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Teenagers are like soap

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I read this in a magazine recently:

Think of a teenager as a wet bar of soap. If your contact is too light, it will slip out. If you apply too much pressure, it will do the same.

While this was intended as parenting advice, it is also good classroom management advice. I've taught both middle and high school and while middle school often gets the bad rap, managing high school classes seems to be especially tricky business. It often appears that teachers struggling with classroom management falls under one of these two camps.

Trying to come in too authoritarian doesn't go over well. Coming in with a long list of rules and making it clear that they're not going to get away with anything doesn't go over well. With these teachers, the kids start to enjoy making them angry.

The other side is the teacher that too much on trying to have a good relationship with the kids. This may sometimes come from an attempt to show the kids they care, but more often the kids take too much advantage of this teacher and don't respect them at all. These teachers try to address all issues too casually, and the kids know there aren't ever going to be real consequences.

The trick is finding a cautious balance between the two. Find a few (2-4) issues that are important to you and create clear policies with them. Enforce them every time, for every kid. Don't make a huge deal out of everything. The more often that a tactic (the talk in the hallway, the whole class guilt lecture, etc.) the less effective it became. Kids like and respect the teacher that seems approachable and express their personality while also holding them to high standards. Not too light, and not too strong of a hold.

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