“A gentleman would not offend me and someone who is not a gentleman cannot offend me.”
– Frederick Douglass
Remembering that students who exhibit power behavior will only stop on their own terms or continue with the misbehavior, some examples of passive power behavior would be moving extremely slow in compliance with a directive or request. This could also include agreeing to cooperate and then not following through. Active power behavior would include talking back or being argumentative (lawyer syndrome) when being corrected for misconduct.
Author Dr. Linda Albert offers insight from suggested origins of the source of power behavior associated with changes in relationships in society with regard to who was viewed as in charge. Lack of effective parent modeling of authority may give a false sense of who’s in charge in the home, as well as in society. A student who goes home and cares for siblings, or for themselves, may have a different disposition than other students who aren’t in charge when they’re not at school. Also, Dr. Linda Albert cites the Human Potential Movement, or personal growth trend of the 1960’s that communicated to individuals as one being powerful to effect change through the use of their personal power. Through how this may be interpreted by the student, it is suggested by Dr. Albert they may seek to use their power to gain interpersonal power over others instead of themselves. A student who is more confident, self-aware and unafraid to voice their opinion may be seen as aggressive or hostile, or is it that they are just immature in using the natural gift to lead they possess?
The legitimate need to have autonomy as a student as they transition from childhood through adolescence, however, should help us to see the silver lining of their desire to assert themselves with their natural inclination to be a leader (think for themselves and control their own lives) and demonstrate independence which actually begins back at the age of 2. Understanding their legitimate need to take charge, be a leader and have a sense of control should cause me to consider how to help them satisfy this need in a way that allows them to consistently make positive choices that help them feel capable, connected and contributing in the classroom.
The principles of prevention and graceful exit interventions are as follows:
Principles of Prevention for Power Behavior
- Allow voice and choice (how can they have a say in your classroom)
- Grant legitimate power (where can we allow them opportunity to make use of their ability to lead and be out front)
- Delegate responsibility (can they be responsible to assist in class or taught how to)
- Acknowledge the student’s power (instead of lengthy arguments and debates acknowledge what you can’t make them do and what you would want them to do)
- Remove the audience (Redirect the class to get attention off of you and the student)
- Table the matter(after removing the audience table the matter at a time convenient for you and student)
- Schedule a conference (set up a time to talk constructively without intense emotions of the power struggle)
- Use a fogging technique (say something that disorients the student and dissolves the power struggle i.e., ‘I am not telling you to do the work I would just like it completed by the end of class. Then walk away.)
- Agree with the student (‘you’re right I am pressed. Understanding this, I would like for you to resolve this current conflict of not being on task.’ Then walk away.)
- Change the subject
- State both viewpoints (‘To you this class is stupid, but to me it’s important that you succeed in my class.)
- Refuse responsibility (When you’re blamed for something, state, ‘I cannot take responsibility for that.’ Restate expectation calmly, gently with firmness, and walk away.)
- Dodge Irrelevant Issues
- Deliver a closing statement (‘Thank you for sharing.’)
- Call the student’s bluff (Clipboard and pen to document their expressed thoughts restating what they’ve communicated as documentation)
- Take a teacher time-out ‘I cannot continue this conversation and will take a time-out from it.’ I will revisit this with you later.’)
May God help you and bless you with wisdom, patience and insight on how to effectively confront and redirect power behavior that influences an increase in student self-efficacy so you can teach, influence and inspire learning.