Okay, we need to come clean about this – being an assertive teacher in the classroom or being more assertive in life isn’t always easy.
In fact, becoming more assertive, when you are not naturally that way inclined, is anything but easy – it can be very difficult, so ‘How to be an assertive teacher in 5 easy steps’ is perhaps stretching it a little bit, but here are 5 steps that will certainly help you along the way on your journey to becoming more assertive.
One – Accepting your self-concept
A human being’s ability to act in an assertive way really depends on their own self-concept. It is our own internal perception of ourselves that holds the key to unlocking our assertive potential. It is really based on what we think of our own skills and strengths. It might be quite different from how others perceive us, but understanding that our self-concept is at the root of all our assertive behaviour (or lack of) is an important first step.
Two – What assertiveness is
Assertiveness is having the ability to articulate our ideas, thoughts and feelings in an honest, direct and appropriate way. It’s about mutual respect – respect for ourselves and respect for others.
An assertive person can influence others. They are good listeners and strong negotiators – and those skills of influencing, listening and negotiating are pretty handy skills to have in the classroom.
Being assertive means taking responsibility for our actions and not judging or blaming others (such as the students when things go wrong).
Three – What assertiveness isn’t
Assertiveness often gets confused with aggressiveness. They are not the same thing. An assertive approach aims for a positive result for the mutual benefit of all – a ‘win-win’ situation. An aggressive approach often threatens a ‘win-lose’ result: ‘If you don’t do this homework, you will do it in detention.’ (Teacher wins: pupil loses).
Four – Deflecting, Diffusing and Distracting
Teaching is a stressful job. Sod’s Law always dictates that you will face your own personal nemesis of a class last period on Friday afternoon, or that the powder keg that is teenage friendships will explode in the corridor as the bell goes just before your next lesson. And as a teacher, somehow, you have to deal with it.
Whether it’s a one-off incident, persistent low-level disruption or attention seeking/work avoiding behaviour, you can deal with these situations by being able to deflect, diffuse and distract pupils’ actions by being assertive.
Always try to isolate a situation if at all possible, removing the impact of there being an audience – an audience that can either be played up to, or will take it upon themselves to get involved.
Always try to actively listen and to speak calmly and assertively and remember the messages we give are both verbal and non-verbal.
Five – Give students some space and time
Often situations within a classroom can escalate disturbingly quickly because they become teacher-pupil confrontations. Crowding, pressuring or demanding immediate compliance from students who are already angry rarely ends well. Allowing the student to have a bit of space and time to think and to process your requests is far less aggressive and much more assertive.