Today found me reviewing my rules and expectations. I expect students to be respectful. It is simple. They are not to prevent their own learning or others from learning.
My first few years of teaching I tried to make a rule for every behavior. No eating. No getting out of your seat without permission. No this. No that. The rebels would try to find a loop-hole in the rules, and I would create a new rule to counteract their behavior. What a grand game!
I learned from those early mistakes. I reduced it to the simple maxim: if learning is not happening, there is a problem. And, I will solve the problem by any means necessary.
I have sat next to the student and confronted the frustration of the lesson, I have offered extra time for help during my lunch, planning period, or after school. I have given detentions or sent the most obstinate child to the office. I have used an “excuse log” which requires about a page of writing. I have shared the excuses with a parent. I have called or emailed a parent. In other words, I try to help the student help himself or herself. If he or she is unwilling or reluctant, I get the parents to help “gang up” on the child. This works in 98% of the cases. Unfortunately, in our society, some parents are unable or do not feel it is their job, or simply do not care anymore. This is when the teacher’s job gets tougher.
I have had the opportunity to own a few successful businesses with my wife, and she has taught me that dealing with students and parents is similar to managing employees and serving customers. For example, my maxim: no learning = a problem. If the customer is not happy, there is a problem. Yes, one or two per cent of customers will never seem happy, but we need to ensure the other 98% is happy. That 98% is our target! They are going to make the company, or school, a success.