What Is and Is Not Fair

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Throughout my many conversations with teachers, I have heard time and time again how they feel it’s not fair for the rest of the class that they have to spend much time and energy on just a few disruptive students. These teachers are correct, it’s not fair.

According to Michael Linsin, “When you attend to poorly behaved students more often, you’re communicating to them in a subtle but clear way that they’re different, that they don’t have what it takes to control themselves like other students, so they need extra attention.”

So, why exactly do some teachers warn, argue, escalate and interrupt instruction to repetitively lecture more often to misbehaving-prone students or give them more attention than other students?  I believe these teachers are doing the very best they know how. Therefore, it’s time to reveal the secret strategy to creating conditions conducive to learning. The solution is to simply treat them just like everyone else. Allow your most challenging students to feel what it’s like to be a regular student.

Michael Linsin states, “To do this, you must follow your classroom management plan to the letter. Stick to it no matter what, and acknowledge your students when they do something well. Stop pulling them aside to explain this or that, stop lecturing or trying to get assurances from them, and stop telling them how wonderful they are because they sat quietly for 15 minutes during a read aloud.”

Simply acknowledge them for the same things you would for any other student. Remember, students have a distinct sense of what is and what is not fair. You must act fairly for all students if you expect to be respected.  Make sure that if your best student does something wrong, they too are treated like any other student.  Once you lose your student’s respect, you also lose their attention and their desire to please you.

“And resist the urge to discuss their behavior-related issues with them. If they’re angry or upset, don’t speak to them or let their anger bother you. It’s not personal. They have every right to be angry. It’s not your issue. Otherwise, smile and talk to them about the same things your other students like talking about—sports or movies or whatever feels right,” says Linsin.

In my experience, this strategy of treating your most disruptive students like everyone else only works if you set high expectations and have a solid classroom management plan that you follow precisely and every single time. No more lectures and short-term successes. It simply isn’t fair to the rest of the class.  Instead, lets set the bar high for every student and hold every student accountable from August till May while treating all students with kindness and respect.

It’s a funny thing about life; if you refuse to accept anything but the best, you very often get it.” – Somerset Maugham 

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