Naughty kids are one of the greatest aspects of any class.
I genuinely believe this, so much so that I if I hear a certain kid is hard work, a trouble maker or ‘unteachable’ I’ll try to find a way to have them the next year.
Like Little Johnny who I had during my second and third year teaching. One of his favourite past-times was to punch his desk partner before purposefully falling off his chair, somersaulting across the room, standing up (with hands on hips) and
announcing yelling to everyone in the classroom,
“Everyone chillax, I’m still alive!”
Those students keep you on your toes every day. They consistently test your approaches and ways to engage them.
And they are the students you always remember. They are one of the key reasons we walk into our classrooms each and every day*.
We are there to build a positive relationship and help every kid believe in themselves.
If you get a kid that believes they can learn, should learn and want to learn…behaviour management normally isn’t a problem. (Though, let’s be honest, some days things just go unexplainably crazy).
Great schools are focused on supporting students to have as many opportunities as possible. Great schools believe in helping every student better understand themselves while assisting them to reach out and touch their potential.
In order to achieve this lofty expectation, establishing strong, positive relationships with students is crucial.
But, how often do teachers let a ‘naughty’ child’s reputation precede them?
(Or should I say the relationship they had with someone else precede them)
I was one of those “naughty” kids.
Not all the time, just during certain classes.
You remember the ones. Those classrooms where you have no idea what is going on. Or your role is to sit at your desk and be lectured at. Or the classes raining with worksheets (which if you finished early you got…another worksheet).
Even after I finished EVERYTHING you asked, there’s still another worksheet?
Why would I sit down patiently for 40 minutes while a teacher speaks at me? I’m bored, bursting with curious and excited energy – but it never gets channeled in a meaningful way.
Instead I’m told to sit still and wait my turn.
Or those mornings when I was sitting there in a daze fretting over the terrible screaming match my parents had that morning. During those times I couldn’t listening properly, which resulted in a teacher yelling at me about the importance of listening.
Which is usually when I would respond with a routine of cheeky, annoying and shifty behaviour.
Why? Because there was no reason to care how they felt. If it seemed like they didn’t care about me, why would I pretend to care about them?
Back to Little Johnny.
Little Johnny’s potential was bubbling under the surface. His gymnastics and boxing skills aside, he was not only incredibly funny, quick with quips, puns and rhymes, but was also dealing with his dad suddenly leaving him and his mum.
He was desperate for attention in whatever form he could get. He needed to stand out. The easiest way for him to do this was to turn up late and do the opposite of whatever everyone else was doing.
Kids will seek out attention, positively or negatively. It’s up to us to connect with them and focus on the positive relationship if we want to truly assist them.
There is no silver bullet or set of “go to skills” to get to know kids in our classrooms each and every year. With every new group brings new dynamics, attitudes, norms, beliefs and values. The greatest skills and tips I learn is from the teachers around me.
It’s about constantly building on our knowledge to help us know which skills and tools we may need to use with the kids in front of us.
Here’s the key thing to know about “naughty kids”. You make the choice in how you see the kids. Me? I make the choice to give every kid a fresh start each year, week and day.
There aren’t any naughty kids. There is just students I haven’t connected with or who don’t feel like they belong in our classroom yet.
Yes, kids might appear rude, inconsiderate or disrespectful, when compared to what you believe is polite, respectful or appropriate. We need to remember to be clear, consistent, assertive and open with our expectations for all students.
As we get to know our students, and create these strong, positive relationships with them, the behaviour management issues dramatically decrease. As we spend less time on these unwanted behaviours, we can invest more time on more students and create a positive culture of belonging and respect.
Which frees us up to live out our purpose: helping every students reach out to achieve their full potential.
And Little Johnny? I ended up teaching him for two years and laughed nearly every day (with days of tears too). Building the relationship started with something as simple: standing outside the classroom door challenging students to reach the high five that was on offer and finding ways to use his name with a positive tone of voice.
It was about purposefully, but genuinely, making small investments in him every day.
*They will also make you want to tear your hair out, scream out loud and need to take a looooooooong walk throughout the year. Focus on what has worked before, how it felt and keep the end goal in sight. Some days will be tough.