PLENK2010 Years ago I was locked into Mortal combat with a kid and a class. Then I moved away for a few years. When I moved back, I met this kid in the public library. He greeted me and humbly apologized for being a real pain in the neck back in the day. He said the other boys had put him up to it. Fortunately, I had not been in mortal combat with him. At the end of every rough day I put it aside and started each new day fresh with constant optimism. Cock-eyed, eh?
There were a few other boys who pushed back at me, but usually for things I could address. They accused me of inventing the rules of Algebra, just to annoy them. I had 6000 years of history on my side there. But they were right, the rules were not laid out in their text books. They accused me of presenting "typical" math problems, and I said "Of course, they are typical. We present types of problems that they might find applicable in life or in further studies." End of argument. It was these students who inspired me to write booklets on those very things they needed to know to succeed in school.
Now the girls--they were just into power tripping. As I was not young and nubile I did not count in their world--not as a rival and not as a model. So they just wanted to distract the class back to paying attention to them. The wise students knew that the glory of these prima donnas would be very short.
Tom Daly does not have a blog, but I am sharing his newsletter with you with his permission.
Tom Daly speaks:
Today I want to talk about the other dynamic that sometimes defines our relationship with a drowning student.
This dynamic is called the "Mortal Combat."
Now, obviously, there may be a verbal battle in your classroom between you and a rabble rouser or two. But I wanted to talk about this dynamic because it often creeps into our classrooms and clouds our focus.
When I think about "mortal combat" in the classroom, I remember some of my tougher students, in which I had to continually dig in my heels and react to their increasingly creative efforts to derail my lessons.
How do you know your class dynamic is leaning toward mortal combat?
Well, if you feel an intense emotional reaction to strike back somehow, and you often go toe-to-toe with a student in a reactive way, then that dynamic falls under my idea of "mortal combat."
At this point, you might be thinking, "Where in the world did I get this idea of mortal combat?"
Well, if you are old enough to remember a certain popular video game from the early 1990's called "Mortal Combat," you are already tempted at this point to beat your chest and yell, "MORRRR-TALLLL COMMMM-BAAAAT!"
Of course, I'm not comparing our classrooms to a video game, and I'm obviously not talking about anything having to do with real violence.
But if you have ever been locked into a "Mortal Combat" with a student, you know just how draining and emotionally exhausting that can be.
What kind of student draws you into a "Mortal Combat"?
It could be:
> A silver-tongued class clown trying to undermine you with wisecracks.
> An agitator who tries to enlist other students to go off-task.
> A brilliant but bored student who isn't shy about saying whatever's on his or her mind.
> A failing kid who can't stop fidgeting.
> An emotional child who takes everything personally.
No matter what this student's profile, consider the fact that any mortal combat that ensues in your classroom is at least partly because of YOUR reaction to his behavior.
Now don't get me wrong - you must deal with serious disruptions right away. Again, if you find yourself continually digging in your heels, or if you feel an intense emotional reaction to strike back somehow, then you may have already helped create the Mortal Combat situation that is so counter-productive to your best
As I wrote in my book, "How to Turn Any Disruptive Child Into Your Best Student,"
sometimes it's wise to find ways to "drop the rope."
This is easier said than done, of course. Combative students are often crafty and, when you do go toe-to-toe with them in a reactive way, they will often just adjust their strategy to find another way to torment you.
So how can you escape this no-win situation?
In my next email I will discuss specific guidelines to help you, whether you and your student are locked in a "Mutual Truce" or a "Mutual Combat."
For now, at least know this:
We're going to have to get CREATIVE in a hurry!
I'll get into that in my next email.
Until then, at least recognize the part you might be playing in a "mortal combat" dynamic and how that could change.
Sometimes just recognizing a dynamic can help take away the emotional element and lead to an immediate breakthrough.
Think about it and I'll offer some specific help in my next email.
P.S. Defusing possible "mortal combat" situations is one of the foundations of my book, "How to Turn Any Disruptive Child Into Your Best Student."
If you haven't yet picked up your copy, then click here to see what it's all about: