Arguing Is Normal, Isn’t It?

Most students argue. It’s a fact of life. So it shouldn’t be a concern when our students argue with us. Or should it?

Arguing is normal

Great teachers don’t have arguers
Have you ever noticed how you can walk into a classroom and hear the teacher talking, and the students being quiet? They are given directions, and nobody challenges the assignment. What is it that makes that happen?

One of the keys to keeping students quiet is to present the concept that every action is the result of a choice. Based on some customer service books I read last summer, I began the year with a sign at the entrance and front of the room. The sign said simply “CHOOSE YOUR ATTITUDE” and also had happy face and a sad face signs underneath. My counselors came in and asked me to email them the signs and they are hanging in the front office of the school now too!

Great teachers don’t accept excuses
Excuses are often a student’s way of asking for help. When we accept an excuse, we enable students to remain helpless. I don’t give answers away most of the time. “What’s the fingering for that note?” “I don’t know, don’t you have a fingering chart?” They want to be lazy. We want to be lazy. We need to redirect that laziness. Provide the incentive to be industrious. The less you enable their excuses, the less frequently they will happen.

Great teachers don’t argue
Arguing never works. Ever. Don’t do it.

About Joel Wagner 522 Articles
Joel Wagner (@sywtt) began teaching band in 2002. Though he had a lot of information, his classes were out of control. He found himself tired, frustrated, disrespected by students, lonely, and on the brink of quitting. He had had enough. He resigned from his school district right before spring break of his second year and made it his personal mission to learn to be a great teacher. So You Want To Teach? is the ongoing story of that quest for educational excellence.

1 Comment on Arguing Is Normal, Isn’t It?

  1. This is what I do: If one of my students even tries to argue with me, I just say, “I will not argue with a child. Somebody has to be in charge and that’s what I’m paid to do. You may write me a letter to explain what it is you’re not happy about, but I can’t use class time to argue.” They are usually ok with the opportunity to write a letter, and many forget about it by the end of the day. (These are second graders, so they are mostly agreeable with this arrangement.)

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