An old community organizing adage goes like this:
“Sometimes the only thing worse than losing a fight is winning one.”
In organizing, that can mean your group gave so much to an issue campaign that you’re left with burnt-out leaders and a hollowed-out organization, or perhaps you burned too many bridges with potential allies along the way (it could mean many other things, too).
I was reminded of this saying when I overheard a teacher commenting that he “never let a student have the last word.”
The vast majority of the time, I don’t believe a teacher can ever truly “win” any kind of power struggle with a student. The teacher may “win” in the short-term, but the relational toxicity left behind will be long-lasting. Learning struggles and classroom management problems are likely to escalate and continue.
Dr. William Glasser suggests that most classroom management problems relate to students’ needs for power and freedom. Instead of getting sucked into power struggles with students, perhaps we should spend more time helping them feel and be powerful.