I believe that Will Smith is one of the greatest entertainers of all time.

Yes really. I’m not kidding.

In his almost four decade-spanning career, Will Smith has conquered every medium successful TV star, movie star & film producer.

But what does ‘Big Willy’ got to do with managing rowdy school children? Well, I’m going to take you back to where it first started with Mr Smith; rap music and look at three iconic songs that contain the secrets of how to manage even the rowdiest kids in the classroom.

Let’s get jiggy with it.

1. “Parents Just Don’t Understand” – “He’s the DJ, I’m the Rapper” album (1988)

Needs equals behaviour. Understand your learners.

Under the rap moniker “The Fresh Prince”, Will Smith &, alongside his DJ, Jazzy Jeff, began to storm the charts in the late 80s.

The duo’s second single from their sophomore album made history as the first-ever Grammy winners of the Best Rap Performance category in 1989.

Smith raps in his trademark comedic way about how his parents lack of understanding about teenage life. This sentiment still applies today with our students’ frustrations of not being understood by the adults (teachers) around them.

Especially in these turbulent & distressing times post COVID19, our students have many challenges that we could never have imagined when we were their age. We must go beyond being behaviour managers to behaviour leaders.

Great behaviour leaders can understand their students’ core needs & create an environment where they feel safe, secure & able to express themselves. To do this, you must become a ‘detective’ of your classes & be able to understand your students’ personalities & character.

Make an effort to find out about their family life, home environment & preferences. Learn more about the school and what kind of neighbourhood the students inhabit. The more you can do this, the more likely your students will be open to your input – because you are trying to get to know them.

If you can build rapport with them, the more you can influence them without generating ill will (no pun intended).

2. “Summertime” – “Homebase” album (1991)

Be a positive influence in the classroom.

This tune is probably the greatest summer song of all time (well, for me anyway). This song samples Kool & The Gang’s 1974 hit “Summer Madness,” and this is the ultimate song to enjoy on a beautiful summer’s day with a cold drink in your hand.

When I think of the Summer, I think of positivity & you as an educator must master positive behaviour strategies to keep your students engaged. Let’s face it: if your students are bored half to death in your classes, good luck keeping them behaving!

Here are a couple of ideas to help your students remain engaged:

  • Praise your students when they do the right thing. You must learn how to praise your students for their effort & not their ability. Don’t be stingy – give them positive feedback that affirms their best traits.
  • Learn to use humour in the classroom – Will Smith is known for his charm & wit. Be like Will. Research has shown using humour in the right situation not only helps you de-stress but helps others around you too.
  • Learn to tell stories – stories are pieces of information wrapped in emotion, that’s why they are more memorable. Learn to use stories in your classroom to build suspense & excitement in your subject.

3. “Men in Black” – “Big Willie Style” album (1997)

Learn to set appropriate boundaries.

This 1997 disco-infused rap hit came from the Summer blockbuster film of the same name, which he starred in – cementing his status as an A-List actor.

Smith played ‘Agent J,’ the latest agent in the clandestine ‘Men In Black’ organisation that protects the Earth from extraterrestrial threats. Smith raps that the MIB are the ‘first & last line of defence’ against the universe’s villains.

You must take on that role in your classroom against poor behaviour.

It’s not a case of ‘if’ but ‘when.’ When boundaries get crossed, it’s on you to enforce them. Influential behaviour leaders know how to sanction students without destroying the rapport they have worked so hard to build up.

You must:

  • Create routines & systems that support positive behaviour – Clear daily systems and expectations help your students settle into your lessons without fuss and stops potential bad behaviour bubbling up in your classroom.
  • Read the room’s energy – Students behave differently during a period 1 lesson on a Monday morning than on a Friday period 5 lesson. Create lessons that will consider how your students will present themselves in your classroom & match their energy level.
  • Message Framing – You must learn to frame messages in ways that would persuade your students to take the right actions without blowing your top. You must appeal to their emotions to make sure they feel the repercussions of their actions and while not destroying the relationship in the process.

Conclusion

What makes Will Smith so successful is that he is not only handsome, talented & hardworking, but he is relatable. I believe his natural gift lies in his ability to communicate effectively with almost anyone he encounters. You have this power too! Remember:

  • Understand your learners explicit & implicit needs. The better you understand them, the more you can influence them.
  • Make your classroom a positive environment by praising your students, using humour and using storytelling to increase engagement and excitement.
  • Set clear boundaries and systems to deal with negative behaviour. Design lessons that will take into account your classes’ unique characteristics and learn to appeal to your students’ emotions and logic.

Follow this advice and you will be as ‘fresh’ as a certain prince of Bel-Air.