13 Rules for Effective Communication in the Classroom #5 - Blame or Shame


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Many arguments get way worse because someone starts the blame and shame game. It doesn’t matter how old our students are, once they’re able to talk back, they will. Especially if we’ve modeled the wrong way for them.
Some phrases that invoke blame or shame: “If it wasn’t for you . . .” – “You weren’t really texting in class?!” – “I thought you were a better student than this.” – “Why can’t you just listen?” We’ve even heard of the parents of a teenager who forced their son to wear a sign around his neck as punishment for smoking marijuana.
So what might blaming or shaming look like in the classroom?

Photo by Pacian
Public domain from Wikimedia Commons
“We would’ve had more time to review if everyone had been listening.”
“We couldn’t get to the fun part because you weren’t following directions.”
“I said it three times. Ask someone who was listening.” (This is one I’ve even used in my classroom, and I’m having trouble coming up with a replacement phrase. Help!)

Correcting students behavior publicly
Letting other students see their poor grades
Handing out detentions or referrals publicly
Catching students cheating publicly
Calling out to tell a student to cover his mouth when he sneezes.
Our school even thought we had a clever idea of printing academic vocabulary state test words and definitions on the backs of the P.E. shirts, until we saw the “apathetic” and “obtuse” runners out on the track. *facepalm* NOTE: We’ve since changed the shameful shirts.
And yes, we’re going to go there: The Teacher’s Lounge. It can be a place of helpful collaboration…or a cesspool of vitriolic gossip. Lounge with the teachers long enough and you’re bound to hear a teacher leap eagerly onto their student soap box to one-up the last teacher with their “I’ve got one for you. You’ll never believe what [insert student name here] did today.” Here’s the rub: the more they rant about that student, the harder it will be for them to respect their student again.
Then an even worse thing happens, we hear what that teacher says, then we get that student in our class next year. We’re already predisposed to judge that student because we listened to the ranter last year. Or we have to struggle to push those thoughts from our brain because based on our short experience with the kid, we find it hard to believe they’d ever do that now. It’s vicious and unfair for any student.
A wise man once said, “Do not provoke your children to anger.” So instead of resorting to blaming or shaming, let’s be hyper-aware of which words or phrases we say privately or publicly that might induce shame or blame and the resulting anger. What if we became agents of positive gossip instead of negative rumors? We’re not trying to take power out of your hands, but rather to put the right kind of power into your hands. We can do it. Let’s change the culture. If you’re like us, you’ll be a bit surprised at how often you think or say phrases like this.

(1)    Got any words or phrases you’d like to add to the blame and shame conversation?
(2)    Any suggestions for how to overcome the temptation to blame or shame?
(3)    Have we gone too far? Isn’t a little blame or shame a good thing?


Check out the other rules >>>

These rules are adapted with permission from Roger and Becky Tirabassi's premarital workbook for seriously dating and engaged couples - The Seriously Dating or Engaged Workbook. Roger and Becky have also co-authored a book for married couples called Little Changes Big Results for Crazy, Busy Couples. The principles in these books have changed so many areas of our life. We highly recommend them.

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