Assertiveness and nasty explosions


Many teachers recognise that their pattern of behaviour is to be nice or compliant for far longer than they really want, until they reach the point of no longer being able to hold it in; then they explode nastily and inappropriately all over students who happened to be around. This can leave students with the impression that there are only two states or behaviours their teacher can do: ‘Nice’ or ‘Nasty’. The shades in between, which are where assertiveness lies, are unused and eventually lost from the repertoire of behaviour management strategies.

Assertiveness is not simply standing your ground, just saying ‘no’ and repeating your demand (the ‘broken record’ technique). Just as students have choices, so you have the opportunity to choose your behaviour. You have many options as to how you respond to inappropriate behaviour all of which can be assertive actions. You might choose to record it and address it at a more appropriate time, ignore it, confront it or walk away and consider your response. Assertiveness is knowing that you can control your own behaviour and making considered appropriate choices in your response to students. Don’t be afraid of saying ‘no’ and saying it with impact when it is appropriate. Be careful not to overuse it as it will soon lose its power and negatively impact on the atmosphere in the classroom. You risk being ignored if your repertoire of verbal responses is so predictable