When Students Ask WHY

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by Myrisophilist, Sep 8, 2013.

  1. Myrisophilist

    Myrisophilist Habitué

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    Sep 8, 2013

    Here's the scenario:

    Adam is disruptive during class and will not stop talking while you're trying to teach. You ask him to stop several times, to no avail, so you say, "Adam, please switch seats with Zeke." Adam, suddenly indignant, exclaims, "WHY?!" Do you engage?

    I can see this going in many bad directions:
    1. You say, "Why do YOU think I'm moving you?" to which Adam says, "I don't know!" and plays dumb.
    2. You say, "Because you repeatedly disregarded my instructions to stop talking," leading to an argument.
    3. You say nothing and return to teaching. Adam does not move.

    What is the best way to handle the scenario?
     
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  3. kpa1b2

    kpa1b2 Aficionado

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    I'm coming from a totally different age group; I wouldn't engage. I'd give the teacher look.

    If that didn't work: I'll pick up the student's pencil or whatever and say "Follow your pencil." and then put him where I wanted him to sit. Probably by himself.
     
  4. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    Less is always more, so I would either:
    1. give the teacher look and point to the seat. He knows exactly why.
    2. reply with something very short that he can't poke a whole in. "Because I want you and everyone else to learn" or "Because I asked you to"
    3. "I asked you to move once. I'll ask you one more time, and after that you have to leave." I'd only do this one however if he's been a repeat offender and now this is the last straw. Wouldn't do it if this was his first time.
     
  5. BumbleB

    BumbleB Habitué

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    I try not to say things like that in front of the class. It just begs for a confrontation, and that makes everyone involved very tense. If a student is constantly talking while I'm teaching, I would transition students to independent work, and then I would approach the student privately about his behavior. I would explain why his actions are inappropriate, and provide a clear consequence if he continues the behavior. Or I would just skip right to telling him to move seats, depending on who I'm dealing with.

    I know I technically cheated and didn't choose one of the given scenarios, but I don't like to handle discipline in front of everyone if possible.
     
  6. RadiantBerg

    RadiantBerg Cohort

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    I don't know if it would work for everyone, but I usually say "Why not? Just move"
     
  7. Myrisophilist

    Myrisophilist Habitué

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    I'm not necessarily looking for people to choose one of the options, I just want to know what YOU would do because I have been in this situation before and never had a satisfactory outcome.
     
  8. ku_alum

    ku_alum Aficionado

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    Sep 8, 2013

    "Either switch seats or go to Mr. Vice Principle and explain your behavior."

    I rarely have students be confrontational. This (above) works for me. One time a student chose to go the VP.

    Either way, a win-win for the class.
     
  9. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    I'm a fan of handling things in private, but just in one month I had major issues when I approached a student to privately whisper to get back on task, etc.
    One called me a b.tch, the other said 'get out of my face'. This was inappropriate for both of them, but me getting closer to them was some kind of trigger. Who knows, at home, they might have a mother or father get real close to them to warn them before they whip them.

    So I actually have to re-evaluate this and consider not doing everything in private. Most of the time it works to just walk by and say something quietly, but in some cases it's a disaster. Obviously these are the exception, and my students have very troubled lives, and I will never know every single trigger.
     
  10. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    I usually handle this sort of thing in private. Sometimes, though, I handle it publicly, usually when I am 100% certain that the student will be compliant with my request. If I'm unsure or if I feel like there might be some kick-back, I will handle it privately.

    It is never a good idea for teachers to engage in power struggles with students. When you do that, you give the impression that students have an opportunity to win. They can't win. You're the captain of the ship that is your classroom, and what you say is what will happen. Period.

    In the original scenario, I would have said, "Please step outside" after the student refused to comply with my request to stop talking during instruction. I would have gone outside with the student and said, "We're not doing this in my class. In my class, we are quiet during instruction so that everyone can hear and understand what's going on. You have two choices: return to the classroom and move to a new seat at the front of the room, or go to the office with a referral for insubordination. I prefer that you head back to class so that we don't have to get the office involved, but this is your choice. What's it going to be?"

