Ever find yourself silently AGREEING with that kid?
As the adult/mediator in the room, you can't just let that kid wreck the self esteem of everyone he encounters, and walk all over everyone. Yet time and time again, you see that actually, he was right. He let the other kid know in an unacceptably cruel way, but he was right. What do you do?
Well, when I realized this impulsive student is actually very bright, and often has a very good point about why he got so indignant in several social situations, I made time to talk with him. He finished his test early (of course) so I pulled him to the back of the room, along with the kid he hit in line yesterday. I listen to both of their side of the story without allowing interruption (from me or the other boy) as I always do, before asking questions, and finally I'm ready to pass my judgement.
"But I didn't do anything!"
"As long as you THINK that, I can't allow you to line up normally, because it's not safe. Once you realize you DID do something, and "hitting him accidentally" is never going to be acceptable, then I can let you line up with everyone else."
"But it was my place in line, behind bus 3 and in front of the kids who get picked up!"
And that's when I realized I needed to take a new approach.
This kid was right, knew he was right, and feels like the world is against him. The only thing that was going to change his negative attitude was to feel like he had an ally. Who's a more powerful ally than the teacher? The only thing that was going to make sense for me to do here was to TAKE HIS SIDE.
"You're absolutely right."
I paused and let that sink in.
"You're right. You're a smart kid, Billy. And I bet you're right a lot, because you're so smart. It must be very frustrating for you to be right, when other kids don't see it."
The look on his face was priceless. It was like he felt I looked down into his soul and he finally felt understood.
"The thing is, how you ACT when you're right, and other people are wrong, that is what we have to work on. So when you line up, I'm going to make sure you're letting the kids know what they should be doing in a polite way, and if they try to argue with you I'm going to be right there to tell them, 'Billy's right.' Okay?"
All the fight just melted away.
When I have a challenge come up in class, my mantra is "I'm here for you." When a kid is talking when I'm talking, interrupts, or breaks some other rule, although I have to discipline, I tell myself silently, "I'm here for YOU." In the first few years of teaching, before I had a reputation that speaks for itself, I felt like every broken rule felt like an act of disrespect aimed at me, and it made me look bad. But now, I know I don't have to take it personally. And I've also realized that when it comes to school, these kids don't work for me. I work for them. I am literally paid to work for them. That doesn't mean I let them walk all over me, because that's not what's best for them. It doesn't mean that I let them be completely dependent on me to wait on them, because teaching them how to be independent is important for their development. But I try to approach every problem that arises with the attitude of, "How can I fix this FOR YOU." Not for me.
I kept my promise when they lined up, making sure he spoke politely before stepping into his place in line, and we were a lot more orderly than we had been the last few days.
*Names are changed to protect the guilty. ;)