The following took place at the start of my 7th grade class one week.
Transcribed as accurately from memory as possible. :
Me: Hey, A. That’s a neat drawing. What’s it supposed to be?
A: It’s the Kaaba. Continues drawing
Me: That’s neat, and it looks pretty good – but.. is it related to your project?
A: No, not really. Continues drawing
Me: Okay, well as cool as it is, I’m going to ask you to stop drawing now and get back to work on your project please.
A: Okay, I will.
Me: waits a bit Now, A. Please the pencil and paper away and get to work. He puts it away Okay, thank you.
S: Why don’t you just command him to stop?
S: You’re the teacher. You could just tell him to stop instead of asking.
Me: Yes, but if I can do it politely and by asking, then I will. I’d rather use manners any day of the week.
S: Shrugs like I’m talking crazy. Huh. Okay then.
This conversation actually took place in my class the other week. I think it pretty accurately reflects how I deal with my students. A wasn’t doing anything wrong per se – his drawing was reflective of the stuff we’ve been studying – a unit on Islam. He was being quiet, he just wasn’t on task. So I politely asked him to stop and get on task.
I had manners pounded into me my whole childhood by my parents, other adults in the family and my school. The British system is strict about manners. Sometimes ridiculously so (students don’t need to stand up when a teacher enters the room….) but the basics were well taught.
As a middle school teacher, manners aren’t technically in my purview. However, these are kids. If I can teach them to respond appropriately and politely to polite requests, I will consider a job well done. Kids don’t actually learn behavior from commands and orders – they just learn how to respond to a command and order. It’s easier to be rude or confrontational to a command. It’s much harder to be rude when someone has politely requested that you do something.
It made me sad to hear S asking me to just command his buddy to do something. As if that would be more effective.
Just thinking out loud.