Castle Rock Published Writing

There are no corners in this room

posted Aug 28, 2016, 10:19 PM by Paul Nelson   [ updated Aug 28, 2016, 10:23 PM ]

One concept that I learned about early in teaching was that of the power struggle. Some said power struggles were to be avoided and some said be sure and win them all. A power struggle is when you want a student to do something and the student says, "NO!"

What can you do? How do you win? Is winning important?

I found over time that even when I won struggles with students, we both ended up being losers. As I gained experience I learned to give choices to students where we could all be winners.

"Would you like to complete this assignment in class now or while the rest of us are out at recess?"

Are you going to manage your behavior and keep the right to stay with your friends at this seat or would you be better off moving now?

These kinds of questions do three things. They focus on the desired behavior. In the examples above, completing the assignment and self-management are desired.

The second thing they do is provide a reasonable (meaning both student and teacher can live with it) consequence to a failure to meet the desired behavior.

The third thing these questions to is give the student a choice. Giving this choice is a way of treating the student with dignity. It also says that you expect the student to be responsible and manage his/her own behavior while at the same time, clearly stating the boundaries you need to set.

A child about to loose his dignity is like a wounded animal trapped in a corner. He's dangerous to himself and others. By giving students a way to save face, self-manage and still meet the requirements you've set, you avoid backing them into corners.

Contrast these teacher statements with those above:

"If you don't finish that in five minutes, I'll make you stay after school."

"Be quiet or I'll __________ .

"You are not behaving, I'm going to move you to another seat."

Honoring students and treating them with dignity is one of the foundational beliefs in Invitational Learning Theory. Listen to yourself as you interact with students and see if you can remove the corners from your classroom.

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