One of the biggest reasons difficult students misbehave is because they’re often treated with the expectation that they will.
Teachers tend to hover near them.
They’re frequently pulled aside for reminders, lectures, and pep-talks.
They’re rewarded inexplicably, praised effusively, and spoken to differently than other students.
These are common, often impulsive, reactions to those who continually disrupt the class.
They’re also forms of labeling.
You see, when you treat difficult students differently than everyone else, you send the message that they can’t control themselves like everyone else.
You reinforce the conclusion that they’ve naturally drawn about themselves that “behavior problem” is who they are—as much a part of them as their name or eye color.
You communicate to them loud and clear that they’re not good enough. After all, why else would they be getting so much attention?
Labeling has a profound influence on behavior. Yet, a majority of teachers are unaware they’re doing it or that it’s the primary reason behavior hasn’t changed.
Adding to the confusion is that many labeling strategies and behaviors do indeed result in temporary improvement. Thus, teachers continue to use them, “experts” continue to recommend them, and students on the receiving end never actually change their behavior.
Behavior contracts, do-this-and-get-that rewards, false praise, and pulling students aside to coerce or convince are all common ways teachers label difficult students.
And so are unconscious behaviors like glaring, hovering, and modulating your voice in a way you don’t with other students.
The former aren’t so difficult to eliminate.
Simply being aware of how detrimental they are is enough to put an end to overpraising, threatening, lecturing, and promising rewards in exchange for expected behavior, especially if you double down on your commitment to following your classroom management plan instead.
But the latter, because you often don’t realize you’re doing it, are more difficult to get rid of, which is where this week’s strategy comes in.
From the moment your students arrive at your classroom door, if you make a point of pretending that your most challenging students are among the better behaved in the class, then those erroneous beliefs they’ve been saddled with will start falling away.
Practically, you’re going to smile and joke with them like you do those students who are near perfectly behaved. You’re going to make eye contact with them. You’re going to believe in them and have the expectation that they will follow rules and behave as you desire.
Although you’ll never stop being a vigilant observer of all your students, you’ll find yourself quite naturally refraining from hovering and micromanaging, warning and reminding, and glaring and glowering around them.
Instead, you’ll start enjoying them and liking them more than you ever have. Following your classroom management plan consistently will also come easier.
Your stress level will drop a few notches and a sea of tension will drain from your classroom.
But the real benefit resides within the heart, mind, and self-worth of the difficult students themselves.
When you treat them like everyone else, they begin to feel like a valued member of the class. They begin fulfilling the new prophecy you convey to them through your behavior, words, and actions.
They begin behaving like everyone else.
What’s cool about this strategy is that you’ll see a difference within the first day. Combined with a renewed commitment to your classroom management plan, you’ll see bona fide change in their attitude and behavior.
Not short-lived improvement, mind you, but change to who they are on the inside.
Change that is real, intrinsic, and enduring.
If you haven’t done so already, please join us. It’s free! Click here and begin receiving new-article updates in your email box every week.