In your role as an occasional teacher, you will be required to deal with a number of classroom situations in a manner that preserves your ability to be an effective teacher. You must also be prepared to handle these situations in a manner that allows the student or students involved to maintain their dignity.
In each classroom situation, it is important to consider:
Some scenarios with possible considerations for successful resolution of the issues have been provided. There are a number of possible resolutions to each situation. These are only suggestions and must not be perceived to be the only answer to each situation.
You have been given an assignment as an occasional teacher in a grade 7 classroom. You have arrived early and have examined the plan left by the classroom teacher. You feel that you are prepared to manage the day and you proceed to meet the students as they enter the classroom. You greet each student pleasantly as they arrive, and encourage them to take their seats and begin working on the short activity posted on the blackboard.
It is the routine of this school to have announcements and the national anthem play at the beginning of the day. When the national anthem begins, all of the students stand and listen respectfully to the anthem. However, shortly after the anthem begins, two girls begin to play with the scarf worn by one of the girls.
What would you do?
Things to Consider
This behavior, although disrespectful, is not disturbing the learning of others. Instruction has not yet begun. This is an issue that might be ignored or dealt with by moving close to the girls and quietly reminding them to stand still for the anthem.
The day has not yet even begun. If you were to treat this behavior as a serious situation, the students in the classroom would very likely feel that you were over-reacting and were treating the girls unfairly. This would lead to a number of problems for you over the course of the day.
You have been assigned for the day to a grade 2 class. You have acted as an occasional teacher in this classroom on a previous occasion, and the students are quite well behaved. During art period Marcia and Philip were painting next to one another. Marcia wanted to use the red paint, but Philip was using it and wasn’t interested in sharing right then. Marcia grabbed Philip’s arm and the paint splashed on Elizabeth’s dress as she walked past the easels. Elizabeth began to cry, as did Marcia. Philip was angry and shouted that it was not his fault that the paint got spilled.
What would you do?
This behavior is disruptive and upsetting to the other students and must be attended to immediately. You should calmly speak to all three students to assure them that this is a situation that can be fixed very easily. Have Philip and Marcia sit quietly while you attend to Elizabeth’s dress. When the paint has been cleaned off her dress, Elizabeth will be content to return to her art activity.
With Marcia and Philip, it is important to remind them about the classroom expectations for sharing art materials and have them calmly explain to you how things went wrong with the paint incident. When they have identified the mistakes that led to the spill on Elizabeth’s dress, have them explain how this could have been handled in a more appropriate way.
Each time a student makes a bad choice, it is important that you address the situation as a learning opportunity. When students understand the mistake(s) that they have made, they will be better equipped to make good choices next time. The consequence for this incident may be that Marcia and Philip must help you clean up the mess and apologize to Elizabeth for the mess they made on her dress. Addressing the consequence in a positive way (such as speaking calmly and compassionately, helping the students clean up the mess and reinforcing the appropriate behavior) will help the students to understand that mistakes will be made, but they can be corrected and avoided in the future by making better choices.
You have accepted an assignment to teach secondary math for the day. In second period, you are teaching a grade 10 class with one very challenging student. Barry is constantly speaking out and taking things from the desks of students around him. He is distracting those students who are attempting to follow the lesson. You have attempted to re-engage him in the lesson, have moved to be near his desk and have quietly asked him to stop speaking out and taking the belongings of others. You have given him a number of opportunities to change his behavior.
Finally, you tell him that you would like to speak with him for a few minutes after class, which will be the lunch period. He flatly states that he has plans after class and can’t stay to talk to you.
What do you do?
This student has challenged your authority, expecting that you will engage in a power struggle with him. This is not a direction in which you want to go. However, Barry is disrupting the learning of others, so you must respond to his behavior in some way. There are a number of things that you can do to de-escalate the situation:
In this situation, you have tried a number of strategies before having to ask for assistance. Most times, if you are having such difficultly with a student, it will not have been the first time this has happened with this student. It does not diminish your professionalism in this case to seek assistance.