to getting yelled at and they tune it out.

    Also, very importantly, pay attention to your body language. I just got evaluated by my supervisor - and had a rough time with the kids, and he pointed out that my body language was confrontational - hands on hips, upper body leaning forward - which was a big contributor to the kids acting out.

    Also, when possible, if there is a major instigator that needs a talking to, talk to the kid privately and out of sight from the rest of the class - if you dress him/her down, he may lose face and have to show defiance to you - which is bad for everything.
     
  4. Cerek

    Cerek Aficionado

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    Sep 25, 2010

    Think of the best bosses you have worked for. They were able to tell you when you needed to do a better job without being insulting or confrontational. Most likely, they were just very straightforward, but spoke in a low, even tone.

    Or think of talking to your own kids. You probably start by simply stating what you expect from them in an even, but firm, tone of voice. If they refuse or ignore you, your voice might increase a little, but the tone remains even and you still aren't yelling (and if you're like my parents, you use the child's FULL name to let them know without a doubt you aren't talking to anyone else but them ;) O )

    Another example is a member of a different forum I use to visit. Their sig line simply said "Don't raise your voice; improve your argument". Very simple, very powerful and very true. When we KNOW we are giving a good argument, we don't feel the need to "raise our voices"

    So, speak in a low, firm and even tone of voice. When they say you are being disrespectful, remind them respect is a two-way street. They have to GIVE respect in order to GET respect. Then point out you DO treat them with respect. You never yell or insult them when they ignore you or break the rules, you simply apply the consequences they already know will come with those actions. THEY are the ones who made the choice to face those consequences, not you.

    I've subbed at our alternative school several times. Some of the boys there are very rough, but I've never had a problem with them because I never yell at them. As a counter example, one of the assistants that works there full time is a former Army man who insists on getting in their face and doing a Drill Instructor routine on them for the slightest infraction (such as rolling their eyes). Like Jack said, all that did was create a conflict in which the kid could not back down without "losing face", so the conflict just continue to escalate. The next semester when I went there, the assistant was a little lady in her early 60's. This gentle little grandma never had to raise her voice once to the boys (partly, I'm sure, because of the grandmother image) and could often cut them off with just a look.
     
  5. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Sep 25, 2010

    I've never aimed for "stern."

    I'm consistent. If I say it, then the odds are overwhelming that I'll do it, almost every time.

    But I would like to think that I'm also fair, and that it occasionally overwhelms the consistent thing.

    Like yesterday for example. We had an impossilble week at school. One of the priests died on Monday and was buried on Thursday (school closed for the funeral) In between we had a prayer service outside (only about half an hour, and we're in NY, not FL) but a LOT of kids felt dizzy and had to be pulled out. So it was an incredibly stressful week.

    I had a quiz scheduled for yesterday, on a concept they're having trouble with, since it involves a lot of review from last year.

    When the first kid showed at my homeroom for extra help, I decided to postpone the quiz. I knew I was physically and emotionally exhausted, and that any of the kids who had chosen to attend the funeral and burial were as well.

    I think that "stern" would have had the quiz, but "fair" knew it had to be postponed.

    I'm friendly to my kids, but we know I'm not their friend. I speak respectfully to them, and they know they had BETTER do the same, not only to me, but to anyone in my presence.

    They know that my class is about content, not about games or chatting.

    They know that I'll do my best to ensure that they understand the material, but that they've got to do their share as well.

    As to the "please" thing, I can see their point. I don't recall recently TELLING my kids to do something; I think I almost always phrase it as a request. But it's the kind of request you would expect to hear from a 4 star general: "Could you get rid of that gum, please? The garbage can is right there." or "Could we get started please?"-- then there's no break between that and the start of class.

    I don't raise my voice, ever. In fact, if I EVER stop talking completely, the kids know they've crossed the line, big time. I'm a 5'4", 51 year old woman teaching classes of 40 and 41; I'm not going to get any authority at all from my physical stature or voice. But my body language and actions speak volumes!
     
