After many years of teaching on the high school level, and with students who
may or may not have 'elected' the class, I can give a few 'slogans' of
1. Avoid verbal ping pong, you will lose every time. While nurturing with
conversation seems like the way to go, let me tell you they KNOW right from
wrong at that level. The "I don't think so" attitude that I have adopted,
along with humor, constant vigilance, and giving them responsibility for
their own art decisions has made the difference for me. Believe me when I
tell you that they know how to 'play the game', and in 40 minutes the only
game being played in the art studio is the "learning and making of art".
2. Don't let them see you sweat! You are a goner if they do. Have a game
face, and if you are a woman (which in case you all are wondering I am, and
a small one at that), lower your voice and look them straight in the eye
with your "I don't think so" look...you all remember that look don't you?
Your mother had it. And also avoid mothering in the 'mothering sense'...they
will tune you out, as they have tuned out their mothers. I have no children
of my own, so I don't fall into the 'mothering' syndrome. I truly have no
emotional attachment to who they are dating, or how short their skirts are,
or if their hair is in their face, if you get what I mean.
3. Reward good behavior. Every once in awhile one of my students might say
"Mrs. H, why don't you make Rob stay afterschool", if a kid acts like a fool
in class. I look right at Rob and say, "I don't like Rob right now, so what
makes you think I want to spend any time afterschool with him?" The art
studio is open afterschool for kids who want to work, not as a holding cell.
Kids know I give 110% of my time to them from 7:00 am until whenever,
including weekends to go to Broadway shows or to Art museums. They
understand immediately that I reward honesty, hard work, openess,
creativity, laughter, etc.
4. Remember that your key doesn't fit all locks. We are keys, and students
are locks. I am sure that some kids just don't get me, as I don't get them.
We (both kids and myself) should not feel guilty that we can't 'relate'
'warm up to' each other. There are many other keys in the school. I am not
all things to all people. When you realize that your life becomes a lot
5. There are no victims only volunteers. You 'volunteer' to be a victim by
letting the kids get the upper hand. Use mentors in school whose discipline
style you admire. Seek them out. Make friends with the guidance counselors,
so that they can call the kid down and back you up. By all means SPEAK to
the student, but I chose to do it outside of the classroom, and at an
appropriate time...not in front of their peers. Sometimes isolating the
leader of the pack and getting their trust and respect will turn the class
around. If possible speak to the parents (but sometimes little nuts don't
fall far from the trees). Each kid is different, each class is different,
each community is different, each school is different. I don't think we can
give you the flat out answer on how to make this problem go away, because
each of US is different.