    If things got out of hand somehow and the student did end up questioning my decisions in a public way during class, I would simply respond with a repeat of my original request and a reminder that we're not going to be discussing this issue further. Student: Why? Me: Please go ahead and move to this seat. We won't be discussing this further at this time. If you'd like to discuss it further, you are free to stay after class and we can talk.
     
  11. 2ndTimeAround

    2ndTimeAround Phenom

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    I usually am shocked at the WHY so I show a shocked face. And then say "move, please." If the student asks why again or starts moaning about "just asking a question." I will tell him, publically, that we can discuss it in private later. They decline the offer later when reminded. But they move.

    I had one student that would keep up and up with the whys and arguing. He was a horrible snot and one of the few kids that I actually ended up disliking. He routinely had to have administrators called on him, especially his female teachers. Twice his behavior was so bad that I called our deputies to come and escort him out of my room. I figured with a kid like that there isn't much I could do. His father was a horrible influence on him and frequently told him, once in front of me, that women were good for only one thing and he didn't have to listen to any of us. His mother included. @@
     
  12. geoteacher

    geoteacher Devotee

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    I wouldn't engage, and I also wouldn't give the student an idea that he might have a choice.
     
  13. HistoryVA

    HistoryVA Devotee

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    I just look at them and keep lecturing. If they refuse or continue to question, I just write a detention slip. Even if they do move, I'll speak to them privately in the hall once I'm done lecturing, but I'm not going to halt everything and everyone to talk to them about it in that moment.
     
  14. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    So if they're talking, and causing the students around them to not hear the information you're lecturing about, you don't address it until after the lecture?
     
  15. HistoryVA

    HistoryVA Devotee

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    I meant that I won't wait to address it privately. I'll tell them right there to stop (although I'd try to step near their desk and say it quietly). If they don't stop, they get moved. If they refuse to move, they have to leave.

    If they do move, I meant that I'll still speak to them about it privately later as well (Do you understand why you had to move? is this going to be a problem in the future? etc)
     
  16. Croissant

    Croissant Comrade

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    "I'm not having a conversation about it now. If you're concerned, we'll discuss it after class. Now, please take your things with you."
     
  17. readingrules12

    readingrules12 Aficionado

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    I use Fred Jones' proximity method. I definitely would not do #3. I would walk over to the student and quietly say that "I need you to move to this seat since you were talking at the incorrect time."

    If the student talks back (you are right, highly likely in high school), I would not engage in talking back. I'd completely ignore it. I often sing in my head "boring, boring" as they talk. Of course, the student doesn't know that. I would just stand there and stare at him and wait and wait until he moves while staying at close proximity. You may want a time (say 2 minutes) that if he still isn't moving then say, I'll tell you what, I will set a timer for 30 seconds and I am going to return to teaching." If you choose not to move in that seat in 30 seconds, I understand, but I will have to write you up for refusing to obey the request of a teacher. (At our school, that is grounds for an in-school suspension.) If you don't have that, then there needs to be some consequence for not moving. If no consequence is possible then I would have a meeting with the parents. No parent wants their child to be able to completely refuse a direction of a teacher. Even if the parent is tough, they will give you some support.
     
  18. Myrisophilist

    Myrisophilist Habitué

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    Great suggestions! It's interesting to hear how varied your responses are. Obviously they are tailored to your experiences and the kids you deal with. These are some of the suggestions that I think will work for me:

    • "Because I want you and everyone else to learn"
    • "Please move now. If you want to discuss it later we can, right now I'm lecturing/you need to do your work."
    • "Please go ahead and move to this seat. We won't be discussing this further at this time. If you'd like to discuss it further, you are free to stay after class and we can talk."
    • "I'm not having a conversation about it now. If you're concerned, we'll discuss it after class. Now, please take your things with you."
     
  19. BumbleB

    BumbleB Habitué

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    Great ideas! I would use the first one sparingly. You don't owe your student an explanation at that exact moment. It's just taking the conversation away from where it needs to be. Repeat the request calmly, and show you care by opening up the lines of communication on your terms.

