Saturday, September 18, 2010

How to Give Students (or Anyone!) the Stink Eye

<-- This? This is not the Stink Eye. This is the face after the Stink Eye gets ignored. This is a face I don't have to make!

But sometimes I do just because it's fun. Grr. GRRR!

Anyway, it was actually a post by Happy Chyck that got me thinking about the Stink Eye and exactly how I do it.

A good Stink Eye can be very useful! The key is that most students (particularly at the high school level) already know what they should and should not be doing.

Click the 'Continue' link to get the low-down on how it goes.

  1. Be observant. Ideally you can patrol the classroom as you teach and as they work. Smile and give a thumbs-up to students who are on-task. Those who are not... move closer. When you have their attention:
  2. Level One Stink Eye: Tuck your chin down and to the side, just a touch. Lift your eyebrows. Student will either self-correct or look around. If this is followed with "What?!" proceed to
  3. Level Two Stink Eye: Press your lips together while keeping your teeth relaxed - a clenched jaw communicates anger, and we want to express disapproval, not anger. At this point, anyway... Brows lift higher, jaw tucks further. If you wear glasses, you should be looking at the Gremlin over the tops of your glasses - even if that makes said Gremlin very blurry. The effect is what counts.

    To clear up ANY confusion, I use the phrase, "What needs to change?" asked very firmly and clearly. LOTS of enunciation! At this point, if the Gremlin has not self-corrected, nearby students will often start hissing more specific cues. When another student gives a correct cue that helps the Gremlin self-correct, said student gets a smile AND a thumbs-up. The former Gremlin gets a smile and a "Thank you, [Name]."

    Any other possible response after being directly cued is insubordination. In that case, (unless there is physical violence or the threat of it, in which case contact appropriate administration IMMEDIATELY) proceed to...
  4. Level Three Stink Eye: Also known as the Petrifying Gaze. Move quickly and directly to face the student. Mouth should be pursed, jaw is tight. Inform the Gremlin that there are three possible consequences at this point. [1] Begin behaving appropriately and receive a fairly minor punishment (in my case, teacher detention of 30 minutes). [2] Go to the office and receive a writeup, an administrative conference, and any punishment that goes along with it. [3] Refuse, and have an administrator called to remove the student from class.

Of course, successful use of the Stink Eye depends on being in a school where classroom disruption is seen as a serious discipline issue. If you're not there, you've got greater problems, I'm afraid. :(

Also? If I have a student who repeatedly provokes a Level One but self-corrects each time, I may call him/her over for a one-on-one conference. I have several teacher-allies who will student-swap with me. Sometimes a student will do better working independently in another teacher's room, particularly if they don't know the other students in that class. So in one-on-ones I offer the opportunity/threat of temporary transfer. And if it works? Everybody's happy. :)


Mrs. Chili said...

I love "what needs to change?"

When you're a kid, you promise yourself that if you ever have kids, there are some things you'll NEVER say to them. For me, it was the likes of "because I said so." Anyway, I've come to learn that it doesn't matter if you don't use those same dreaded phrases; your kids will pick out things you say that they swear they'll NEVER say to THEIR kids. For my children, that phrase is "What do you think you'll do differently next time?" Your "what needs to change" made me think of this.

In my classroom, my commensurate phrase is "not so much with that..." Of course, my biggest class is 17 kids, so there's no way of getting away with dumbness without the whole class knowing, which in itself is a deterrent.

Clix said...

Hahaha... I love "because I said so." Now, I don't use it in highly-charged situations, but sometimes? if the student isn't really aggravated, just griping, and I'm feeling sassy? I will just tilt my chin up at a jaunty angle and beam and say "Because I am a Pretty Pretty Princess and I said so!"

Putting it in that tone seems to deflect a lot of the antagonism it might otherwise generate, and it is just SO MUCH FUN to say that! Hee hee >:)

J said...

ooh, i love a good stink-eye! of course i call it a Teacher Look. :)
I find that a "level one" Look for a longer-than-normal period of time was very successful. basically a stare-down. usually the kid will start visibly squirming and looking around. which sounds kind of evil written like that, but i found it pretty satisfying that a kid knows that i know what nonsense he/she is up to and therefore he/she better not do it again! heh. :)

HappyChyck said...


Firm and enunciated speech is also effective in the classroom. Oh, and when classmates use peer pressure in a positive way to help reinforce your message, even better!

Jeri said...

Just got to this one b/c of the thing over @ Bellringers. SO MUCH FUN TO READ!
Thank you for your excellent directions which I found myself following as I was reading. This, I believe, is evidence of your hypnotic power ...

justanotherblogger said...

This post is so funny and so true to life. As a beginning education student, I am really enjoying following your blog.

Ms. Russell said...

I like to use the stink eye but I find using the statements, "What are you doing?" and "What are you supposed to be doing?" very effective as well.

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