Innovative Teaching Strategies:
Teach Students Teacher Interaction Skills
Virtually every school expects students to interact appropriately with teachers. However, most schools have no formal, written-down plan to train students to have acceptable teacher interaction skills. Years ago, families more reliably prepared their offspring to respond appropriately to teachers. Unfortunately, that is no longer the case; many youngsters are rude, disruptive, defiant, and disrespectful.
I'm workshop trainer Ruth Herman Wells, M.S., the instructor presenting Youth Change's Breakthrough Strategies to Teach and Counsel Troubled Youth Workshop.
Recently at some of our live workshops around the country, we have been hearing a lot about student misconduct that is becoming far more serious than ever before. Each spring around this time, our Live Expert Help service (shown at the bottom right on any page of our site), begins to generate rather desperate requests for help from teachers who report being increasingly unable to control their classroom.
Based on some of the comments in our live workshops, and from requests for Live Help, it seems important to recap what is acceptable behavior in the classroom. It also seems like a good time to review how to maintain control over seemingly uncontrollable students. Below, you will find the top questions on these topics that we have been getting at our workshop and via our Live Expert Help Page.
All the questions and answers relate to students who are having problems relating acceptable to their teachers. The answers will offer the innovative teaching solution of actually step-by-step training kids to be prepared, motivated students with appropriate teacher interaction skills.
Innovative Teaching Strategies That
Build Appropriate Teacher Interaction Skills
Q: I have male students who are not just touching female peers inappropriately, but me too. What do I do?
A: This is an example of the increasingly inappropriate behavior being reported by teachers. This type of misconduct rises to a whole new level.
First, the conduct you describe is far beyond what any teacher should tolerate in a classroom, but it is important to note that this behavior is quite likely also illegal as that type of sexual harassment is not usually legally permissible.
Second, you are describing a situation that is extremely unsafe for you and your female students. Your first responsibility as a teacher or youth professional is always safety. This dangerous situation can not continue. You need to seek help immediately from your principal or other comparable resource.
Third, whenever a classroom or group of young people is utterly out of control, it is usually quite difficult to re-gain control. Because of that, we usually strongly recommend that the problematic class or group be terminated– at least as far as your young people are concerned– and a new class or group initiated in its place. It is far easier to start again than to clean up a situation that has deteriorated to the point that you describe.
In the future, we strongly recommend that you set much higher, tighter standards, and force yourself to adhere to them. If you are unsure how to enforce higher standards, get training from us or another source right away. Our live and online Breakthrough Workshop give immediate help. You can also call us at 1.503.982.4220 or click on Live Expert Help at the bottom right corner of each page.
You can always ease up if you start off firm, but it can be nearly impossible to tighten up if you start off being loose. When you are unsure of how to react, always err towards being too firm. Have high expectations for conduct. You can easily ease up if your firmness is unnecessary or too extreme. Your situation is extremely unlikely to get better, and is quite likely to worsen because there are no "brakes" being offered to stop or slow the inappropriate contact. Don't wait until a tragedy happens to take action; get help today.
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Q: My students have no clue how to act reasonably towards teachers. What can I do?
A: Before you expect teacher interaction skills, you must teach them. You wouldn't expect math skills until you taught those skills; the same is true with teacher interaction skills.
To determine what skills to teach, you can start by making a list of the problems you are seeing. You can include problems like disrespect, verbal abuse, non-compliance, and so on. Next, prioritize that list, putting your biggest concerns at the top. We recommend that safety concerns top the list.
Next, identify a time to provide teacher interaction skill instruction to your students focusing on the first few items on your list. You can use entire class periods or the start of the class. It doesn't matter where you put the training, but that you do it. You will probably be delighted with the results, but be sure to include motivating students to accept the training. Our Last Chance School Success Guide has very engaging lessons so you don't have to develop ideas on your own.
Q: I have a lot of students who just seem to hate all teachers. Am I right that there is not a lot that I can do to change that?
A: Actually, we have a lot of wonderful student attitude adjustment devices that can re-shape the way these youngsters view and interact with teachers.
Here is an intervention that is a favorite in our live workshops. Create a little manual, like those small booklets that come with a new computer or a new jacket. Call it "A Student's Guide to the Care and Heeding of Teachers," or something similar. (Our version, which is part of our $15 Last Chance School Success Guide is pictured at right; the book is shown above.)
In the manual, you can put humorous text on "What to Do When Your Teacher Doesn't Work Right," and "How to Get Your Teacher to Do What You Want." Next, hang the manual from a thread, and attach it to your sleeve. Inevitably, a student will soon ask: "What's that hanging off your sleeve?" You can respond with feigned surprise at discovering the manual, and then read it to your students. What a fun and unusual way to begin a dialogue.
If you don't want to have to make your own manual, you will find a very funny, nicely illustrated one in our Last Chance School Success Guide. That book also has "A Teacher's Guide to the Care and Heeding of Students," which can quickly engage even the most sour youngster.
Q: What can I do about the constant interruptions from some students during class?
A: Have you given your students a recommended number of times to talk out per class? We find in our workshops that most teachers haven't provided any quantifiable standard for students to follow. In essence, that means you are asking students to adhere to an unspecified standard. A lot of your students may lack the ability to determine this standard on their own. The first step must be providing a quantifiable standard.
Also, be sure that you teach specific skills like hand raising if you require it. If the interruptions persist, you can require students to turn in a chip or marker to talk. If you recommend students talk 8 times per class, give out 8 chips. There is another version of this last intervention, which you may prefer. Bring a large TV remote control to class, and tell students that you have to point the remote at them to turn on their volume before they are permitted to speak. Students often adore this fun intervention, and it can ease any power struggles that were occurring. You can even put a student in charge of the remote control, which will quickly become a highly coveted job. Students can even earn the opportunity to do that job by talking out properly during class. A chronic problem can become a non-problem.
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