Unsurprisingly, it happened again. The moment Josh walked through my classroom door on the first day of school, I knew he was a leader. And unfortunately, it was clear he was a sour leader. A rebel leader. A leader who used his powers for evil… so to speak.
Though flustered at first, I remembered some wise council I’d once received for such situations – If you can win over the leader, you’ll win over the pack. So, immediately I set out to build a relationship of trust with my feisty little sixth grader. My desire was to connect with him on a friendly yet professional level, individualized to him. The hope was that if he learned to trust – and even like – me, his behavior would change and the rest of the pack would follow.
I began by writing him a short, positive note, expressing my excitement of having him in my class. Later, I called his mother to tell her the same. I even braved an outdoor basketball game during the students’ lunch break. My original efforts to connect professionally yet personally seemed to fall flat. Yet, with time, Josh began to come around. The jokes began to decrease while his participation increased. His attitude began to shift from caustic to indifferent - and eventually to engaged.
I knew I had him when, by mid-September, I overheard Josh and his groupies in the hall approaching my class before the tardy bell. Josh led them, as loud as ever; however, when nearing my door, he bellowed, “Hey! Quiet down! We’re doing a lab in science today, remember? We gotta get our bell-ringer done quick so we can have more time!”
Then, seconds later, students began to file in as silent as could be… with Josh leading them forth at the helm.