(A Tip for Teaching and Learning Support Assistants)
Students who have spent many years with learning support often have advanced strategies for avoiding work. You may find yourself repeatedly trying to block conversations with the student that are not appropriate. ‘Have you got a boyfriend Miss?’, ‘Don’t you think this teacher is rubbish?’, ‘Can we just have a chat?’, etc. As you define what you will discuss and what you won’t there are techniques that you can employ to redirect the conversation back to the one that you wish to have or back onto the work.
When students try to start inappropriate conversations or throw in a verbal hand grenade to divert you away from the work there are two techniques that you can employ.
- Calmly and gently repeat the line you have been interrupted in. Each time that you repeat the request lower your volume, slow the pace, extend pauses and soften your vocal tone. The impression that you give the student is must be that you are not interested in developing an argument and will not rise to the bait. The more calmly assertive you are in delivering this repeat the more effective it will be. Repeat the request no more than three times.
- Use an appropriate refocusing line to bring the conversation back to the one that you want to have or to refocus the student back onto the work. This allows that student to feel as though they are being listened to and skillfully avoids conversational cul de sacs.
Student: This work is boring.
Teaching/Learning Support Assistant: Yes you may think it boring…lets see if we can work through it together.
Student: This teacher is rubbish.
Teaching/Learning Support Assistant: I understand that you think so, what we are looking at today is…
Student: I don’t want to do any work.
Teaching/Learning Support Assistant: I hear what you are saying. Let’s see if we can make a deal.
Student: I can’t do it.
Teaching/Learning Support Assistant: Maybe you can’t… and yet I remember yesterday when you did so well with your writing. Let’s take it bit by bit.
Student: I’m stupid.
Teaching/Learning Support Assistant: There are some subjects that you struggle with and others where your intelligence shines through. I am sure that we can tackle this first question with intelligence.
Student: You are a …. (name calling).
Teaching/Learning Support Assistant: There may be some truth in that, I’m not perfect. What we are working on today is…
Some students will not bother to play verbal games in order to avoid work. They will
simply refuse to follow any instructions and hope that by simply saying ‘No’ that you will
grow exasperated and give up. This can be communicated with physical language (turning away from your eyesight, hood over the head, head on the desk etc), tonal language (audible but nonsensical grunts) or verbal language (‘No I ‘aint doing it’, ‘Go away’, etc’). If you do not address these initial work avoidance tactics they can develop into higher level behaviours