“Can I just Google something fast?”
“What? No! Why? What do you need to Google?”
You may or may not have had a conversation like this in class with a student while teaching high school. The attitudes and maturity levels of students don’t necessarily go up just because people get older.
As teachers, we often stop to think about why students act in a certain way. We tend to think that inappropriate behavior will decrease as they progress through the school system. Upon closer examination, we discover that many of the same characteristics these students exhibit while they are younger carry over as they move up through the grade levels.
Take for instance, a kindergarten class. You may have one student who just cannot let you win an argument. He will take an inordinate amount of time telling you why things have to be his way. As a teacher, we need to placate him as best as possible, while still trying to maintain authority and get our point across.
Compare this to a middle school student. While taking attendance, you might have one student who has to act out and cause a problem. He gives you a hard time, gets out of his seat, talks back and draws attention to himself. This is the same student whom you notice is pinching his cheeks during a lesson while daydreaming in his own world.
Compare the above scenarios with a high school student. You might be in a class, showing a movie, when you realize an excessive amount of talking is going on in the front of the room. When you ask what the problem is, your response comes from one male student who yells out, “Can I just Google something really fast?” After repeatedly telling the students at the beginning of class that cell phone usage is not allowed, you find it hard to contain yourself. This question is so preposterous that you begin to realize that although this student might be 17, he is acting at a third grade level, at best. Sometimes, there is just no reasoning with these students. The best you can do is to diffuse the situation as quickly as possible and move forward.
It is interesting to note that these behaviors come from students who were in general education classes. If you compare these behaviors to those who are identified as “special education” students, you might find the latter students exhibit a greater amount of respect for authority and a desire to do their work. Although special education students present other challenges in the classroom, they often “play by the rules” and understand that they are there to learn. It is easier at times to work with this demographic than general education students, who may not value the importance of being in school and acting in an appropriate fashion.
There is no one fail-safe method for dealing with all of these different types of personalities. As teachers, it is our job to maintain a professional demeanor and set a good example for our students. When you see a student’s behavior continue to deteriorate, try relating it to something they can understand. Younger students can relate to recess being taken away. Older students might be able to relate to something happening in the world today (and how their behavior might lead to negative consequences). No matter what method you choose, it helps to keep one phrase in mind to set a positive tone for daily behavior – “Make it a great day or not. The choice is yours.”