“Hey karate-man!! whaaaaa!”
The class walked by and while most smiled and waved, a couple of young boys made karate chops in the air while simultaneously running their mouths.
What the hell? Was I being heckled by 4th graders? You bet I was…
Part of me wanted to walk over and break the kid’s elbow. Then in my best Austrian accent drop a cool Arnold Swarzzenegger-style one-liner, “Better catch up to your class…. chop chop!”
My inner-adult however decided that might not be the best action, and so I chose to ignore the hecklers and smile at the friendlies.
Incidentally when did it become okay to be disrespectful to adults?
Oh wait, yep… I can’t pretend I never did it, but I tell you the day I got chased down by some older teenagers, one of who gave me a well placed uppercut to the solar plexus, fixed my attitude problem.
So anyway, back to my story….
I was invited to a career day at an elementary school along with some firefighters, paramedics, air force mechanics and wait for it – a UFC referee. (Super nice guy, but am I missing something here or do all kids from kinder to 4th grade watch the UFC?). We were invited to talk to the kids about the importance of hard work, continued education and commitment.
For 3 hours I did the same 15 minute presentation to each group, explaining to them what it takes to follow your dreams, how you should endeavor to be a good person, always do your best and learn something new every day. I intertwined the presentation with some basic karate exercises and techniques to keep the classes engaged and learning. For the most part it went nicely and the students responded well.
So after 8 classes and a couple of hours, guess who arrived?
Yep, you got it. My hecklers.
Oh, this was gonna be fun!
So I begin and I ask the class a few questions to which one of my 10 year old hecklers bucks the system – he disagrees with EVERYTHING I say (as expected). He’s got it in his head that he knows it all and has life all figured out.
I mean, who doesn’t at 10 years old?
So anyway I continue my class and Mr Interuptus interjects again. So at that point I ask for a volunteer – several hands shoot up, but not his… but of course I choose him. (Heh, heh, heh!)
I reach over and take his baseball cap off of his head (his security blanket) at which point he becomes compliant. He doesn’t want to be the volunteer but he’s not going to back down either.
“What’s your name?”, I ask.
“Alex. Well, Alexander”, he says sheepishly.
“Ok, thanks Alexander”
I ask Alex to bow as I bow to him, and he gives me a nod of his head. I pause and explain that respect begins with doing your bow properly, etc, and finally he executes a nice bow. Aha… we’re getting somewhere.
I say to the class, “Give Alex a clap!”.
The class cheers. Alex smiles bashfully.
“Now Alex is going to show the rest of you guys how to do a PERFECT pushup!”, I announce.
Alex’s eyes widen and he swallows hard.
Think about the psychology here – he’s been called out to perform, but doesn’t really want to, but doesn’t want to back down either. Seems like a good time to step up to the plate and show the class what he’s made of…
Alex drops and gives me 10 perfect push ups. Man, this kid is an over-achiever… could make a black belt one day with the right training. I congratulate him and tell him he did an AWESOME job!
We bow and I ask the class to give Alex a round of applause. He again smiles bashfully and I return his hat.
Alex is now on cloud 9.
The naughty kid just became the star of the show. At the same time he learned a little about respect and got a much needed self-esteem boost.
If you ever have disruptive students, this concept is key to unlocking their good behavior. Instead of coming down on them and lecturing them on what they SHOULD do, which they hear countless times a day, flip everything on it’s head and make them the star of the show. It’s amazing how well this works.
Pretty soon your disruptive students will become role models for the rest of your class.