I’ve come to believe that there’s a Secret Society that we, as teachers, are completely oblivious to. There are criteria for entry into this society:
1.You must be of student age.
2.You must love conflict, debate and the art of defiance.
3.You must learn the motto “You can’t make me, you’re not my mother!” in several languages and tones.
4.You don’t talk about Fight Club – I mean the “Make Me Club”!
The Make Me Club (MMC) is well established and has members in your school … in your classroom. They invoke serious negative emotional reactions from us like no other cohort. Their craft is finely honed to be ready for any reaction, no matter how considered, clever, insightful or deeply embedded in best practice it may be.
So what to do? Well, sometimes the best response is no (or almost no) response at all.
You see, what motivates members of MMC member is not victory. They enter fights, conflicts and arguments with absolutely no intention to win. We, regrettably, are the fools who think we are in a battle. MMC members are simply in it for the sport.
Think of it as a tennis match. You provide instruction to sit down and commence work (first serve), which the member duly and actively defies – fault. Our second serve is the provision of a learning task at which point the MMC member smashes it back over the net with the well rehearsed motto “You can’t make me do this, you’re not my mother!”
There are two parts about the motto that are funny. Firstly, there’s an assumption by the MMC member that we will believe that their mothers actually CAN make them – we know they can’t! The second funny part (which is more ironic than ha-ha) is that they are absolutely right. They can’t be made to complete that learning task. They know it an we know it.
And still, our default response is to bash the ball back over the net again with a swift “Wanna bet – you’ll be inside at recess until that’s done.” So the rally begins …
Student – “I don’t care I’m still not doing it.”
Teacher – “Well then perhaps you’ll be in at lunchtime.”
Student – “So what. Lunch at this stupid school is boring anyway.”
Teacher – “Well, I might just have to call your mother about this behaviour.”
Student – “Go for it. She thinks you’re an idiot too. She said so at dinner last night.”
Game …. Set …. Match!
It’s time to get out of the tennis matches. MMC members love power struggles so depriving them of such battles is critical training for them. Simply and calmly reinforce the expectation, turn on your heel and depart. It’s a subtle shift in language, without reduction of the expectation, to say “You’re right. I can’t make you. But I care about your learning enough to give you the extra time at recess if you need it.” Then immediately turn your attention to another student. Ace!
The benefits of success with MMC students are enormous. Not only are you setting them up to exceed expectations, but you are also significantly reducing your own stress levels … as MMC members stress us out, big time. It will feel like the best victory that you never had!
THE CHEAT SHEET
Don’t have time to absorb the whole article today? Here’s the big points …
1) Leave power struggles.
2) Avoid tennis match conversations.
3) Change your language but not the expectation.
4) Your emotions will betray you.
5) Minimise your response.
AITSL STANDARDS FOR TEACHERS … and you addressed them by reading!
The Big One
4.3 Manage challenging behaviour.
But also …
1.5 Differentiate teaching to meet the specific learning needs of students across the full range of abilities
3.1 Establish challenging learning goals.
3.5 Use effective classroom communication
4.1 Support student participation