Friday, September 28, 2007

A smart bit of psychology

"So what do you do?" he said, bouncing the little ball up and down, playing the part of an obnoxious kid in the classroom.

I stood in a corner, looking over the room-full of new teachers, wondering what their answer might be, wondering what my answer would be if I were a teacher.

"Call security!" someone suggested.

What would you do, indeed, as a classroom teacher confronted with a ball-bouncing, directive-ignoring, will-testing little kid?

How do you overpower such a child pyschologically, how do you break his will and impose yours?

That was what we all seemed to wonder.

The facilitator wandered up to the front of the room, where a panel of experienced teachers was in place.

"What would you do?" he asked one of them.

"Hey, let me show you how to juggle," the teacher said, extending a hand casually for the ball and tossing it back and forth for a few minutes.

I imagined a class rapt with attention and surprise.

"Bring your ball in tomorrow before class and I'll show you some juggling tricks," the teacher continued.

Then he handed it back to the "child." And he bade him sit down so that the regular lesson might continue.

Heads nodded.

I came away profoundly moved. This veteran knew better, much better than I or these others had, how to reach the heart of a child. How to win by strategy, by friendliness, not by a battle of wills. How to proceed without fear or anger.


Chase March said...

I know that as a teacher, digging your heels in the ground, getting angry and taking a stand doesn’t work. The kid wins every time. Sometimes their goal is simply to get a rise out of the teacher. Other times it is the only way they can think of to draw attention to themselves.

Some children don’t get much love and attention at home and seek it anyway they can get it at school. I try to make sure that I give each child in my class individual attention during the week. Being kind and caring goes a lot further than being authoritative and uncompromising.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Now that is a wonderful story and I learned something. Now if only I could have the wisdom to do something similar.

Rebecca said...

I wish I had that kind of nimble mind! I am of the heel digging variety. Not at all productive, but thank the maker, I am not a teacher. But I am a parent...a stand taking, heel digging, yeller. But when there is nothing to take a stand on, we laugh a lot.


heartinsanfrancisco said...

Very cool. Smart. He disarmed the child without making him lose face, which is a brilliant way to deal with others of any age.

Thanks for sharing this great story.

Molly said...

I really liked this story. my husband taught HS for three years and I think he was that kind of creative thinker when faced ,as a teacher daily is, with such situations. I read once that a misbehaving child is an unhappy child. To make him more unhappy by not treating him as an individual human being will just compound the problem. In fact, in most situations, if we can treat even unpleasant people with compassion,it disarms them....

Lance said...

What would he have done if he couldn't juggle?

eastcoastdweller said...

Grab it and throw it at the kid?

Lance said...