How To Turn Around Difficult Students With A Simple Psychological Trick Smart Classroom Management

No, you’re not going to trick your students.

Here at SCM, we oppose all manipulative practices of classroom management, which are unfortunately common in this day and age. (Think PBIS).

We believe in honesty, transparency, and authenticity in all interactions with students. However, there is a psychological trick we do recommend using. Only, instead of being used on students, you’re going to use it on yourself.

Before we get to the trick, it’s important to first discuss what is known as the Pygmalion effect.

The Pygmalion effect is the name given to the phenomenon, proven many decades ago, that our subconscious beliefs and expectations of others affect their behavior. For example, if your boss believes you’re highly competent, then you’re likely to behave highly competently.

Their expectations of you are revealed through their behaviors, expressions, tone, and language, which communicate to you that you’re good at your job. Put simply, you rise to the level of excellence your boss has labeled you in their own mind.

It’s a prophecy you’re naturally driven to fulfill.

Unfortunately, the opposite is also true. Often called the Golem effect, if your boss expects you to fail, then it’s an uphill battle to overcome the prophecy you’ve been saddled with.

Difficult students have firmly established negative labels imprinted on their psyche. Although their current and former teachers may say they believe in them, their behavior, guided by their internal beliefs, says otherwise.

All the lectures, talking-tos, behavior contracts, extra chances, appeasements, rewards, sighs, false praise, and hundreds of constant subconscious mannerisms communicate loud and clear to these students that they’re not good enough. They don’t measure up.

They can’t do it.

They’re inundated by Golemion signals, to-and-fro manipulations, and none-too-subtle messages that solidify the monstrous labels they carry with them like electrodes bolted to the sides of their neck. This is why they never actually improve.

The solution is twofold.

First, you must employ the SCM approach—the basics of which are laid out in the Total Classroom Management Makeover. Simply by following the 18 core strategies presented in the book, you’ll bring your most challenging students to a level of equilibrium, whereby they can start feeling like a regular student.

Their burden will lift and their “difficult” label will begin sloughing off like snake skin.

What they had previously accepted without question, is becoming no longer who they are. This alone is enough to begin taking responsibility, growing in maturity, and healing the scarring from years of low-expectation messaging.

The second part of the solution is the trick.

It’s simple but can be life-changing both for you and them. The way it works is that you’re going to pretend, in both your behavior and how you feel and believe on the inside, that your most challenging students are actually your best students.

You’re going to remove the old lens and replace it with a new one. You’re going to consciously choose to see them differently. Consequently, your mannerisms and micro-expressions will automatically reflect the change. So now, instead of reinforcing the Golem effect, you’ll be infusing a new belief in them.

The Pygmalion effect.

Your expectations will be of good behavior and hard work, which they’ll receive and seek to meet without you having to say a word. You’ll provide a prophecy of success, which they can’t help but to fulfill.

There is a lot to this topic, but rest assured all of our strategies here at SCM, particularly those found in the Difficult Students category of the archive, support the power of changing behavior by changing how students view themselves.

But the change in you must always come first.

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