  6. chebrutta

    chebrutta Enthusiast

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    Sep 25, 2010

    I have to be honest - I always say please and thank you to my students. That's a HUGE issue I saw when I was teaching high school - they are soooo eager to be adults (heck, they already think they are), and they feel that they deserve respect without having to earn it first. I think it's kind of like building a bridge - if they need something that small to get them started on the road to respect FOR YOU, then give it to them.

    So in my class, it would go something like this: "John and Tom? Eyes on me, please. Would you stop talking so that everyone can hear me clearly? Thank you so much!"

    The behavior will stop; sometimes it starts up again, but they've already had one warning, so they know the next time, I'll ask them to please pack up their belongs and take their time-out letter next door.

    And I agree with Alice - you don't have to raise your voice. It's the tone you use that's going to get their attention. I call it the "panther" tone, how I imagine a panther might sound right before an attack. Low, calm, but full of deadly intent. I also have highly athletic eyebrows... raising just one gets them back on track faster than any amount of yelling could ever do.
     
  7. love2teach_art

    love2teach_art Rookie

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    Sep 25, 2010

    Thank you so much for all of your replies!!!
    You see I'm 5'4" and I look young for my age (I'm nearing my 30's but had some of the staffs mistake me as one of the students) so it's definitely hard to get students to see me as an authority.

    Thankfully, I haven't raised my voice yet. In fact to get the opposite effect, I sometimes lower my voice when I talk to an individual student.

    I've been constantly having the same 2 or 3 students chatting or banging the desk with ruler or pens??? It's driving me nuts! For these kids, I've been pausing and giving them the "stare" (I'm thinking since they're juniors, they know they shouldn't be banging their desks to disrupt instruction time and know why I'm giving them the stare. I know they would never do that in English or Math class) Maybe my mistake was not giving a more specific direction and saying "please".

    I should definitely remember to say "please" from now on..
    Didn't know it would make such a difference!

    Would I ever gain respect from the girl who thinks I'm disrespectful? She straight up said, "I'm going to do everything that's expected. I have relationship with all of my teachers, but I am just not going to have one with you":confused:
     
  8. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Sep 25, 2010

    Call her in for a conference. Not a screamfest, just a chat.

    Let her know that you know you've both gotten off on the wrong foot. That you were so focused on maintaining order that you overlooked the basic issue of courtesy. And that you apologize for that.

    Then ask her help. Ask,in her opinion, what you can do to help improve the atmosphere in the class. Ask sincerely, and give her suggestions some merit if you think they deserve it. If you think they're unworkable, explain why.

    Pull in those 2 or 3 kids as well, separately. Talk to them. Tell them that of course it's unacceptable to band their desks, and that it needs to stop.

    Just about any time you can avoid confronting a kid in front of his peers, it's bound to end better. If they feel backed into a corner, they'll come out swinging to save face. But if they see you as someone trying to make their class all it can be, you may be surprised to find help from kids who might otherwise not give it.
     
  9. love2teach_art

    love2teach_art Rookie

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    Sep 25, 2010

    Thank you so much, Aliceacc!
    I'll definitely talk to her and the boys whose been banging their desks.
    It has been a crazy week for me! I had a boy cursing at me for his grade on Monday (A-)
    And I definitely got off on the wrong foot with the girl.
    It didn't helps emailing her counselor and her case manager to get some support for her attitude and minor resistance.
    I find out the case manager read the email to her! :eek: And the student got real upset, of course. Came to my class demanding to talk to me and asked why I went behind her to talk to her counselor and case manager before talking with her first!! I just wanted suggestions on dealing with her and get some info.
    It was really bad. We then had a conference with social worker and that didn't help either. Since the social worker was trying to be fair, did not give me support, making me look bad as a teacher.

