What do teachers do when students don’t respect their authority? The first step is recognizing that you have let the respect genie out of the bottle. The next step is to formulate a plan to restore authority. This is by no means an easy task, but with the following suggestions, hopefully disrespect will be back in the bottle again.
First evaluate yourself as a factor. It can be a difficult task to look at yourself with a critic’s eye, but in order to improve the situation, it important to improve any areas that are exacerbating the problem. Total honesty is necessary. If you really can’t see your role in the problem, ask a colleague, mentor, or administrator to observe the class. Be ready for honest and constructive criticism. It is easy to blame it all on the kids, but the teacher is often part of the problem.
Make a list of skills that can elevate respect in the classroom. Discuss the problems with the person who observes the class and let them help formulate a plan of action. Don’t necessarily try to make all of the changes at once as it might be too much. Try to make a change or two per week for gradual improvement.
These are some common areas that can lead to lack of respect. Try applying these improvements to make the classroom run smoother.
1. Seating. First look at the seating of the students in the room. Often students that are disrespectful like to have others that they can feed off of. If you don’t have a seating char, make one and adhere to it. If you have one and it isn’t working, realign it. Improved seating arrangements can make a world of difference to classroom climate.
2. Too many warnings. Stop warning kids for bad behavior. It doesn’t work. Instead take action and stick to your decisions.
3. Inconsistent discipline. Students are very aware when all students are not treated equally. Don’t grant special favors or turn a blind eye to some students and not others. The same consequences need to apply to all students.
4. Don’t yell or talk at students from a distance. This is a behavior that never leads to respect. It is better to quietly walk to a student’s desk and pause there. If behavior continues quietly ask the student to stay after class. Most students do not want to have to stay after class, so the prospect of that keeps some students in check.
5. Develop bonds with the students. Most personality clashes and lack of respect happen because the students see the teacher as the enemy, not a human being too, and not someone that cares. Make it a goal to try to make a conversation with every student in the class at least once per week. Even have a checklist if needed so you know who you have talked to. Learn what activities the students are in and what their interests are. Student love to know that you know something about them. Go to their games and activities and let them know you were there.
6. Greet the students at the door. This creates a first impression that is positive. It makes the students more willing to listen and demonstrate respect.
7. Create bonding activities for the class. Whether it is having the students introduce each other or play a get-to-know-you quiz game, think of some way to bring the class together. If they feel good about being with each other they will probably feel better about being with you too.
8. Admit when you are wrong. Students sometimes feel the need to confront teachers because they genuinely feel wronged in some way. It can be unfair discipline, unfair grading, and lack of choice in activities. Whatever the situation, admit you were wrong and tell the class that you plan to do better. An apology by the teacher often creates a better relationship if it is strained.
9. Be prepared. Students will not be impressed if you are not prepared for class and you do not know your content. Plan plenty for the students to do and be ready to keep them busy. There tends to be less time possible to show disrespect.
10. Choose a good day for clean start. After a long weekend, when the students have had a little time away from the classroom is when they are most receptive to changes.
11. Dress for success. When you decide to make the big change, make sure to dress more formally and professionally while you try to overhaul your image. This is the time to wear tailored suits and spend more time on appearance. Give the impression that you are the authority and the students are more apt to believe you.
12. Put complaints in writing. If the problem is students complaining, tell them that you will only consider the complaints that a student is willing to put into writing. If it is something that a student really cares about, he or she will take the time to put it in writing. Otherwise the offense probably wasn’t that severe and they are just trying to get a reaction.
13. Don’t over-react. It can be tempting to rise to the bait that students go fishing with, but as the professional in the classroom it is better not to bite. Not every comment needs a return reply. Sometimes ignoring those that are disrespectful is the best course of action.
14. Do you kill them with kindness or carry a big stick? For some teachers they just are marshmallows while for others the big stick is such a threat that students are urged to rebel. Think about falling in the middle and avoid the two extremes.
15. Talking while the teacher is talking. This is the major piece of evidence that teachers cite as disrespect. So, look at how you handle the students talking while you are talking. The old-fashioned pop quiz was born for a reason. If they aren’t listening to you, give them a 5 point pop quiz on what you said. Consider a signal to get them listening first. Some teachers turn the lights off and on when they need attention, others stop talking, while others use the pop quiz method. Develop a technique that works for you. With repetitive use, it will reduce this bad behavior over time.
Regaining respect is not easy and sometimes it can be out of a teacher’s hands. Just realize that it is part of this phase and it is not all your fault. Challenging authority is part of the student DNA. The key is to use preventative measures as much as possible and then try to deal with the other issues, but recognize that your reactions may be causing some of the behavior.