Defiance gets its own classroom discipline discussion because (safety issues aside) it could be categorized as the worst immediate behavior that can happen. I'm talking about the teacher asking the class to undertake some task (including giving their silent attention) and having a child simply refuse to do it.
This is can be an extremely difficult and emotional issue for a teacher because it sets up a cascade of reactive responses that is familiar to any parent dealing with an argumentative toddler or teenager:
This can lead to a head-to-head confrontation in which both parties steadily entrench into their positions, hardening their will to "win." If you allow this to happen, the only things I can guarantee is that your classroom discipline plan will suffer and your stress level will escalate. (Teacher burnout, anyone?)
It doesn't have to be this way, for one simple reason:
You're gonna outsmart me?!
That sentence sums up a few big differences between your students and you:
And perhaps most important:
That last one is very important...you don't "win" by brute force, you succeed by changing the landscape of the argument faster than the child can react. You play the classroom discipline game on your terms, using your rules, rather than theirs.
Remember, you have a few decades of life experience and a college degree that helps you remain in control and use your brain; your student has been walking and talking for less than ten years. You really can do better than her...I promise!
When challenged, first remember that although your authority seems to be non-existent at the moment, you still retain a solid foundation of authority that allows your words to carry more weight than you think:
1. You have physical authority
You are an adult who is often quite a bit taller than the student and you are often standing vs. sitting...a height advantage in a discussion.
This does not mean that you should physically threaten (and in fact I recommend getting down to the student's level when you really want to communicate with impact), it simply means that even the most recalcitrant child knows instinctively that they are not dealing with a peer who can easily be bullied.
2. You carry the title of "teacher" and represent an institution (the school) that has been an authority in the child's life for a few years.
This is true even if the school system has been an often-disobeyed authority. You are, so to speak, the living embodiment of authority within his small world. Student teacher relationships are not equal ones.
3. If you are managing your classroom community correctly, you have all or nearly all of the other students "on your side."
The obstinate student quickly finds that rather than starting a mutiny, as he may be able to do at home when surrounded by his siblings and friends, he is being watched wide-eyed by other students who are dismayed at his disruption of the comfortable, supportive environment and inclusion in the classroom they have come to value.
He is alone against the majority, a place that a social animal like a human does not like to be. This is especially true if you take the time to explain to the rest of the class how they can be on your side, as outlined here.
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