Reading about these techniques and habits is one thing, but seeing how they work in practice is another. Walking through a few examples will allow you the opportunity to reflect on how you would react.
Following are several real-life scenarios that you might encounter in the classroom. The correct answers to the questions might seem obvious according to what has been discussed so far, but it is important to truly reflect on your instinctive reaction. In the heat of the moment, your instinct may not be the best reaction. Your goal should be to prepare yourself before these events occur.
Role-Playing Attitude and Flexibility
It's the first day of school. You have 41 students in your class, but there are only desks for 32. There is also a small table with four more chairs around it. That leaves five students without a place to sit. What do you do?
A. Complain out loud to the students that there is no room for them and they will just have to sit on the floor.
B. Send students out to other classrooms looking for spare desks and chairs.
C. Smile and make a joke about the lack of space while keeping an upbeat attitude that it will all be fixed in a few days.
D. Make no comment concerning the situation and get right down to the business of the first day.
The best answer is C. By smiling and trying to make the students laugh about the situation, you make kids who might feel uncomfortable or unwanted feel welcome. Your flexibility will allow you to adjust to this situation and to realize that it will not last forever.
If you answered A, don't worry. This is probably what most teachers would be thinking to themselves. However, complaining to the students — even if you are not telling them to leave or explicitly saying they are not welcome — will make them feel unwanted. This is especially true with younger students who might not understand and think your comments are directed at them.
Answer B would definitely not be the best solution because other teachers around you are probably in the same situation. It is never a good idea to send students on such a mission because it interrupts others' classes and instructional time. It also creates a situation where students are roaming the hallways unattended.
Finally, if you chose answer D, then you are not making a horrendous mistake but you are also not winning a lot of students over to your side. Show that you have a sense of humor, and it will be well appreciated.
You catch two students cheating on a test. Student A is normally a great student who has never been in trouble before. Student B is normally a trying student who has been in trouble a few times, though never for cheating. What do you do?
A. Give both students a zero (or follow whatever rule you have established in the class for this sort of act).
B. Give both students a zero and write a referral for Student B (that is, send her to the dean, principal, or another designated administrator).
C. Give Student B a zero, since she has a history of causing trouble in your classroom. At the same time, verbally warn Student A that you do not want this behavior repeated again.
D. Ignore the situation completely because you do not want to get Student A in trouble. Later, discuss the incident with Student A in private.
The best and most consistent answer to this question is A. Even though you might like Student A or think that the incident was an accident, you must consistently follow the rules you have established. If Student B has had previous offenses with cheating, then obviously B would be an okay answer. However, in this instance that was not the case.
Answer C is the most inconsistent of all. It would definitely be seen as favoritism by Student B and her friends. Further, the situation would be even harder on Student A, who might be seen as a favorite.
Finally, some teachers might opt for D. However, no conversation should ever be considered private between a teacher and a student. In most cases, the student will tell a friend who will tell a friend until eventually it gets back to the other student. This response to the situation has the potential to blow up in your face.
In a recent survey, 80 percent of high school students said they had cheated in school. While cheating occurs less in elementary school, as students advance and grades become more important, incidents of cheating increase. You must come up with a consistent method for handling cheating because you will be faced with it many times in your teaching career.
A student who has always had an attitude problem in your class gets up one day in the middle of a lesson, cusses at you and calls you bad names, and then storms out of the room. He gets 10 days of out-of-school suspension for the act. When he returns to class after his suspension is over, how do you react?
A. You treat him coldly, upset at the things he said to you.
B. You ignore his return and don't address the incident with him at all.
C. You make a joke about his return, hoping to smooth things over.
D. You meet with him privately to say that as long as he can promise to keep himself under control, you will pretend that nothing happened.
The best answer is D. You do not disrupt your class to deal with the situation, but you make sure to address it with the student, no matter how uncomfortable you may be. It might be difficult, but if you can let go of your hurt and anger and start fresh, he just might turn around.
Answer A would just make matters worse. You are the adult in the situation. It is important that you behave as one, or you have already lost. Power struggles should be avoided at all costs.
Many teachers might be tempted to choose answer B. It is an awkward situation when students return after a referral, but it did happen, and ignoring it will leave the event unfinished. It is best to get it over with so you can go back to what is really important: teaching students. The only time this might be a viable option is if physical violence was threatened.
Answer C could be taken one of two ways, depending on the personality of the student in question. However, because the situation is a volatile one, a joke could seem condescending and sarcastic. It is best to steer clear of this answer. Maybe someday when things calm down, you will be able to joke with the student about the situation.