The Lost Principles (Compliance)

What does it mean to be compliant? Most people would say it means that you do what you’re told when you’re told to do it. That’s about right, but not quite. Emotionally mature people have the ability to do what they’re told, when they’re told to do it, with a good attitude.

In my years as an administrator and teacher, I observed many teachers and students doing what they were told, but what was missing was the good attitude. Although they complied with directives or instructions, they grumbled or cursed under their breath and definitely did not have a good attitude. Often they complained to co-teachers or fellow students while they were complying.

Mature people have the ability to cooperate even when they disagree. They don’t waste time complaining about what they have to do. They spend time getting the job done.

People with a poor attitude never give it their best when they do a job. They give a half hearted effort and are usually considered second rate students or employees. In contrast, compliant individuals give everything their best all the time and earn the confidence of their parents, teachers, and employers. Compliant people also know how to make correct appeals if something doesn’t sit quite right with them. They always look for clarifications or help when they have trouble getting something done.

As a young administrator, I was given the responsibility of issuing paychecks to the employees in my school. On one occasion, the checks arrived one day early. I was told by my superintendent not to issue the checks until the following day. A custodian, who already had been told that he wasn’t going to be rehired, asked me if he could have his paycheck early. I felt sorry for him especially because he was being let go. You have to understand the reason why he was being let go. This custodian was non-compliance personified. He argued no matter what he was told to do. When he did what he was told, he was miserable and he let you know it. My boss couldn’t stand him and rightly so because he was a terrible employee.

Well, I made the conscious decision to issue the check to him even though I knew I wasn’t doing what I had been told to do by my boss. I did this without asking permission. Of course I went against the directive that had been given to me. The next day was the last day of the school year as well as the last day this custodian was to work. He never came to work!

When I realized he hadn’t reported the custodian was not on the job, I became nervous. I had to report his absence to my boss. When I called my boss to tell of the custodian’s absence, my boss said, “This was the biggest reason why I didn’t want those paychecks issued. I held back all the pay-checks because I didn’t want him to get his. I knew if he got his paycheck he wouldn’t show up for work today. I’m so glad I told you not to issue those paychecks.”

As I was listening to my boss talk the beads of sweat were starting to form on my forehead. When he was finished talking, I then told him the bad news. Speaking slowly, I said, “I did issue him his paycheck.” My boss responded by asking me to come to his office in about ten minutes.

Driving to his office I was thinking…why didn’t I listen to my boss and do as you were told. To summarize the conversation, or more like it, the reaming out I got from my boss, he basically undressed me for not comply-ing with his directive. I felt about one inch tall while he was talking to me because I knew that if I had listened to him, I wouldn’t be sitting there being reprimand.

To make matters worse, I then had to go through the embarrassment of calling the custodian up and telling him he had to pay the school back the $85.00 he had basically “stolen” for a day’s work he didn’t do.

There was one other effect my decision had on me. In my next performance evaluation, my boss cited me for not following administrative directives. I wasn’t happy that there was something negative going into my personnel record but I also knew my boss was right. After this incident, I had to work doubly hard to win back my boss’s respect and trust.

A huge problem in society today is that everyone think they are entitled to a full explanation when they are told to do something. People in authority don’t always have the time or luxury to explain every directive they give. When today’s generation of parents give an explanation when they tell their child to do something, they are making a huge mistake. The next thing that happens is these children go to school and expect their teachers to give them an explanation or a reason for everything they tell their students to do.

If they don’t get their explanation which they think they are entitled to or if they disagree with the explanation, then the student develops a poor attitude and then often become non-compliant. Children and adults who are under the authority of their parents or bosses should realize that it is in their best interest to comply when they are told to do something.

Remember-the person in charge is there for a reason. They have their own valid reasons for telling us what to do and they don’t always have to tell us what those reasons are.

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The Lost Principles (Honesty)

John Bradshaw, the adult child of alcoholic guru, spoke this very telling comment about the truth. “Telling the truth prevents future pain.” Great principle. So why doesn’t everyone tell the truth? The answer is very simple. It takes a tremendous amount of emotional maturity to speak the truth. Often the truth can lead to a confrontation which is something a person who is emotionally immature can’t deal with.

