During my first year of teaching, I had a really good mentor in the classroom next door. I picked up a few good habits by simply watching. Perhaps the best thing I learned from my mentor was how to avoid power struggles by offering students choice. When a student was off track she would approach them with the following statement:
“You have two choices: you can head back to your desk and complete the assignment before class ends or you’re welcome to join me today after school and finish it then. Why don’t you take a minute to think about what would work best for you.”
Then she would purposely walk away for a minute or two to give the student his or her space. She never approached the student looking for confrontation and she always remained calm. She also stuck to her word of requiring students to show up after school if needed.
I tested out both methods: the “do this now” and offering choice and much preferred the results of the choice. I’ve since found more theory and great suggestions in two books: Teaching with Love and Logic and Positive Behavior Support. Next time you’re dealing with a challenging student, try it out for yourself!
Love and Logic offers these Rules for Giving Choices (pg. 31Teaching with Love and Logic first edition):
- Always be sure to select choices that you like. Never provide one you like and one you don’t, because a child seems to have a sixth sense in selecting the one don’t like.
- Never give a choice unless you are willing to allow the child to experience the consequence of that choice.
- Never give choices when the child is in danger.
- Never give choices unless you are willing to make the choice for the child in the event he/she does not choose within ten seconds.
- Your delivery is important. Try to start your sent with:
- You’re welcome to ___ or ___.
- Feel free to ___ or ___.
- Would you rather ___ or ___?
- What would be best for you ___ or ___?
Professional Development Tip for August 28, 2008