“Why do we have to raise our hand?”
“Why can’t we talk while we’re working?”
“Why do we have to walk in line?”
The questions may be different, but they’re all meant to challenge your methods.
They’re meant to challenge your decisions, your motives, and in some cases, even your authority.
They’re often asked with an accusatory tone and always in front of the class.
You must be very careful how you respond.
Because if you become defensive, if you cross your arms and say “because I said so” or “because I’m the teacher,” you’ll put yourself at odds with your class.
Classroom management is most effective when students buy-in. It’s most effective when they believe you have their best interest at heart and appreciate what it’s like being in their shoes.
It’s most effective when they willingly go along with your methods.
Because, in this day and age, ‘my way or the highway’ doesn’t work. It merely seals your fate to a career of stress and battling with students.
So when a student questions your policies, procedures, rules, or expectations, it’s best to think of it as an opportunity to show that you put them first.
“I wish you could call out whenever you wanted. That would be ideal. And if it was just a few of us, you could. But because there are 28 students in this class, it wouldn’t be fair to everyone.”
“I understand what you’re saying, but one of my most important jobs is to protect your learning. Talking during independent work time, while everyone is trying to concentrate, is distracting.”
“It would be fun to head down to lunch or the library in a big mob. I’m all for it. But unfortunately, we have to allow room in the hallway for others to pass by. We also have to be careful not to disturb classrooms along the way.”
By using the power of why, and appealing to the true reason behind your decisions, you can turn such questions around.
You can assure your class that everything you do has a purpose that benefits them, those around them, and the class as a whole.
A great many students believe that teachers enjoy bossing them around—because that’s the conclusion they draw when you don’t provide the ‘why’ of what you do.
The more open and transparent you are in explaining the logic of your methods, the more your students will embrace them.
So when you get a question that is meant to challenge you or throw you off your game, seize it. Welcome it.
You can even encourage it.
“Please challenge me on anything. If you want to know why we’re doing this or that, please let me know. I’m happy to answer.”
It’s an approach that sets you apart and demonstrates the purity of your motives. It causes your students to swim with the tide rather than against it.
It proves your sincerity.
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