Larry, a dear friend of mine, who unfortunately has passed away, watched me with my daughter one day. Anytime she did or said something that was wrong, I would have a huge reaction and start to yell at her about her behavior. Larry just kept observing this.

Finally he said to me, “Jim, by reacting the way you do, all you’re doing is grooming your daughter to be a good liar.” I finally understood what he meant when my daughter started to bend the truth a little. I would ask her a question and she would poke around verbally to try to find out what I wanted to hear. She did this to prevent my reaction. Emotionally mature people can speak the truth without fear of a reaction from another person, and can handle the truth when it is spoken to them.

In this country, we are so accustomed to dishonesty. One of our most popular presidents was most definitely an emotionally immature liar. In 1998, we watched as President Bill Clinton constantly deny his relationship with Monica Lewinsky. Why? Maybe he had a fear of an entire country and, of course, his wife Hilary’s reaction. When President Clinton continued to deny his affair, things only got worse for him as other women come flying out of the closet pronouncing that they also had affairs with the president. Clinton was also an expert in finding out what people wanted to hear and then he would tell them. People joked that he always agreed with the last person that he spoke with.

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The Lost Principles (Respect)

I had a friend whose son was getting ready to go off to his freshman year of college. We drove him up to his college and we intended to stay up there for three days. During the five hour car ride there, he kept insisting that we leave after we dropped him off. We told him that we were definitely staying over for at least one night. After we moved him in we took him to dinner and walked around campus with him. I watched his body language and I realized that even though he had lobbied for us to leave in the car for five hours, he was glad we stayed.

This story is not unique. Parents today have a terrible time when their children leave home. That’s because they know deep down that they haven’t done enough to prepare their children for independence. Children today are not given enough basic responsibilities as they grow and aren’t prepared for all that lies ahead in their lives. These children haven’t learned enough about survival out in the dog eat dog world. They are emotionally immature.Emotionally mature people have certain characteristics that make it easy to recognize them. What are these characteristics and what does an emotion-ally mature person look like?

Emotionally Mature People are Respectful

People who are emotionally mature is respectful. They don’t live and die by the saying…I’ll give respect when I get respect. They are respectful to everyone regardless of how they are treated. They have an appreciation for the rights and privileges of another person and therefore can accept differences of opinions gracefully.

Emotionally mature people have a built- in set of values that won’t allow them to use their words or actions to be disrespectful to anyone. Emotion-ally mature people enjoy another other people’s successes and are ready to offer praise to others for their accomplishments. Emotionally mature people know how to respond to authority and know how to work with their employers regardless of whether or not they like their boss.

When I was a young teacher, I was very immature emotionally. I had my Masters Degree in administration when I was 25 years old. I thought I had all the answers. I believed every boss I had was an idiot. I wanted to be an administrator so I could be the boss. I applied for one administrative job after another both in and out of the school district where I worked. But no one would hire me. I didn’t realize the reason I wasn’t being hired at the time. However, later I learned why I hadn’t been offered a job. It was because during the interview process, the interviewers who were all administrators themselves and they detected my “know it all” attitude. They were wise enough to know that a “know it all” attitude would not make a good administrator.Since I had tenure as a classroom teacher, I thought I could say and do whatever I wanted. I was rude and discourteous to my supervisor. I actually bullied him. I remember walking into his office one day and seeing him literally panic. To me, it looked like he was about to break down in tears. I felt proud of the power I had to intimidate this man.

My administrator asked me to take an extra class because I had so few kids in my other classes. I said, “I’m not doing it. If you think you can assign it to me, I’ll go to union and register a complaint against you.” He started begging me to do take the class. At this point, my assumption was he had  been told by the principal to get this done and I refused.

I was a nightmare as an employee. I acted like I was the boss. My poor attitude reached incredible heights when I would go out for lunch. I found nothing wrong with having a few drinks and then going back to school to teach children in the afternoon. Luckily, I happened to read a biblical verse that hit me like a bolt of lightning. It said that those who are responsible in the little things will be given the bigger things.

