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Larry Ferlazzo posed an interesting question on one of his posts about alternatives to collective punishment:
A paper airplane, or a ball of paper, or a pencil, comes flying, or somebody makes an obnoxious noise. The object is probably aimed at another student, and it may or may not hit the intended target. The noise is just meant to be funny.
You can tell the general area from where it came from, but you don’t really know who the “culprit” is. It’s frustrating because that kind of behavior does not contribute to a learning community.
What do you do?
Please check out his post. He gives his response and some other great ideas.
My comment on his post grew a bit lengthy, and I thought I would share it here….
What would I do?
This would only work if one’s….ummm…personality can pull it off.
I would walk over to the “paper air plane” and pick it up. Slowly I would examine it turning it over and over in my hand. I would then go to the back of the class and do something along the lines of this:
“I am embarrassed. I am embarrassed by the airplane, and by the person who threw it. I mean come on look at this thing. We were interrupted by some insensitive person, who could not even take the time to make a proper airplane. The wings are wrong, the folding is crooked, and it is not weighted properly. Everyone knows that (here is where I would unfold and refold the airplane while giving proper directions).” By the time I am done with the folding the person who threw it would be identified, because they know I’m not mad, and they will usually make some joke about how they will do better next time. Then class goes on.
Lesson #1–Nothing you do is going to make me mad or angry with you.
Lesson #2–No matter how hard you try I am still wittier than you
Lesson #3–&#%# He didn’t yell at me, everyone else yells at me, maybe I should give this teacher a second chance and after class…
Lesson #4–I will not single you out in class, you can trust me
At the end of class I would pull the kid aside as they are walking out in a way that no one in the class suspects I am going to address the situation and then have conversation with the kid. At this point we are both calm. We are both listening to one another. It is vital that you talk to the kid when emotions don’t dictate the words and body language—at least in the beginning. You can work in emotion and body language as the conversation goes on if the kid is letting you into their head. The second their defenses go up you might as well stop talking. Too many teachers seek revenge, want to inflict “pain.” If all goes well, the kid should always walk away wearing a smile, because that’s what you want them to wear into class the next day. Depending on the kid would depend on what type of conversation we would have. One kid might get a full non-verbal body “do it again and things will end differently.” Another kid might get a why did you do it. And another type of kid might get a How was the basketball game? What are you doing this weekend? Hey man, you are a leader in this class. I expect great things from you…and guess what, throwing paper airplanes doesn’t cut it, you could have hurt Harold. If it is a kid that I think I can’t make a quick connection with, I will walk with them. I won’t make them stand and go face-to-face. The next day meet them at the door with a witty comment. Almost always during the conversations I will be sitting looking up at them, and if it is a male make sure they are holding something (it works magic:). I am close to a stairwell, sometimes I bring them down to the stair well and I go down a few steps and turn around to talk putting me just below them. When they are in that position they are so much more likely to listen to me, and for some reason, I am more likely to listen to them.
Using appropriate humor to strike down inappropriate behaviors is as powerful as a Jedi mind trick . But I warn you here and now, it takes practice, timing is vital, you must know the kid, the class, the more intense the situation and emotions the bigger the set-up and story line, and it can never be perceived as sarcasm or delivered with anything other than love and respect. Humor can take an awkward moment caused by an inappropriate behavior and turn it into a kumbaya class bonding experience. Every teacher should work to develop their use of humor, or at the very least, learn a Jedi Mind Trick.
Teacher Jedi Mind Trick
I think that all teachers
A form of the Jedi Mind Trick
They can give that stare
I’m sure you all know what I mean
And with that look
Students will do
Anything at all
That you want them to
It doesn’t matter how old they are
Five, ten, twenty-two
Or even I suppose
A hundred and two
When you look at them
And give them that stare
It’s like the Jedi mind trick
You can make them do
Anything that you want to
Don’t be Afraid
Help your group
Stop watching the squirrel
Bring it back without wrinkles
You are better than that
Add more details
These are the benefits of the teacher Jedi Mind Trick
Practice this look
It has great power
It will not work if it’s source is your head
It will not work if it is spurred by
It must come from the heart
And behind it must be
I am still practicing this look
Eyebrows up, not down
Eyes open, not squinting
Hands down, not pointing
Body squared, not sideways
I also hope
That one day, hopefully soon
After the look is perfected
That a light saber
Comes with the
Teacher Jedi Mind Trick
Poem was originally published here as Parent Jedi Mind Trick. I have altered some words with the permission of the author.
Here are a couple other posts that are connected to Larry’s question:
middle school social studies blogger