By Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller
1. "Do you know where your seat is?"
Of course they know where their seat is. Do you really want them to say, "It's the third row back, two over, the one where no one is sitting?"
2. "Didn't I just tell you this?"
You already know you just told them that. This question is an attempt to belittle and mock.
3. "Do I have to tell you this again?"
This question invites the response, "Yes, you do and maybe a couple of more times as well." The adult now interprets the student’s response as being disrespectful when in reality the adult started the disrespect and invited it to continue.
4. "Are you out of your seat again?"
You wouldn't be asking this question if they were in their seat. This question does not seek an answer. It is an explosion of uncontrolled adult frustration. Take four deep breaths and tell the student privately that you would like them in their seat now.
5. "Do you always have to do that?"
Always? Really? Of course they don't always do that. Ditch the exaggeration and deal with this incident only.
6. "Aren't you ever going to learn this?"
This question is actually a statement. It tells the student "You are a slow learner and do not grasp concepts quickly." Is that the message you really want to send?
7. "How many times do I have to tell you?"
This is an example of verbal mental-scorekeeping. It doesn't matter if it's the fourth or tenth time. It is this time, and this time is the only one you can deal with in this moment. Stop counting.
8. "So this is what I can expect from you today?"
You might just as well say, "I expect this from you today." Don't be surprised if you attract more of it.
9. "Who are you going to bother next?"
Again, this communicates your expectation that the student is going to continue to bother others.
10. "Do you want to find out?"
A student who loves power struggles will rise to the bait on this one. Watch for their energy to increase.
11. "What did you just say?"
Not a good idea to ask this question if the student just told you this class sucks and you suck. Do you really want to hear them repeat that in front of the entire class?
12. "Don't you ever stop talking?"
Look for those times when they stop talking. You know those times are there. Focus on them.
13. "Who do you think you are?"
This sends messages that the student is bad, wrong, not enough, and unworthy. It crosses the line into malpractice.
14. "What's wrong with you?"
This is a signal that it is time to retire. Make the announcement. Rent the hall, and ride off into the sunset. It's time for you to relax and chill out.
Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller are the coauthors of The Teacher Talk Advantage: Five Voices of Effective Teaching. They are two of the world's foremost authorities on raising responsible, caring, confident children. They publish a free monthly e-zine for educators and another for parents. To sign up for their newsletters or learn more about the seminars they offer teachers and parents, visit their websites today: www.chickmoorman.com and www.thomashaller.com.