“When a man’s ways are pleasing to the LORD, he makes even his enemies live at peace with him.” – Proverbs 16:7 NIV
Without fail I noticed annually that the month of March and this point of the school year is a very difficult, trying and arduous time for everyone, especially the classroom teacher. March is usually the month where there are no holidays scheduled and includes 4 weeks of unadulterated education! Wooohoooooo! Now is a good time to check and see how much sick leave is available(lol). I always try to keep in the back of my mind the reality of this time of year understanding how I feel and my emotional/physical guage of energy and enthusiasm so I can work wisely and remain effective and productive with what I seek to accomplish in managing my classroom and maintaining order. One question I have learned to ask teachers who take the Cooperative Discipline workshops that usually take place during this time in the school year is would you rather have power or influence over your students? I remind them that to have power would suggest that I have some sort of control over them. Experience teaches me, at no time, will I ever have power over a student to make them do anything. Ultimately, students either choose to behave or choose to misbehave, but we do not have power to make them behave.
We do, however, have the power, or ability, to influence a student’s choice, but ultimately the choice is made by the student. For example, the same student that has a hard time remaining seated in class, or standing still, does not have that problem when they are standing in line at McDonald’s or in a line at the movie theatre, or amusement park. They choose to stay in place because they know there is a consequence for not remaining still and in place. There are students currently in your classroom who make appropriate choices to behave in other areas of the school community, including with other teachers, that make you wonder why they are not doing it in your room. Whatever the reason, understand at that moment they are choosing appropriate behavior somewhere which means they can do the same in your room. When I was outside the classroom, I worked with a student from 9th to 12th grade who made the choice to not perform adequately in school in an attempt to try to influence her parents getting back together. When she was unsuccessful she then decided to continue in order to be able to live with dad instead of mom. Ultimately, she was unsuccessful and eventually was placed in an alternative setting, but how often are we aware of why a student will choose to not cooperate before the misbehavior occurs?
Since student misconduct is a choice of the student, my only mission then is not to make them behave through some method of control, but to use strategies of influence that consistently will motivate students to make consistent positive choices to be productive and positive within the classroom. The ability to influence is power and a great strategy when used properly and positively to help and empower students to be productive and positive consistently to the fullest of their potential.
May God help you and bless you to use the gift of influence within you to empower your students in becoming positive productive citizens as you strive to teach, influence and inspire learning.