I remember sitting quietly after I read these words. Finally, I understood how wrong my attitude had been. I said to myself, it’s time to grow up. It’s time to be a man. I put myself into my boss’s place and I knew I had put him through a living hell by just dealing with me on a daily basis. I went to my boss very respectfully and apologized for my attitude. I told him that I would do anything to help him. Never will I forget the look of pure relief on his face. Also, I became a contributor at faculty meetings, stopped listening and contributing to rumors and gossip in the faculty room. I did anything that I was asked to do with a nice attitude.

Continuing to apply for administrative positions, I was called for interview with a district superintendent. At the conclusion of the interview, the superintendent asked me for a current reference. I did something that I hadn’t been able to do during any of the previous interviews: I gave him the name of my current supervisor..the man who I had apologized to for my disrespect and who had been on the receiving end of my horrible attitude. I gave my supervisor the power to decide if I was going to become and administrator or not. My supervisor was such a good guy. He only remembered that I apologized to him and that I was now showing him the respect he deserved. What a class act he was. He could have used that opportunity to really put the screws to me. But he didn’t. Instead, he gave me a wonderful reference. I got that job! If I hadn’t grown in my emotional maturity during this time period, I never would have become an administrator; A job that I so desperately wanted.

The next observation that I have made about emotionally mature people is that they are respectful to their parents. I have worked with hundreds of students who were discipline problems. The one thing they all had in common is that they were rude and discourteous to their mother and father. The next observation that I have made about emotionally mature people is that they are respectful to their parents. I have worked with hundreds of students who were discipline problems. The one thing they all had in common is that they were rude and discourteous to their mother and father. These students almost went out of their way to bully their parents and were always telling them to shut up. Most times the students treated their parents like they were second class citizens. People who are emotionally mature have respect for the position that a parent has in their life. They respect their parent’s age and their opinions.

My parents were very tough to deal with. Even as I got older, I always viewed them as somewhat meddling. The bottom line: They were my parents and, if nothing else, I owed them respect. I always have concerns when I observe young men or women treating their parents with disrespect. I know somewhere down the road they will regret their actions. Unfortunately by that time, it may be too late.

Next The Principle of Honesty

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I Fight Authority and Authority Always Wins

As a young boy I always had a fear of authority. I don’t mean the police, I mean adults other than my parents. There was always some authority figure who was correcting me in the community or in school.  Since my father was the owner of a pretty popular bar in a very small town, I was well known in the town, and I knew a lot of adults. If I was involved in some stupid behavior on one side of town my parents found out through the grapevine very quickly.  My parents never questioned the guy who told them about my behavior, regardless of whether or not he was drunk.  They would always question me, because I was the kid, and they believed the adult. It always seemed like I was found out one way or another.

The other thing that never failed was if I was told not to do something and I disobeyed, something bad always happened to me as a result. I don’t mean like getting yelled at by my father; I mean something really bad would happen that was a direct consequence of my rebellious attitude.

As kids we all waited for the summer not because we were going on vacation with our families, but because it was a time to play baseball, drink soda, hang out, and ride our bikes all over town. I always had a pretty decent bike; it was fun to ride. I liked to ride my friends’ bikes sometimes, but for some reason my father had a problem with that. One day (I was 11 at the time) I pulled up in front of the bar riding my friend Johnny’s bike. I put the brakes on with my right foot and the bike didn’t stop. It only stopped when I used my left foot. My father was watching this entire scene.  He said, “Jimmy, I don’t want you riding that bike; it doesn’t have a coaster break.”

