Kid Whisperer Nation Teacher Tip #46
DON’T DEMONIZE BEHAVIORS
Is there anything wrong with running? Chewing gum? Talking to your friends? Of course not. There is, however, something wrong with doing these things while taking a test. Freaking out about these behaviors as a teacher makes you look like a crazy, mean person to students who know that these behaviors are not inherently evil. Just asking students to save those behaviors for later is a better intervention than to tell them to simply stop the behaviors.
Kid Whisperer Nation Teacher Tip #47
DON’T EXPECT KIDS TO BE RATIONAL BECAUSE THEIR BRAINS DON’T WORK
This is a scientific fact. The human brain is not fully functional until the age of 25. This is why trying to reason with a student is as helpful as trying to reason with a drunk hamster. Effective teachers don’t spend their time reasoning with kids.
Kid Whisperer Nation Teacher Tip #48
DON’T DOUBLE-HANDICAP YOUR STUDENTS
Students with special needs are often disabled again by teachers who set standards of behavior that are far too low for what these students are capable of. The lower behavioral expectations are often more disabling than their original disability.
Kid Whisperer Nation Teacher Tip #49
DON’T DOUBLE-INJURE YOUR STUDENTS
Students who are going through a tough life event such as the death of a loved one, abuse, etc., are often injured again by their teachers who excuse negative behaviors while they are going through these tough times. Behavioral expectations for a student whose father just died are the same as they are for everyone else. When we are utilizing empathy and using consequences instead of punishments, we can hold students accountable without hurting their self-concept. This still holds true when the student is going through something horrible. The limits still being in place can actually be comforting while the student feels out of control in other areas of her life.
Kid Whisperer Nation Teacher Tip #50
PREFACE WITH EMPATHY
If you are not prefacing potentially difficult situations with the same empathetic response every time (mine is “Oh, man”), you have no idea what your students are capable of behaviorally. Without the use of preventive empathy, you will be forever stuck in classrooms where students will be much less cooperative than they could be.
Kid Whisperer Nation Teacher Tip #51
“REWARD” YOUR STUDENTS WITH “REAL LIFE” REWARDS (AND NOTHING ELSE)
This is only possible with careful planning to make your classroom a place that resembles the real world. I NEVER give “rewards” like toys, candy, or stickers for students exhibiting behaviors that they should be exhibiting. However, when kids get done with their work during “Real World Workshop”, they get to do something that is more fun, like play a math game or read a magazine. That’s the way the real world works: when we are done with work, we can do activities that we’d rather do. This reinforces the positive behavior of working hard. When a student in my room has a classroom job, he gets to keep it until he forgets to do it or does it poorly. If he fails, he is fired, just like in real life. Is it an important life lesson to learn that you can keep jobs that you enjoy as long as you do a good job? I think so too.
Kid Whisperer Nation Teacher Tip #52
ARGUE WITH YOUR STUDENTS FOR FUN
Of course, kids LOVE to argue, which is why we NEVER argue with children about anything that matters in any way. However, during non-instructional times, when all is well (students in seats, voices at appropriate levels, eating breakfast or lunch), try initiating arguments about common interests regarding subjects of mutual interest. Sports, politics, and music generally lend themselves well to these arguments. Since kids love to argue, they will notice that when all is well, you are willing to have emotional, and/or silly arguments with them about things that don’t really matter in your school day. I remember on ongoing argument with one of my 1st graders that involved my NFL team (Eagles) and his (Cowboys) that lasted all year and was a great way to build my relationship with him.
Kid Whisperer Nation Teacher Tip #53
GIVE KIDS NICKNAMES
Nothing makes a kid feel more included than being given a nickname. The feeling of ownership in a kid’s room and school goes up when she is no longer Daisha, but instead: Princess Giggles. Keep in mind that the most difficult kids in your classroom usually have very bad feelings attached to their real first names since their parents and teachers have been using that name to yell at them for “x” amount of years. Removing those bad connotations by the use of a nickname can allow a kid to create something of a new identity for herself: ‘“Autumn” is bad, but ‘Red’ is awesome!”
Kid Whisperer Nation Teacher Tip #54
MODEL FEELING THE FEELINGS YOU WANT THEM TO FEEL
Most kids (at least the ones I’ve dealt with) don’t tend to naturally want to do what you tell them to do, but kids will usually start to feel the feelings you feel if you model and express the healthy emotions that you are feeling. When something happens that you don’t like, telling kids that it makes you feel sad is a great way to model feeling sadness instead of anger over something not going your way. With enough repetitions of the use of this skill, many kids will start to actually exhibit these healthy emotions instead of feeling and acting on anger.
Kid Whisperer Nation Teacher Tip #55
MODEL PROPER STRATEGIES FOR DEALING WITH ANGER
We all get angry. The difference between a person who gets angry and goes about his day and the person who gets angry and goes to jail is whether or not that person is able to mitigate his anger. Many kids are not exposed to people who can feel anger and move on, so modeling this can be really important.
“What just happened makes me angry. I’ve found that it’s not helpful to deal with things that make you angry right away so I’m going to deal with this later… I’m starting to feel better already.”
Of course, the more calmly you can say these words, the better.
Some kids will not know that working through anger in this way is even an option until they see you modeling this behavior.
Kid Whisperer Nation Teacher Tip #56
You do not need to get your students to think that you are hip and cool. Most kids don’t need or want a cool teacher, they need and want someone to set limits without embarrassing them or yelling. Think back to when you were a kid and your dad tried to do a hip dance, or your mom tried to wear the kind of clothes that you and your friends were wearing.
So leave the Justin Bieber poster at home (unless you actually love Justin Bieber, in which case, yikes).
Kid Whisperer Nation Teacher Tip #57
DON’T “GET DOWN ON THEIR LEVEL”
This one is only for teachers of younger kids or for really tall high school teachers. Please don’t get down on a knee or bend over to get “on their level” when talking with them. This is one of those pieces of advice that someone said in the 70’s and has been canonized into ECE lore for no good reason. It’s wrong and stupid. If you need to whisper something to a kid, great, but please don’t make a habit of getting on the same eye level with kids. Adults are bigger than kids for lots of important reasons, one of them being that our size shows our dominance. This is good. Don’t give away your dominance by shrinking yourself. You are big, they are little. There is no reason to change that.
Kid Whisperer Nation Teacher Tip #58
DON’T EAT LUNCH WITH YOUR STUDENTS
OK, you could make the case that this is a direct contradiction of the tip where I suggested that you should eat with your students. Fair point. While you should eat with your students, at least occasionally, you also need to take some time for yourself, put your feet up, and watch “The Price is Right” while eating too much chocolate. In fact, do this every day until you feel ready to go back to eating with your students.
Kid Whisperer Nation Teacher Tip #59
USE NOTE WRITING AS AN INTERVENTION
I teach tons of interventions. Here’s a fun one that seems to have unexplainable magical powers. It works really well with young kids through high school seniors. When a kid has been exhibiting a negative behavior, but you don’t feel like you have to use a consequence quite yet, hand him a note on a post it that says the following and quickly walk away.
“That tapping of your pencil really bothers me. Please stop. Thanks!”
Kid Whisperer Nation Teacher Tip #60
DON’T REPEAT RULES
Your students are not ignoring the rules because they are forgetting them, they are not following the rules because you aren’t enforcing them. Set the limits one time per year, use interventions, and if those don’t work or are not appropriate, use consequences, both immediate and delayed.