Hi and welcome back to Attention-ology for K – 5 Teachers!
Do you know anyone who has trouble saying “No” to children? I do. Call me “old school” but I’ve found myself cringing at the apologetic manner of some teachers and parents I’ve worked with when they’ve needed to prohibit certain student behaviors – when they’ve needed to say “No.”
The word “No” doesn’t seem to be used much in school these days and for the most part, I agree with educators who think that’s probably a good thing. Most “schools of thought” – no pun intended – choose POSITIVE approaches to teaching over the use of language and practices that have a negative tone. “No” is clearly in the negative zone.
BUT, I’ve seen “No” work wonders in school, especially in grades 3 – 5 when it’s used sparingly and with a clever twist.
Here’s an attention-getting trick I created that tells students to NOT do something. This trick doesn’t use the word “No” but it says “No.” It’s a theatrical trick but you don’t have to have played Broadway or performed on any stage other than in your instructional setting to pull it off…
The Complaint Line Isn’t Open! – Here’s how it works: When a few students (predictably) moan at my mention of homework at the close of a day with them, I casually say this phrase: “Oh, I’m sorry, the Complaint Line isn’t open.” As I say the phrase I hold my hand to an ear as if I’m holding a phone. I say the phrase with a strong voice and use a slightly exaggerated gesture to bring the imaginary phone to my ear. Students enjoy the drama; they laugh and as they are engaged by my attention-getting trick, they lose their negativity.
After my little bit of telephone theater I give the class timely instructions. For example, I might say, “My directions were clear,” and I re-state the directions or I say, “You’re expected to complete your homework assignments on time. Please make sure that happens between now and tomorrow.”
This trick works every time I use it in school and to be honest, I’ve also used it successfully with my own child at home. You have to be quick about the trick and when you are, children know that you’ve gained the upper hand, at least for the moment!
Speaking of telephones, imaginary and real and of teaching and parenting, I recently read about a mother who insisted that the only way her kids will talk with her when they’re not actually with her is by texting. She said that it’s much more difficult for her to text than it is to speak on her cell phone, but she seemed resigned to catering to her children’s demands. It’s cool to keep up with the latest technology but it’s also good to know how to say, “No.”
Remember, you don’t need to be a magician to work magic in instructional settings!
Talk with you next week,
Barbara ♥ The Lovable Poet