    Come Monday, I'm definitely going to talk to her.
    She is actually known to be a sweet student and all the other art teachers love her. Friday, I found out she's ultra sensitive and has an IEP, maybe that explains a little why she's been the way she is in my class. Have to remember to be extra sensitive around her. I guess, she just wanted to feel she is valued.
     
  10. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Sep 25, 2010

    How about this: tell her (after you clear it of course) that you've been thinking of playing music quietly in the art room as the kids work. But you need the type of music that's condusive to work, of course, and it has to be PG rated. Ask for some input. (And mention that to the boys too-- tell them that the background noise in the room has been one of the reasons you haven't begun it yet.) See if you can get THEM to work with you to improve things.
     
  11. Cerek

    Cerek Aficionado

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    Sep 25, 2010

    It's funny, Alice, but your classroom is the one I picture when teachers mention "stern but fair" or "stern without disrespect".

    I don't think "stern" means you still would have given the quiz, it just means you expect the kids to respect your authority and conduct themselves responsibly in your class. I would imagine your classroom environment is very close to what love2teach (and many others) are trying to achieve.
     
  12. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Sep 25, 2010

    "Stern" to me conjures up images of an unsmiling drone. And that's not my class at all. We laugh a lot, at the problems in the book, at my mistakes, at their mistakes.

    One of my freshman geometry kids used a calculator the other day-- a no-no this early in the year, and I tormented him. I responded with "Mike, you big old cheater!!!" I promised to torture him until he graduated. As I did so, there was a palpable change in the room, from polite respect to a more relaxed version. They know that we can have a little fun, even make a major error, and I won't get angry. We'll joke and move on. In fact, a few minutes later, we came across an ugly division problem, and Mike chimed in with " Oh, wait, where did I put that calculator???" We got a good laugh, and then everyone did the division.

    I let kids go to the bathroom, I let them make up homework, I put cutesy little stickers on their tests. I hope they don't see me as "stern."
     
  13. teacher304

    teacher304 Companion

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    Sep 25, 2010

    Hey Alice, what are your first few geometry units? We have been using the calculators since Day One in graphing parabolas
     
  14. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Sep 25, 2010

    Our kids don't use calculators until we hit trig. We graph parabolas without them.

    Our kids graph polynomial functions in Precalc with only regular scientific calculators. We're very big on them knowing the basics.

    We experimented last year with moving all around the book. We've pushed proofs to the very end of the year, since by then they know the theorems and postulates.

    We've covered a bit of set theory, then some Venn Diagrams.

    The quiz I postponed was on using 2 variables to solve problems involving vertical angles and supplements.

    I'm just getting started on triangle basics.
     
  15. Cerek

    Cerek Aficionado

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    Sep 25, 2010

    Fair enough. Maybe "firm" would have been a better adjective. I don't necessarily picture an unsmiling face when I think of a stern teacher, but I can see why others would.

    I try to strike the same balance in my class, between cutting up with the kids and keeping them on task. It's hard because middle schoolers sometimes have trouble cutting up for a minute, then getting back on task. They think that, if the teacher cuts up, then it's a free ticket to just have fun and do what they want.

    We can usually get back on track without a lot of problems, though, and the kids definitely know when they've gone a bit too far. For my part, I remind myself they are still learning the boundaries I want them to follow and I'm partially responsible if they go to far until they grow more accustomed to it. We're still early in the year and I'm really happy with their behavior overall. They sometimes tend to talk to much at times, but that's what makes them middle schoolers. :D
     
  16. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Sep 30, 2010

    love2teach art, how's it going???
     
  17. chessimprov

    chessimprov Rookie

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    Nov 7, 2010

    That's great you can totally avoid the calculator usage. I tried that for one of my tests, and the students detested me like they almost wanted to hurt me. I did let them know in advance fairly.

    To be firm but disrespectful, you can also try walking up to students 1-1 or if necessary asking a student to step outside of the classroom while you are at the entrance of the door, still able to see the classroom, but talking to the student in the hallway too. This I feel has helped me a little bit. Every little bit helps.
     

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