I said, “Yeah it does, you just have to use your left foot.” He said, “Are you right handed or left handed?” I said, “Right.” He said, “Well then, you’re always going to use your right foot to brake.  If you’re on a bike that has the brake on the left side, you’ll try to stop using your right foot, and then you won’t be able to switch feet and stop fast enough.”  Well like all kids I heard but I didn’t listen. One warm summer night my friend Johnny pulled up on his bike, and I asked him where my other friend Izzy was.  He told me Izzy was up the block. My bike was in the back and I was too lazy to get it so naturally I asked him if I could use his, and he said yes. I took the bike; rode up the block, saw Izzy and told Izzy to come on down. I turned around and started back down the block at a pretty high speed. No sooner did I start when Izzy’s sister Elizabeth stepped in front of me. I slammed on the brakes, with my right foot of course.  The bike didn’t stop. I crashed into her pushing her up against a brand new car that was parked on the street. Oh, and did I mention that the bike didn’t have any rubber handgrips either? The medal handlebars were dragged across the car denting and scratching the paint finish. The owner came out of the house and asked me where I lived. I pointed down the block. He proceeded to walk with me down the street, through the bar, and upstairs where my mother was sleeping on the couch snoring.  I woke my mother up, and she was shaken to find a strange man standing in the living room. We all had to go downstairs and up the block to take a look at my art work. I was so frightened I didn’t know what to say or do.  I asked my mother, “Are you going to tell dad?”  Of course, I knew she was going to tell my father, but I just thought I’d ask. I was thinking, isn’t anybody going to help me.  I didn’t mean to do it. But, I was told not to ride that bike. I walked into the bar and in his own way one of my father’s drunken customers tried to comfort me. Dinny O’Rourke one of my father’s best customers Dinny was a four packs of cigarettes a day man, a guy who spent all day in the bar paying my father’s bills. We always knew when he was there because his asthmatic cough filled the place with a lot of noise and a lot of germs. He said, “Hey Jim, are you all right?” I said in a quivering voice, “Yeah.” He said, “Good, as long as you and the girl are all right, don’t worry about anything. Then he said with all of his drunken bravado, “You should have told me what was going on with that guy when he came  through here to tell your mom what happened.   I would have thrown him the hell out.”  I felt like asking him if there was any room at his house where I could stay for a while.

I crawled upstairs and went to bed. I got up early the next morning and slithered out of the house before my father woke up.  I went up the street and met up with Izzy and asked him how his sister was.  He said she was fine. I sat there with him and talked with him about how I knew I had to go home and deal with my dad. He said he would go with me. I walked into the bar, my father was in the back kitchen, and I made a made dash for the upstairs door. Izzy followed me, and as he was getting ready to close the door a voice cried out, “HEY ISRAEL, IS JIMMY WITH YOU?” Jimmy, that’s what he always called me when things weren’t going too well. I poked my head out and said, “Hi dad.” He said “Come here.” I slowly walked to the back and stood before the judgment seat of God. Well not really, but that’s what it felt like. He asked me the definitive question. “Did I tell you not to ride that bike?” I said, “Yes.”  He said, “So why did you ride it?”  I couldn’t come up with an answer. You know, he didn’t even care about the car that I wrecked.  He didn’t even mention it. He was really upset with me because I didn’t listen to him. I disobeyed. It destroyed his trust in me. He told me to go upstairs; I was put into solitary confinement. Izzy said to me, “I guess I better go home.”

This was the first time I was grounded. There wasn’t much to do up there, but I made due. I watched TV and spent a lot of time being ignored by my parents. They didn’t disappoint me either.  They were the experts at the silent treatment and withholding a parent’s love when things went wrong. I used to think as I got older that they wrote the book on conditional love. After about two days of this I got a call from my grandmother, my father’s mom. I was so happy to hear from her. She asked me if I would come over to her house and help her clean up the backyard. I figured, well it’s my dad’s mother He would want me to help her. I didn’t mention to her I was grounded, I didn’t ask for permission from my dad to go; I just left the house. Another mistake.

