An important key to a safe learning environment is to remove all negative peer pressure. Easier said than done, but it is possible. What often happens in a classroom that is full of negative peer pressure is the teacher allows disrespectful behavior to rise to some semi-defined level before it is addressed. This creates anxiety in students and reduces the ability of the classroom to operate in a respectful manner.
Students are working on math and one student is whispering to another student. The teacher hears the student call the other student a nickname that the student doesn't like. The teacher ignores the warning signal and continues helping specific students. The name calling escalates into a shouting match where threats are made. The teacher now intervenes but it is too late.
ZERO tolerance for negative peer pressure:
When the teacher hears the name calling, she gives a "stop" hand signal and politely says, "Please, that's disrespectful, stop it. Thank you", and continues helping other students. It works.
Removing negative peer pressure in a classroom requires several strategies which are used in combination:
1. Discuss, with the class, what negative peer pressure is, and why it is disrespectful.
2. Agree negative peer pressure should not be tolerated (because it is disrespectful).
3. Discuss strategies to address the issue. This could include:
4. Body language is an extremely important negative peer pressure tactic that needs special consideration. Teach students about body language.
5. Teacher agrees to address negative interactions when they are "barely starting", i.e. zero tolerance for disrespectful actions. Students learn this expectation and they enjoy being in a class where put-downs, etc. are not tolerated.