Had a situation today where, looking at decimals, I asked the class to stand up if the answer was greater than a number and sit down if it was less.
At one point, there was precisely one child who remained standing (sadly, incorrectly). I asked him to explain his thinking and he quickly realised his mistake. That should’ve all been fine, except for the prat who then decided to laugh at this one child – who immediately, of course, shut down for the next 15 minutes of the lesson.
I did, unsurprisingly, tear a strip off the prat for his behaviour. I pointed out that more than being simply ill-mannered, by his actions he had actually managed to mock the one person who had shown a willingness to have their own opinion. Without having to look and see what their friends were doing first. Without having to just copy everyone (a beat behind) in order to fell that they blend in. I commended the first child’s bravery and the fact that they were prepared to take a risk on *their* answer being the right answer in spite of considerable opinion against them. And I hope it not only rebuked the prat but help build-up the risk-taker.
Because it struck me that, no matter how hard we try to make our pupils willing to take risks, it only takes that one stupid outburst to knock them right back again into their comfort zone, unwilling to gamble some of their self-respect to stand up on their own in a class of their peers. I hope some of the class find that willingness to be wrong again, soon. We need more of it.