How To Handle The “Cool” Kids

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They’re a subset of students at every school and in nearly every classroom.

The cool kids.

They with the fashion sense, the pulse of popular culture, the presence that effortlessly draws others into their sphere.

Okay, all fine and good.

But here’s the problem: Many teachers are also influenced by their charms.

Maybe you’ve noticed it too. Otherwise intelligent adults falling blindly under the spell of certain students. So much so that it interferes with their ability to be an effective teacher.

The rapt attentiveness. The mimicking body language. The fawning and trying to be cool too. The second and third (and fourth) chances.

Nothing is more hurtful to the rest of the class. Nothing makes students more resentful and less trusting than the teacher who obviously likes some students better than others.

It’s a morale killer of the highest order.

Besides realizing how unprofessional and inappropriate it is, there is a way to ensure that you don’t even appear to play favorites.

Here’s how:

Follow your plan.

Especially with your most influential students, it’s critical that you notice every act of misbehavior. The other students must see you enforce your consequences the moment they, the cool kids, step over the line.

They must see you follow your classroom management plan the same with every student. When a “cool” student breaks a rule, it’s a great opportunity to show your class that you can be trusted.

It’s proof that you don’t tilt the field in favor of some over others and underscores the sheer importance of vigilant supervision and steadfast adherence to your plan.

Don’t be impressed.

Refuse to play into the social media culture that says that some people are more special or worthy of our attention than others. It’s highly detrimental and the cause of so much pain, especially among young girls.

The classroom is the one place where you control the tone and narrative. Control it wisely. Ensure that all students have value, that all are aware they have strengths and weaknesses and that none is perfect.

Jordan’s are just shoes. A haircut is just one of many styles. Looking out for your neighbor is cool and humbleness is a virtue.

This isn’t so much something you do as it is an attitude and spirit of service to others that you bring to your classroom.

Focus on the whole class.

Your consistent day-after-day kindness and pleasantness is much more influential than trying to build relationships one student at a time. Focus on your class as a whole.

Prove you care about them all by saying hello to every student when they enter your class and goodbye to each with a fist bump. If you do have a conversation with an individual student, make it quick and maintain your professionalism.

Smile and be kind but never try to talk to them on their level. Never use slang they use with each other. Never comment on their clothes, kid them personally, or be overly impressed with popular students.

Dress and behave like the leader they need, and your whole class will love you for it.

Steady Presence

As covered in a recent article, only work on building rapport with individual students when they have shut down. Otherwise, it’s best to focus on how you present yourself to the entire group.

Be consistent in temperament and follow through and you’ll never have to worry about building individual relationships.

You won’t appear as if you play favorites and you won’t get sucked into trying to be or act cool yourself—which will always backfire.

Be the same steady presence and trust and respect will come readily. Your likability will soar among all and the cool kids will feel wonderfully knocked down a peg and free to be just regular, humble, and valued members of the class.

Like everyone else.

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