I rode my bike over to my grandmother’s house. She was about 90 years old, and partly blind. She moved around pretty well though. She had fallen down a long flight of stairs about a year earlier, just dusted herself off, and basically walked away without a scratch. She was a tough bird – definitely from strong stock. As I was cleaning her yard that day, I stepped on one of the broken pickets from her fence that was on the grass.  I stepped right on a nail that was sticking out of the picket. The nail was rusty. It only punctured my foot. I checked my foot and found no blood; I figured that was a good thing. I rode my bike home and immediately started to have some trouble walking. I quickly got to the point where I couldn’t walk at all. I didn’t tell my parents, because I was petrified of getting in trouble for leaving the house. I woke up the next morning and still didn’t tell my parents.  I sat around all day because of how much my foot hurt.  I went to bed early and was in a lot of pain, and I mean a lot. I was moaning. My mother came into my room very late at night and found me laying there crying and really scared. She asked me what was wrong. I told her I stepped on a nail at Gram’s the day before and that my foot really hurt. She pulled the covers off of me and there were red stripes going up my leg. I didn’t know it, but I had blood poisoning.

You have to understand that everyone in town was one of my father’s drinking buddies including Dr. Downs, the town doctor. Very early the next morning my father went over to get him. The only worry was whether or not he was going to be sober. Well he was hung-over, good enough; my father drove him over to the house. He came up the back door with his black bag and with his son, a car mechanic. To me he looked like Jack the Ripper. He took one look at my foot and said, “First.” What did that mean? Then, he washed his hands in the kitchen sink using dish detergent. He told my mother to have me lay flat out on the kitchen table; all I could think of was for what. My mother was at the top of the table and my sister was at my side. My sister said to me, “Remember Bonanza the other night, when Little Joe was shot with an arrow and Hoss had to pull it out.” I said, “Yeah what about it.” She said, “Well before Hoss pulled the arrow out he gave Joe a big stick to bite on.” She handed me a dish cloth and said, “Use this.” I dropped it on the floor.

My mother said to the doctor “What are you going to do.” He said, “I’m going to cut his foot open.” That didn’t seem to upset her at all. He pulled out a spray can and started to spray my foot. My mom said, “What’s that.” He said, “Ethyl-chloride.” My mind flashed back to all the times I had watched the Mets on TV.  I remembered how  when one of the players was hit with the ball the team trainer would come out and spray the player’s hand or arm with ethyl-chloride. It didn’t take the pain away it just held down the swelling and allowed the guy to stay in the game. I thought Ethyl-chloride that’s not going to help, he’s going to cut open my foot, and this is the best he’s got. He pulled the scalpel out of his bag and held it like he was getting ready to cut into a piece of steak and started to dig that thing into the ball of my foot. I started to scream like hell. My mom picked the dish cloth up off the floor and shoved it into my mouth to hold down the noise until Dr. Mengela was done. He wrapped up my foot with a gauze bandage collected $10.00 and left.  I still don’t know why he brought his son. Maybe he was worried my father’s car was going to break down on the way to our house. I forgot to mention that bike problem that I had was put on the back burner for a while, the bottom line was my father took all the money I earned working for my grandmother to help pay for the damage I had done to the car. Not a bad lesson and something that needs to happen more today if there’s any hope for our children to respond correctly to authority.

John Mellencamp’s lyrics in his song “The Authority Song” could never be truer. The chorus of the song goes like this, “I fight authority and authority always wins.” I fought authority, I didn’t listen to my dad, and it almost cost me my leg and maybe even my life, and in the final analysis authority won. Sometimes we think we have a choice when in reality we don’t. Sometimes, even adults think they have a choice about how they respond to authority in their in lives. Often we think these choices are small and they don’t matter, but they really do.

There is a true story about a man who went to his closet one day and had to make what he perceived was a small a decision, do I wear a regular necktie or a clip on tie. He made the choice to wear the regular necktie. He left the house and began to drive to work, and immediately got a call on his CB radio. You see the guy was a police officer. There was a robbery in a store in his area. He drove to the store to investigate and found the perpetrator still in the store. The police officer ended up in a fight with the guy, and was strangled with his own necktie. What do you think the dress code was for police officers? A clip on tie was standard. This man chose to violate authority when he decided to wear a regular necktie to work that morning. The ends result in 15 minutes it cost him his life. He made a seemingly small choice which had astronomical consequence.

