Kids’ personalities and habits from their upbringing will naturally come out in lessons.
It might not be the best use of your energy to try to manage those behaviors unless they’re disrupting other students.
If you’re concerned about a student who is not necessarily disruptive, but seems unengaged, check in with the parent to hear their thoughts on how their child is spending lesson time.
Anna: Hi. I had commented on the forum earlier today. But I’m having the behavior issues, same thing, but with my transfer students, the ones that were more chatty. And the other day this kid, no joke, four times in a row thought it was hilarious to put my headphones on under his headphones and he’s sitting there with two pairs of headphones and pushing all the buttons. And he’s been in group before, a couple months, and I’ve had chats with his mom, his mom’s super strict, like, “Okay, we need to focus here.” And he’s not the only one. But it’s just like how do I rein them back in? Because they want me to be still the cool teacher. And there were certain personalities that were just not quite as serious, and so we were just a little more laid back in private lesson. But group, I can’t stand there and listen to them goof off. And, I don’t know how to, short of threatening them, which I don’t want to, get back to my stricter self. Because they know me too well.
Daniel: Okay. So, I like this. Sometimes it just works out this way, but I have some groups where it’s all five, six, and seven-year-olds. And I’ll tell you, those are not my favorite times of the week. I’ve been doing this a while, there are still some tough groups. And sometimes I will even go to the point of breaking up a group mid-semester because I’m just not having a good time in it. And I will take those six-year-olds, swap in a few 10-year-olds, and swap those kids out to another group full of older kids where that mix can be just a little bit more conducive to … Because it’s just the case people. Those younger kids are just more needy. They think they need more of your attention. And there’s really no way around it. It requires more emotional energy. It just takes a lot more patience. And so I think it might be helpful to see what that looks like first off. But then to actually answer your question, Anna, are you asking what would I do in the situation that kid was doing that? Or am I missing … were you asking a higher level question?
Anna: What should I do to manage them and what would you do? I’m feeling you would be stricter than I would be. But it’s getting out of hand and I need to figure out how to tell them this is … well, I’ve told them that’s not how to behave in group and it’s still continuing.
Daniel: So, here’s what I’ll say as well, this could be really helpful, there are some kids that are just ornery. There are some kids that just aren’t … I hate to say it, just aren’t parented very well. I draw the line with a kid if they are disrupting a neighbor. But if that kid wants to come and waste their time for an hour, I’m fine with it. But I will be darned if their going to disrupt the child beside them. So, this might actually surprise you. If that kid is putting on both sets of headphones and not drawing attention to himself, he just thinks it hilarious, and he’s still doing work I guess, but doing something like that, I’m probably gonna let that kid go. But, if I see that kind of behavior, I will push an email out to that parent about once a quarter and say something like, “Hey, just wanting to check in, see if little Johnny is still enjoying this, seeing if Rachel still enjoys this.” I don’t cry wolf every time a kid misbehaves in class to a parent. And so a lot of times I won’t even bring up the behavior, again, if they’re not disrupting another student. That’s kind of the litmus test for me. If they are, then I bring it up to the parent. But if it’s just something like that, or, you know, I’ve got some six-year-olds that after about 45 minutes, they’re kind of done. I will bring this up to the parents. I’ll say, “Hey, you know what, I notice their output really goes down after 45 minutes. I’m just not sure if they can make the hour.” Once I brought it to the parent, they’re like, “Yeah, you know, they’re really enjoying it and we’re fine to stay in.” Then my conscience is clear in this issue. Here’s why I’m saying this and how it relates to what you’re saying there is that I might not necessarily give that kid a hard time, it’s really only if they’re drawing attention to themselves, or in the case of the kid that is turning on the fireworks sound on one of my keyboards, they turn that on, they push the button, immediately four heads all come around to hear where is that coming from. They’re being disruptive. That’s the litmus test. So, if that kid is … I’ve had kids where they put the headphones on and they have the band in front of their eyes or they’re constantly readjusting them or whatever, and I’ll tell them, “Hey, you know what, you really don’t need to be playing with the headphones that way. Just keep playing.” And if they keep doing it, again, as long as they’re not distracting a neighbor, I’m probably just not gonna say all that much more to that kid. I’m gonna bring it up to the parent at a certain point and just say, “Hey, you know, I’ve noticed they’re a little squirrel-y in lessons. They’re still getting things done. They’re still actually moving faster than a lot of kids move in traditional lessons. But I just wanna let you know that they probably could be doing more, just wanna let you know that.” At that point, my conscience is clear, I’ve done my duty to the parent. I’ve done my duty to the kid. But I’m not gonna ride that kid that entire hour. So does that help?