It was a great day when I discovered 4 magic words that just seem to dissolve tension and eliminate at least half of the arguments in my classroom.
And those words are: “You’re not in trouble.”
Students can be so defensive, can’t they? (and let’s be honest, we can be, too, right? But that’s another story.) Anyhow, we’ve all seen it happen. We try to correct a student – or even just give them some instruction, and they jump to the conclusion that we’re “yelling” at them or that they’re in trouble.
But sometimes just saying those 4 simple words “you’re not in trouble” is all that’s needed to diffuse the situation and get everyone back on track.
A Case in Point
I used this phrase all the time when I was teaching, but I was reminded of its power just the other day when I was teaching 6th graders at church.
This class has that one student whose goal is to cause as many disruptions as possible. And, of course, will correct you as the teacher when you ask him to be quiet but not the person behind him. You know the type.
The start of class included many incidents of his being unnecessarily disruptive and my asking him to stop followed by some form of defensive response from him. And of course the defense was way more loud and boisterous than necessary so as to cause even more distractions.
Then the lesson started & his distractions continued. So I pulled out the magic words, “So-and-so, you’re not in trouble, but you’re causing distractions. Please sit in the back. Thanks.”
And the incredible result? No “why are you picking on me?” No “but Alex is talking too!” No, “but that’s not fair!” I might’ve had to put on my “I’m serious” face, but he got up and moved to the back without causing any more incidents.
Point for the magic words.
So the next time Camden gets all defensive when you’re trying to tell him to stop talking and get back to work, just say something like, “Camden, you’re not in trouble. I just need you to get back to work. Thanks.” And see what happens.
I’m not saying it works 100% of the time, but I am telling you it will make a huge difference. Just be sure to couple it with a calm tone and pleasant disposition and wait for the magic to happen.
Have you ever used the phrase, “you’re not in trouble” in your classroom? What else have you found helps ease your students’ tension?
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