Teaching. It’s a powerful vocation. You’re responsible for shaping young lives and helping them grow and achieve everything they dream of. Your words also contribute to shaping a young person. For example, negative words and labels can crush a child’s confidence and, sometimes, they may not recover from the confidence blow. We have spoken to various adults who still view themselves in the same negative way which their teachers described them several years ago. This has impacted their confidence, sense of self as well as opportunities they did and did not take. This is why the way you speak to your students, especially students who may not be behaving the way you would like them to behave, is vital.
I personally have memories of one of my primary school teachers, who shall remain nameless, getting very annoyed with me because I couldn’t answer a maths question he’d put on the board. I must have been 9 or 10 at the time. He’d asked the question in front of the whole class, of course, and his unkind words had a lasting impact on me, and still do to this day. More than that, his angry tone of voice affected me on such a level that I don’t think I spoke to anyone much for the rest of that school year.
Words and the tone of voice are powerful.
Why do kids misbehave in class?
There are many reasons a child might be misbehaving. Expressing your frustration at their behaviour is likely to make that child, and you, feel very much worse. Children who are struggling at school quite often just need a friendly ear or a kind word. They may have an undiagnosed learning difficulty, such as dyslexia or dyscalculia. It might be that they are living in a broken home and their parent or care giver simply doesn’t have the time to give them the attention they need. Lone parent families are, unfortunately, increasingly common. In 2019, there were 2.9 million lone parent families in the UK (Office of National Statistics, 2019). It’s not done on purpose, of course, but lone parents don’t always have the time or capacity to give their children the support they need.
In addition to this, the child will be dealing with an abandonment wound because one parent is absent. This psychological factor can have a devastating effect on a child, and may be so deep they may not even realise what it is, or why they feel so bad, until they are adults themselves. Secondary school age pupils in particular, will feel that gaping absence more and more the older they get, and they may turn to other outlets to deal with it (Anderson, 2014). This unfortunately means that their school work is not prioritised because they are putting their energy into just feeling seen and heard every day.
It’s easy to feel frustrated when a child isn’t listening and is actively ignoring what you’re trying to teach them. Similarly, if they are actively ignoring you whilst also encouraging the rest of the class to misbehave, it can be difficult to keep your feelings under control. It’s understandable that your feelings will become apparent in the way you speak; however, speaking kindly, but with authority, will have a much more beneficial effect on your class and you’ll also earn their respect.
What can you do?
We conducted a survey in early 2021 and found that the majority of teachers who responded do not feel that they can confidently support disruptive students. We understand that it can feel overwhelming and even intimidating when you’re dealing with a disruptive pupil and we can help. Get in touch with us today to find out more about our training programme, we’d love to hear from you.
Anderson, S (2014) The Journey from Abandonment to Healing, The Berkley Publishing Group
Office of National Statistics ( 2019). Retrieved from: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/families/bulletins/familiesandhouseholds/2019