I stood there watching the new teacher...She was shouting for attention. The children in her class were carrying various conversations, arguments and discussions and they were completely ignoring her.
Suddenly, her demands to be quiet were now targeted at various children in her line who happened to be talking and a very interesting thing started to occur: the line got noisier not quieter.
As she singled out various children for talking, their collective noise level only grew as they had to raise their voices above their teachers as to be heard by their friends....
While my class and I patiently waited for them to walk past, I couldn't help but feel sorry for this new teacher who was clearly trying her best to keep her class of seven or eight year-old children in line and quiet. The pained helpless look on her face prompted me to call out...
"I really like how this young lady in pink is standing quietly in line!"
That's all it took. One compliment.
And the line was silent.
When I said it I didn't look at any other student. I didn't generalize (saying "Good Job" is a terrible compliment because it's vague and children perceive vague as false).
But one compliment, specifically directed at one person, that is specific, clear and sincere can move mountains in your class.
And conversely, shouting does not.
Think about your own class and you can probably point out the children who live in one parent homes where the parent is working all kinds of hours to pay the bills, shuttling several kids around, trying to keep their families respective heads above water and in the list of immediate needs to fill, quality time falls far down that list.
Today, try making several well-placed specific and sincere compliments to your students. Select a few students that have been making your day difficult and LOOK (it might be difficult but you will find it!) for that one thing they are doing well.
Then let them. Praise them. Sometimes in public but sometimes in private. Just make it specific, sincere and descriptive of a behavior you want to see more of... And you will.
Because attention is food and some of your children are starving...
Alan Aymie is an award-winning writer/speaker/educator whose work has been seen across the country. He is currently performing the critically-acclaimed solo play, A Child Left Behind about public education, Asperger's Syndrome and every child's first teacher. For more information, please visit his website: www.alanaymie.com