Classroom Clinic – Teacher Persona
This week’s issue: “Dear classroom clinic,
I have a handful of students who are making teaching impossible! They keep coughing! When I stop in silence to allow them to finish they do but then start again when I start speaking. I am also having to constantly deal with students opening my classroom door and running away. How can I solve this?”
All of behaviour management strategies require a “teacher persona”. Remember that teaching is a lot like acting: you are playing the part of a confident, calm, and in-control leader (even when you don’t quite feel like that on the inside!). Your students will respond well to someone who they can trust to deliver good lessons and deal with silly behaviour effectively. Don’t lose sight of the 95% of students who are not causing you issues, remember that it’s important to remain strong and in-control for them.
It can be difficult to play this acting role when you are naturally a friendly person, but you need to remove your emotions from the situation, as well as show you are not to be messed with. This doesn’t mean using lots of threats and sanctions: it’s more about the way you conduct yourself – show the students that their silly behaviour, although unacceptable, is not going to phase you. Don’t allow lessons that don’t go so well to upset you, use them as a learning opportunity and think: “OK – that didn’t go so well. What could I try next time?“
You also need a ‘this is NOT acceptable’ character that should only be revealed rarely and without shouting or emotion, for best impact. For many teachers, this might be a change of tone in their voice to show that they are appalled at this behaviour, or could be when you go deathly quiet and serious. Whatever the character, practise this so you know what to do if you need it.
In these situations responding by acknowledging that their actions are affecting you negatively only serves to reinforce their misbehaviour. With the coughing why not try to just ignore it. Just don’t react. Or alternatively, change your lesson to include no teacher talk so the opportunity for students to try to irritate you in this way is completely removed.