Why You Should Take Responsibility For Your Students’ Behavior
This is my 700th article.
Will there be a party here at SCM? A parade perhaps? Maybe a speech about me, me, and more me and all the people who made me who I am.
Yay, aren’t I amazing! Oh, the horror.
The truth is, it’s just another day, another grind at the laptop. The satisfaction I get from writing about classroom management comes only through my responsibility to you.
If I’m not helpful, if I can’t make you a better and happier teacher, then it’s just words on a page. An echo on the wind.
It’s in the responsibility that there is value. It’s the work itself that brings inner stillness and fulfillment. Deeper still, and even more satisfying, is the act of taking responsibility for my students.
However, not all teachers experience this feeling.
Not all teachers know the contentment and sheer empowerment of refusing to indulge in any excuse for poor student behavior and academic performance.
We live in the age of excuse, of justification for every misstep, mistake, and failure. It’s easy to say that students behave the way they do because of their home life, social media, and the group of friends they hang out with.
And you can certainly make the case for it. You can cite research. You can view their records and look into their past. You can see how they dress and speak and respond to instruction.
But they’re still in your class. They still show up and sit in front of you every day. The question isn’t how they got that way. It isn’t why they behave the way they do. The question is, what are you going to do about it?
One of the best and happiest teachers I know recently had to break up a fight between two of her students. It happened right in the middle of class. They were squared off throwing punches, some to the face.
It was brutal, and scary. She followed all the school and district prescribed protocols. She involved herself in every administrative decision and discussion. She made sure they were held accountable in the strictest way allowable.
They were solely responsible for their behavior, and she made sure they knew it and felt it through strong additional consequences she created and ensured and that lasted for weeks beyond the incident.
Many teachers in the same situation would say:
The culture is in decline.
It’s how they’re raised.
Violence is glorified.
It’s admin’s fault for putting them in my class.
And other such justifications for the behavior. And they have a point, no doubt. You can make that case all day every day. But as soon as you do, as soon as you point the finger, you lose your power to truly do something about it.
You lose the power to do something great and turn failure into a lesson that impacts your students for the rest of their life.
My friend who broke up the fight was only concerned with what she could do better. Instead of looking outward, she asked:
What did I miss?
Where can I improve?
How can I make sure this doesn’t happen again?
What can I learn from this?
The buck stopped with her. Her students were 100 percent responsible for their actions, yes. But she took 100 percent responsibility also. It didn’t matter whether in the traditional sense she was directly or indirectly responsible.
She took it anyway.
Taking responsibility for everything that happens in your classroom—and your life for that matter—regardless of outside forces, is the best thing you can do to become a happier and more effective teacher.
700 articles? It’s fine, I guess. But in comparison to taking ownership of SCM readers and your success, and the success of the principles and strategies I place my reputation on, it’s nothing.
Meaningless krill in a faraway sea.
Teaching in this day and age is a challenge. Students are tough. They’re addicted to their phones. Bullying and disrespect is on the rise. Many are confused, impolite, and socially immature.
Take responsibility anyway. Own it. The moment you do, the moment you say that the buck stops with you, your teaching world will change. It’s like being given a superpower, bit by a genetically engineered spider.
You’re suddenly able to lead, influence, motivate, and control your class in ways you never thought possible.
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