In Thinkfinity Trainings have you faced a challenging personality and stretched to meet their needs without disrupting the course? How do you handle challenging behaviors?
Here are a few types you might have met in your trainings.
Tell me your challenge and how you have met it head on.
I think I have met every single one of these people in my trainings. For me, the one key to handling all of these different types is staying cool and calm, maintaining a sense of humor and not letting any one of them get under my skin.
Disruptive Questioner: Patience - Patience - Patience. I often ask this person to "hold that thought" if I know the question is going to be answered with information I haven't gotten to yet. I have also asked for this person to wait for a break or for when the teachers will be busy with a hands on task and I'll come speak one-on-one to answer anything that requires further clarification. This usually works, the patient, one on one discussion.
Know-it-all: I don't see this too much in Thinkfinity trainings because they are so topic specific. When I have a strong dominant personality in the room, I usually just say thanks for the input and then ask for additional input from the class. If Know-it-all has something to contribute, lets see if anyone else does too. This seems to put everyone back on an even playing field. If the information coming from the know-it-all is incorrect I treat it the same as any other student giving the wrong information. Close but let's clarify for accuracy.
Negative Personality: This is my most common problem. Teachers who feel overwhelmed, overburdened and reject what I'm offering out of hand because they assume I'm here to tell them How to Teach. I'm usually pretty good at smiling, listening but not feeding into it and moving right along with my training without giving this person too much of a spotlight. I've heard pretty much every argument against learning something new and have the response ready. However, occasionally when I have no response I just don't respond. There are some people that will not be open to what I'm teaching, no matter what I say. I understand this, accept it, don't take it personally and don't waste time and energy trying to convert. I let this person sit and be negative so long as it doesn't spill over and ruin it for anyone else in the room. If it did, I would have no problem speaking privately to the person.
Story Teller: After a couple of stories I'd just smile, kindly interrupt and say "Let's hear from someone else" That usually does the trick.
Jokester - This is one I rarely see.
Reluctant Learner: This goes hand in hand with Negative Personality. I would say that the majority of the negativity I see in my trainings comes from a person who feels forced to come to the training. I just go into every training knowing that this person will be there. This person is almost always there. Again, I don't take it personally, I'm not their best friend or their mother or their boss. If they refuse to engage, I can only do so much. I make a point to highlight activities and lessons that speak directly to this person's curriculum or experiences. I ask other teachers to share their stories and ideas that also speak directly to this person's classroom needs. By actively engaging everyone else the reluctant learners usually go quiet and at least listen.
As I said - to me the key is genuine patience and understanding that learners are learners, no matter what age and some students are just going to require more investment on our part than others.
Are you familiar with Assertive Discipline? It's been around since the 70's but I found it to be extremely effective in managing my HS classes and I understand it is equally effective on the elementary and middle levels as well.
Basically, it involves setting up four or five classroom rules that you need to have happen so you can teach and your students can learn. You also establish an escalating hierarchy of rewards for following them and consequences for not following them. These are reviewed and discussed with the class and then posted as a reminder.
It's amazing how much frustration is taken out of the day when you can say to a disruptive student, "Johnny, one of our class rules is to listen when another is speaking. This is a warning (or reminder) to please not interrupt Sally while she is speaking." If Johnny continues to disrupt Sally or anyone else, the next step might be to say, "Johnny, I reminded you earlier not to interrupt Sally. You have chosen to do so anyway. Now you will need to spend the first 5 minutes of your recess with me here in the classroom."
Honestly, I can only remember a handful of times over the years when a student reached the max consequence or that I needed to raise my voice to maintain discipline after I implemented this system. And surprisingly, one of the favorite rewards of my seniors was a refrigerator note home commending them for appropriate behavior. (It was often good for the use of the family car, or a "get out of jail free card" over the weekend from Moms who loved the nostalgic memories of kindergarten days and actually did post it on their refrigerators, lol.)
There is a lot of good information on this on the net. Dr. Mac's Behavior Management.com article on Assertive Discipline is a good place to start if you find this of interest.
Of course, Assertive Discipline is not without its critics. There are those who feel that rules should be followed because it is the right thing to do and not because of any rewards or consequences emanating from them. As educators, I think it important that we explain the whys of rules and that there are always rewards and consequences related to them, whether tangible or not. If not running a red light helps keep me out of an accident, that's plenty reward for me. And I really don't want to pay a fine for the moving violation if I do, either.
Trite, but true: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. I use two prevention techniques.
1) By utilizing pre-session needs assessment tools such as surveys and quick, simple to complete questionnaires, or just talking about needs/attitudes with the group organizer, I am better prepared to address those needs and so the session content itself keeps many of the problems that might have surfaced at bay at least a little bit more.
2) While I don't call it "Rules of the Road" with adult learners, I do make it clear what is expected of participants in the introduction to the session and what they should expect of me, all said with a smile of course. It may start off with an "I'm excited to share an amazing resource with you today, but to make sure I cover everything that will be of interest to you, I need your help and cooperation." Then comes the list, including: I'll be happy to answer any questions you have along the way. If your question will be addressed at another point in the session, I'll let you know that and come back to it when we get there. If you are in a unique situation and would like to discuss, I'm available during breaks and after the session; I know every one of you here has a lot to offer to this session, so I would like, at some point during it, to hear from each of you so that we all can learn from each other, etc. etc.
If I know that there are reluctant learners in the group, I always end with the acknowledgment that I realize some of them are there because they have to be, sympathize, and then express an earnest belief that there will be some things they will find of value, and if they don't they should talk to me after the session about what I can do to make it better the next time for someone else in their position. (It keeps them busy enough during the session thinking about how they are going to tell me off at the end to keep their active disgruntlement to a minimum. p.s. In almost all cases, by the time the end comes, all they are complaining about is the person who put them in there, and not the session itself. Score one for the good guys!