You are leading your learners to the computer lab one day and you notice Sipho kicking the heels of the learner in front of him. He’s clearly doing it on purpose. You stop the line, walk over to Sipho, and say. “Sipho, please stop kicking Mpho”.
Sipho replies. “I wasn’t kicking anyone”.
“Yes, you were. I saw you”.
“I wasn’t doing anything. I was just walking.”
You are now officially in an argument and you don’t want to give in and lose the argument because, you think, it will encourage more bad behaviour from Sipho, as well as from the rest of the class. So you become determined to prove Sipho wrong and make him admit that he was indeed kicking Mpho.
You go up and down for several minutes until he takes responsibility for his behaviour and apologise to Mpho. But while you busy arguing with Sipho, your learners are waiting and growing bored, your upcoming lesson is on hold, and the smooth momentum of your day is lost.
If you feel like you have to prove to misbehaving learners that they did what you saw them do or that their behaviour was wrong, you are going to find yourself in a lot more situations like this one.
Why you should never argue with your learners
Here are the biggest reasons why you should never argue with your learners:
- It’s stressful.
- It can make you lose your temper.
- It can cause you to behave in a manner you’ll regret.
- It wastes time.
- It creates friction between you and your learners.
- It weakens your relationship with your learners.
- It makes you less likable.
- It encourages your learners to challenge your authority.
Some learners will try to poke you into an argument because it puts you on the same level. In other words, it becomes just two people disagreeing.
But is it really just two people disagreeing? Of course not. You know Sipho is guilty and he knows he is guilty. So what is there to argue about?
How To Avoid Arguments With learners
Ive had teachers tell me that you cant avoid arguments with learners altogether unless you are willing to give in or let some things go and based on how I often see teachers arguing with learners, I think it’s a common belief.
But with the right strategy, avoiding arguments with learners is not difficult. It can even be a means of strengthening your classroom management effectiveness.
Here are the five hacks you can use to avoiding arguments with learners.
- Follow Your Classroom Rules
Arguments begin when the teacher asks a learner to stop doing something rather than applying discipline. Your classroom rules should cover every possible misbehaviour. So when a learner breaks a rule, simply follow your plan.
- Give A Warning
Your classroom management plan should include a warning for the first offense. For example, when you see Sipho kicking the heels of the girl in front of him, make eye contact and say, “Sipho, you have a warning because you’re not keeping your hands and feet to yourself.”
- Move On
After giving a warning, or discipline if it’s a second offense, turn away from the learner immediately and continue with whatever you were doing. Don’t give your learners an opportunity to argue or explain their behaviour. There is no need.
If you find yourself in a situation where a learner is determined to stand in front of you to plead his or her case, maintain eye contact, pause several seconds, and then repeat, “You have a warning because you are not keeping your hands to yourself.”
- Enforce A Consequence For Arguing
If the learner continues to argue, enforce the second consequence. “Sipho, you’re being disrespectful to me, which breaks rule number three. I’ll walk you to detention.”
Following these steps will bring in respect from your learners and discourage them from attempting to poke you into any more arguments. And the best part is you’ll never again have to prove to your learners what you, and them, already know to be the truth.
Now it’s your turn. What strategies do you use to avoid arguing with your learners? Let me know in the comments below.