Sometimes as a teacher, your accidentally find yourself painted into a corner. Or you stepped on a land mine with a student, that you didn't know would trigger a blow up, and if you'd known it would have such a big response, you wouldn't have chosen that molehill to die on.
Today I founds myself in a situation like this. I was helping two students get started on an assignment we began yesterday. They had struggled yesterday to work on it, and so I was standing nearby, gently pressuring them to get their materials out, and go to the correct webpage so that they could start the assignment. They escalated their avoid ant behaviors to the point where one boy was just repeating 'go away, go away', in a dismissive and rude tone.
I realized then that the trap had been sprung. I was nearly sure that if I walked away, they would do the assignment, but that meant letting them get away with the rude, disrespectful behavior.
I paused. It was like that moment in a TV show where the world goes into slow motion and the internal monologue voice-over kicks in mulling over the decision. I could keep fighting this, almost certainly feeding the escalation to the point where I was going to have to kick one or both of them out of the classroom, with referrals to boot. Or, I could walk away, get what I originally wanted (them to do the assignment), but give up a little bit of control or power.
I walked away. But I'm still not sure if it was the right choice. These boys have some serious lagging skills having to do with dealing with critique, and transitioning to new activities, and responding to instructions. They don't have the skill to respond well to my gentle pressure. Them telling me to GO AWAY is their version of trying to get to work. But am I in turn teaching them that they can be rude to others, show disrespect to teachers ( and by extension, coworkers or supervisors in the future) and get what they want?
No answers here, just questions. In the moment, I think I made the right choice, but am I trading the success in today's assignment for more failure in the future?