Updated: Mar 17, 2019
Our students walk into our classroom, we greet them, and we begin the day’s lesson. Suddenly, a student is folding a paper airplane, then they are on their phone "Snap Chatting" a photo of the paper airplane as it flies through the air. As the authority in the classroom, you make a quick decision not to reprimand the student because you wonder if the juice is worth the squeeze. Would calling the student out cause more distraction than just moving on? Or worse, would it shut the student down and silence them during discussions or activities? After deciding that the juice (calling the student out) is not worth the squeeze (the potential impact on the community and the student), the student asks, “What are we doing”? We might choose to respond sarcastically or say, “you might know what we are doing if you were paying attention.” However, there are other ways of dealing with this type of behavior.
Teachers can incorporate Positive Psychology and Positive Organizational Scholarship in the secondary classrooms during incidents as described above by considering two strategies. One, redirect the student immediately and ask them to take on a responsibility such as distributing paper to the class, making sure everyone has a pencil, etc. or ask them to announce the instructions to the class at large. This provides an opportunity for the student to receive some positive attention, possibly incorporates one of their strengths, and directs attention away from the negative and disruptive behavior. A second strategy might be to speak to the student privately or quietly in order to respond to their question. While speaking to the student, engage in a discussion about why they think they did not hear the instructions and what they can do in the future to ensure the student hears the instructions. The important part here is to not be judgmental. Imagine that this student is a reflection of you and you are just trying to do the very best in order to keep your life organized. Students do not come to school hoping to drive us crazy or make us answer the “what are we doing” question over and over. They are learning by doing, so why not give them opportunities to do so without feeling shamed.
What strategies do you have that incorporate student strengths and positive psychology when the behavior is not reflective of their best self?