Authority is designed to help and protect us.  Somebody has to be in charge. In a family it’s the parents, in society it’s the police and the government, and on the job it’s our boss. We can fight authority if we want but, as the lyrics to Mellencamp’s song go, “I Fight Authority and Authority Always Wins.”  There is no doubt that when we fight authority it is only a matter of time before someone loses.

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The Baby Boomers: From Black and White To Color

Before the 1960’s, most people watched television in black and white.  Looking back at what society was like 50 years ago, it seems like people looked at life in terms of black and white also.  Things were either right or they were wrong.  There wasn’t too much in between. Some of the things we viewed as wrong were disrespectful children, smoking pot, and sex before marriage.  Some of the things society viewed as right were children not talking back to their parents or teachers and conservative dress.  If you want to look back and see exactly what society viewed as right versus wrong, just watch some retro television and you’ll get the picture.

After WWII a new kind of generation was born in the United States. Because of the after effects of the War the United States experienced an economical boom, which resulted in high income jobs, (relevant to the time in history) with unemployment rates being almost non-existent. Education was also enhanced by the government with universities and colleges prompting people to get a college degree. Education was cheap, and was readily available. In fact, many took college courses to open up higher paying job opportunities and because of this lifestyle many people became financially secure.  This financial freedom allowed people have more children and there was a significant increase in birth rates. People who were born during this period are called baby boomers and were born between the years of 1946-1964.

To me it seems like things really changed during this generation. Dr Spock came along, and his book became a child rearing bible for many people.  Parents changed their approach to raising their children.  It started to become in vogue for parents to be less authoritarian and more liberal in terms of discipline. The result; the baby boomers themselves took this to an extreme when they began to have children of their own. They took this more liberal mentality and kicked it up a huge notch.  Baby boomer parents believed that their children had the right to decide everything.  This included when they got fed, what they wanted to eat, what they wanted to wear, and what they wanted to say and do and it became the idea that at three years old children were asked to do things rather than being told.

For baby boomer children things were no longer black and white.  Nothing was totally wrong anymore, and everything was a combination of colors.  Parents couldn’t establish rules in black and white because it might hurt their child’s self esteem and kids began to feel good about who they were becoming for no apparent reason.  The idea came into popularity that parents have to “respect” their children.  The concept of respect is wonderful, but it was taken to a ridiculous extreme.  Respect for children came to mean allowing them to say and do anything they wanted.  Baby boomer children no longer learned self control in words and actions.  This actually resulted in them not showing respect for anyone else but themselves.   Basically, baby boomer children became extremely selfish, self-indulgent, arrogant, and demanding.  Everything was about feeling good no matter what the cost. The end result, baby boomers have the highest debt and the poorest health with largest waistlines. The way they deal with relationships is if you don’t agree with me I am not talking to you and that means if we are married or not with the divorce rate being higher than what is reported. The research points to the fact that baby boomers get divorced later in their marriage. Their parents stayed together at all cost while the boomers hung on until their kids were grown.

We are now dealing with the children of baby boomers. They are being referred to as the millennial generation. Only time will tell what their problems will be.  One thing that seems for sure, that the days of right and wrong and black and white are gone forever.

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How to Avoid Confrontations with Problem Students in Front of Your Class

Let’s face it. No one likes a confrontation. Often, confrontations come out of the blue, and we can find ourselves in a very uncomfortable position where we need to quickly find the right words to defend ourselves. I’ve been a teacher since 1977, and I have experienced my fair share of unpleasant confrontations with students, parents, teachers, and even administrators. But the most difficult confrontations to deal with are those that occur in front of your class. These confrontations are not taking place out in the hallway between just the student and you as the teacher. They occur in plain view of every student in the room, and your students become an audience watching a drama unfold that has the potential to damage your future ability to teach in that classroom.

Here is a typical scenario where a confrontation is occurring in the classroom between you as a teacher and one of your students. You are in the middle of teaching a lesson at the high school level. One of your students walks in 15 minutes late. You say to the student, “Why are you late?” The student answers, “Don’t worry about it. It’s none of your business.” You quickly become angry and say, “It is my business because you are interrupting my class, and I don’t even want you here right now. Go get a pass from the office and then come back.” The student answers, “I’m not going anywhere.” The student then plops down at a desk.

