Sometimes it will occur to you right away, within the first week of school.
Sometimes it may take a few weeks.
But if one day you realize that your class isn’t very nice—to you or to each other—it can be disheartening.
It can be frustrating.
It can be bewildering as to what to do.
At some schools, it can feel like this every year and with every class, at least in the beginning.
Teachers tend to respond in one of two ways.
Either they get angry and demand civility through lectures, threats, talking-tos, and how-dare-yous.
Or they overwhelm their students with kindness.
They shower them with gentle reminders and second chances in the hope that their example will spread throughout the classroom.
Unfortunately, neither approach is very effective.
The first will cause your students to dislike you. It will cause behind-the-back rebelliousness and resentment. It will bring tension into your classroom and cause more incivility, not less.
The problem with the second approach is that your students won’t respect you. They’ll view you as a pushover. You’ll be brushed aside, if not run over.
Surprisingly, they won’t like you much either. In the student-teacher relationship, respect and likability are intertwined.
They go hand in hand to create a leadership presence students are drawn to and influenced by.
And herein lies the solution.
To improve the civility in your classroom, you must combine a kind, easygoing disposition with a faithful and unwavering commitment to accountability.
You must be both gentle and strong.
This sends the message that while rudeness and disrespect toward you or their fellow classmates won’t be tolerated, even a sliver, it isn’t personal.
It’s never personal. Every day is a new day and forgiveness is always extended.
There is some mystery as to why this recipe is so effective. Sure, behavior improves, but how is it that the class is now so completely different? Why are they now so calm and nice to each other and so polite to you?
We’ll be sure and unpack why it’s so effective in a future article, as well as cover specifics on how to implement it.
In the meantime, just know that your kindheartedness and consistent adherence to your classroom management plan equals a nice and friendly class every time—no matter how challenging they are to begin with.
Still, some teachers don’t believe it. They don’t believe that with their current mix of students anyone on earth could turn them around.
But they’re wrong. I could turn them around. You could turn them around.
And so can they.
Just add one part strength, one part tenderness, and stir.
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