Calling a student out in front of their peers can be unavoidable at times. But this can be tricky when you’re dealing with middle and high school students. Even though you don’t mean to, it can sometimes do more harm than good. Sure, calling out a student might stop their behavior short-term, but it could also make things a lot harder to work with that student in the future. Here’s my personal list of dos and don’ts when it comes to middle and high school classroom management. Trust me, I’ve learned from my own trial-and-error, so I hope this helps those of you working with this age group.
1. Do remember how important it is for adolescents to fit in.
Fitting in = basic survival. Being mocked or criticized in front of their classmates is often the worst thing that can happen to a teen.
2. Don’t seek to motivate students by embarrassing them.
It won’t have any long-term effect on their behavior, and it will make them less likely to trust you.
3. Do keep the end goal in mind.
For me, the ultimate goal is always to form relationships with students so that they will eventually become equal partners in their education.
4. Don’t take it personally.
It’s natural to feel slighted by a disruptive or disrespectful student, but try to remember that it’s not about you. Adolescence is a time of testing boundaries and if you can keep your cool, you’re more likely to be able to forge a trusting relationship with your students.
5. Do keep brain function in mind.
When teens are in the midst of feeling strong emotions like shame and embarrassment, they are functionally incapable of listening critically and problem-solving. If you ratchet up their fear or anger, you’ve lost the ability to have them learn from the incident.
6. Don’t make it personal.
Teens are generally very self-critical. The worse they feel about themselves, the more self-absorbed they become. This can start a spiral that lands them in isolation or frustration they can’t see a way out of.
7. Do acknowledge a student’s positive attributes.
Focusing on what they are doing well helps them see other ways they can contribute and helps reinforce the message that you want to see them succeed.
8. Don’t hold grudges.
Barraging a student with a litany of their past transgressions will only make them feel as though you’ve determined that they are a “bad kid” and beyond redemption.
9. Do ask lots of questions.
What are they struggling with? Where could they use more support? What are their favorite books, movies, music, sports?
10. Don’t have all the answers.
Part of working with adolescents means letting them know that we think they’re capable of coming up with solutions.
11. Do try to talk one-on-one and hold them accountable.
Remember that blame is often more about finding fault with someone than it is about helping them understand where their responsibility lies and how to do better next time.
Teachers, what would you add to the list?