    Sounds like you got it! :thumb:
     
  20. lucybelle

    lucybelle Connoisseur

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    I will usually answer:

    -"because you're talking/being disruptive/etc" (if they reply "no I wasn't!" I'll say "well you are now")
    -"move please"
    -"because I asked you to"
    -"you can move to where I asked you to or you can move outside, your decision"

    Although, I don't move seats much. I have assigned seats and when I change them up I change up enough so no one feels picked on.
     
  21. Ms.History

    Ms.History Rookie

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    I think the idea of picking up their pencil and asking them to "follow it" is disrespectful of their property, and would make them feel like they now had something to prove...

    I expect them to respect my personal belongings, and I want to show them that same respect.
     
  22. indigo-angel

    indigo-angel Companion

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    If I am in the middle of a lecture or addressing the entire group, I usually tell a student to move nonverbally. For example, I'll make eye contact with that person, then gesture to him/her where to go. If I'm circulating and giving individual assistance, then I just go over to the student and tell him where to sit and when/if he should move back to his seat.
     
  23. Reality Check

    Reality Check Habitué

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    My response to "Why?" is usually along the lines of, "Because MY name is on the paycheck. If YOUR name was on the paycheck, that would mean it would be YOUR class. But it's not. So, you have two choices here; either relocate to another area in the room or leave. It's up to you."

    Whichever choice they make, I win.


    ;)
     
  24. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    In response to the WHY!? I will say: "I'll give you two minutes to make the decision to comply or not." and move on with teaching.

    After two minutes, if he does not comply, it's defiance, which is then a harsher consequence like being sent to the principal or lunch detention.

    I would have to mention however, that I do not move students' seats as a consequence. It's confusing to me later on when I see the student in a different seat than the one on my seating chart, and I don't remember why he is there, and it doesn't hold the student accountable for behaving regardless of who he is sitting next to, which is an expectation in my class and the world at large.
     
  25. gr3teacher

    gr3teacher Phenom

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    "You know why. Switch seats now."
     
  26. dgpiaffeteach

    dgpiaffeteach Aficionado

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    I always say, "Because I asked you to". Haven't had any problems with it.
     
  27. tarajc123

    tarajc123 Rookie

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    I agree with the poster who said that the student typically knows exactly why they are being asked to move. I usually respond with a simple but honest answer, but refuse to engage in conversation about it further than that. I go back to what I was doing and take the attention off of the student, and they move their seat. At this point, my students know that I will push until it's done, so they always move inevitably, even if they try to argue about it initially. The consequence for refusal to move is an email sent to an administrator, and at my school no one wants that.
     
  28. Go Blue!

    Go Blue! Connoisseur

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    I also do not engage when students ask why? In my experience, when students ask "why" they are just trying to be difficult especially when they are in HS. They know.
     
  29. houtle85

    houtle85 New Member

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    Ha ha! I apply the "teacher look." The teacher look is typically enough. If they still do not move, I reply, "This is the second time that I have told you to move your seat." If this does not work, it is a simple matter of choice: "So-and-so, there is one teacher in this classroom, and it is me. You can move to your seat as instructed, or you can explain to the dean why a student of such-and-such age cannot comply with a request as simple as moving his/her seat." Now of course, this reply is laced with condemnation, but for particularly difficult students, it gets the job done. Fyi...I always have assigned seats in my classroom, and this would result in the seat change for this student next class.
     
  30. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    A kid who is asking "Why?" does so for one of two reasons: either he honestly doesn't understand, or he's looking to save face in front of friends by getting you to back down.

    For the younger kids, perhaps an explanation is called for.

    For older kids, the aim is to get him to do as you've asked without escalating the situation. So picking a fight with him will only make things worse.

    My answer would be along the lines of "We'll discuss it later if you like. For now, please do as I've asked." It would be said in a polite, but authoritative tone of voice.

    My kids know that they CAN discuss things with me later, and that they can expect me to be reasonable. That doesn't mean they'll always get their way, simply that I'm open to hearing their side of the story... but on my terms, not theirs. That means he switches seats for now, but can argue against it, politely, after class or after school.

    I think that, like so many other things, it comes back to the tone you've set with your kids from the beginning.
     

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