At this point, you are in a catch 22 situation. If you let the student just stay in the room, you, by default, will communicate to that student and every other student in the class that they can get away with coming in late to the class. You will also lose the respect of your students because you put yourself on the battlefield and you couldn’t get off gracefully. On the other hand, if you continue demanding that the student leave, you will lose because the student has already made the decision to stay. You end up looking foolish either way.

The appropriate response in this scenario is the following. The student walks into the class 15 minutes late. The entire class is watching and looking at you to see your reaction. You let the student walk to his/her seat and sit down. You look at the student and then at the rest of the class and say, “I know he/she walked in late. And you’re all probably wondering what I’m going to do about it. The truth is I haven’t decided yet what I’m going to do about it. I’ll talk to him/her later and let him/her know the consequence. Right now, let’s get back to the lesson.” Using this technique will work, but it still is not the ideal way to avoid a confrontation in front of your class because you are really operating out of a crisis mode, and that becomes very tricky.

A much better approach is for you to learn techniques and strategies to prevent confrontations from occurring in the first place. This requires a proactive rather than a reactive approach to classroom management. Early in the school year you will identify the students that have the potential to be confrontational and cause disruptions in the classroom. Once you have identified potentially confrontational students, you must take proactive steps to avoid future misery.

A very effective strategy you can use to avoid confrontations is to develop positive relationships with these students. There are many ways to accomplish this. You must commit to making the time to have positive conversations with these students either before class starts, in the cafeteria, during passing time in the hallway, or even during school events that take place after regular school hours. But positive relationships are not built through one conversation. Here are some steps you can take. First, make a commitment to spend 3 uninterrupted minutes of your time each day for 8 to 10 days in a conversation with that student where you are talking about the student’s interests outside of academics. Show a sincere interest in any extracurricular activities the student is involved in. Ask the student about plans for college or job opportunities. You may want to share you own interests with the student as well to allow the student to view you as a whole person with many facets rather than just as a teacher. During this time, do not correct the student or try to persuade the student to change classroom behavior. This daily conversation must go on for a minimum of 8 to 10 days in a row, so that the student begins to develop a trust in the relationship.

There are other proactive strategies you as the teacher can use everyday to help you avoid confrontations in the classroom. You should stand at the entrance to your room and smile and say hello, good morning, or good afternoon to each and every student as he/she enters the room. You need to become more aware of keeping your facial expressions as well as the tone of your voice neutral. Learn not to roll your eyes, groan or sigh. Students who are confrontational have a sixth sense and can pick up negative energy from their teachers.

Another effective strategy you should use to avoid confrontations is to ignore some of the negative comments students make. You need to understand that when a student makes negative comments, the goal of that student is probably to start a confrontation with you. Therefore, the best approach is for you not to take the bait. When a student says in front of the whole class, “This class sucks,” you could say, “It might, but I still have to teach it to you.” When a student says, “I hate this class, you are the most boring teacher in the world,” you might respond, “You know, you may hate it, but other students may like it, so I have to keep teaching.” When a student yells out, “Whoever told you that you can teach,” you could answer, “That’s an interesting opinion. I’ll talk to you about that after class.”

Probably the most powerful tool a teacher can use to prevent confrontations is to be a fair person in the classroom. Many teachers develop the habit of showing favoritism in their classroom. When particular students are very well-behaved, it can become very difficult for teachers who like these students so much to mete out the same consequences to them that they impose on their most difficult and confrontational students. Students who are confrontational are always looking for a reason to start trouble with a teacher. Once they detect that a fellow student was let off the hook by a teacher for the same behavior that he/she was held accountable for, they will believe they have been treated unfairly and

then their behavior will become even more unmanageable and confrontational. Therefore, teachers must discipline their best behaved students in the same manner that they discipline their most difficult students. When everyone in the classroom observes the teacher being fair and not using favoritism, they will all develop greater trust and respect for the teacher, and that will result in fewer confrontations.