You know the most important purpose of having classroom rules is for the sole purpose of spending more time on your lessons and less time on behaviour. The quicker you can handle misbehaviour and move on, the better. This is one reason why it’s best to rely on your classroom rules.
If a learner breaks a rule, you enforce a consequence. It’s as simple as that. A few seconds later and you’re back leading your classroom.
But what happens if you don’t see the misbehaviour? What if you find out about it after the fact? What if Themba tells you that Bafana punched him in the stomach on their way out to lunch? You can’t just take Themba’s word for it.
You have to get to the truth.
Getting to the truth, though, can be very difficult. Learners will never tell you the truth even if you back them into a corner and confront them with a report of misbehaviour while your class, on the other hand, is waiting for you busy wasting contact time trying to solve a problem with half-truths, absolute lies and selfish viewpoints.
So what can teachers do to tackle this problem?
It’s called the “WHY STRATEGY” where the teacher cuts through the deception and get to the truth quickly so that you can carry on with the business of teaching. This strategy is very similar to how a magician might use misdirection and other forms of trickery to fool an audience. But you will just use the element of surprise, one false assumption and a simple questioning technique to shine the light on the truth.
Here’s how it works:
- The secret.
As much as possible, keep the information you learn from the accuser (Themba) between the two of you. Its best if the accused (Bafana) isn’t aware you know anything about the reported incident. This is why it’s best to encourage your learners to speak to you privately when they have a problem with another learner.
- The set-up.
Allow some time to pass before confronting the accused learner, at least 30 minutes. If Bafana thinks the incident has been forgotten and he got away with it, then that’s good. Let him calm down and turn his attention to other things. This wait time sets up the next series of steps.
- The surprise.
The why strategy works best when the accused learner is unaware of why you want to speak to him/her. It should be a surprise. Therefore, call the learner up to your desk and pretend you calling him for another matter like homework or writing an assignment.
- The false assumption.
When you speak to the accused learner, behave as if you already know the facts of the incident. Be calm and in fact, don’t accuse him. You want the learner to assume, by your conduct, body language, and the question you’ll ask in the next step, that you already know what happened.
- The question.
Most teachers will ask a ‘did you’ question. As in, “Bafana, did you punch Themba in the stomach?” But dishonest learners are conditioned to lie as soon as the words “did you” begin tumbling out of your mouth. They’re prepared for it.
You, however, are going to ask a why question, which they’re unprepared for. “ Bafana, why did you punch Themba in his stomach on your way out to lunch?” Your tone of voice should communicate curiosity. Bafana’s first thought should be, “Oh no, my teacher knows.”
- The reveal.
How the accused learner reacts to your question should tell you everything you need to know. If the learner doesn’t come right out and admit their misbehaviour, you’ll have to use your teacher powers to determine the truth.
But the signs of dishonesty will be obvious, and the denial will sound totally absurd, to both of you. In fact, it can be very awkward. In one or two seconds, you will know the truth.
If the learner denies it, but is telling the truth, he or she will respond immediately and aggressively. Most of the time with a confused and surprised, “I didn’t punch Themba.”
Though it’s not the only way to get to the truth, the why strategy is often the best and quickest way. It can turn a potentially frustrating, stressful, and lengthy situation into a 15-second conversation.
And don’t worry if you’re unable to follow every step perfectly. Just remember to ask a why question instead of a did you question, and you’ll get to the truth soon enough.
Note: If you personally witness misbehaviour, it’s best not to ask a why question.
Now its your turn. How do you actually get the truth from dishonest learners? Let me know in the comments below.