A Severe Case Of The Yeah-Buts

Maybe it is just my school that seems to be this way. Especially as our students on the whole don't experience life to this degree. But a significant number (enough to be bugging me and both my co-planning buddy and tandem partner) seem to have a severe case of the "yeah-buts" which kicks into gear every time they are asked to be accountable for their own behavioural choices.

It goes a bit like this.

Me: Could you go back to your seat and get on with the task?
Student: Yeah, but [insert student name here] is out of his seat too.
Me: Don't worry about what they are up to. You need to worry about what you are doing. Come on, you're distracting others.
Student: Yeah but you didn't tell me what to do.
Me: You don't need that - I gave out the criteria sheet for that task yesterday.
Student: Yeah but that must have been when I was out getting a drink.
Me: [frustrated tone starting to creep in] That's not an acceptable reason. There was one put on every desk by [insert student monitor's name here] just before lunch.
Student: Yeah but someone must have stolen it...

"Yeah but" is a code for "I'm going to start with a rhetorical acknowledgement that there is a small possibility that you as the classroom teacher may be correct, but in my twelve years of life on this earth I have yet to encounter a situation where I cannot successfully shift the blame / responsibility onto someone else or in a best case scenario, reflect back onto you."

I'd consider that maybe the problem is my classroom management style or the fact that my classroom learning tasks are not engaging enough but that might just be playing into this small group of students' mindsets.

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3 thoughts on “A Severe Case Of The Yeah-Buts

  1. Jose

    Thanks for the link, Graham. I experience this in my classroom all the time, and it annoys me to no end. For those students who “have more” than others, and are just trying to find ways to shift responsibility, it’s important that we keep our standards high. If it’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that, as long as you’re consistent with everyone who does that “same thing,” whether it be getting out of their seat or anything of that nature. I’m still learning myself so any suggestions on your end would be most helpful (as I’ll be continuing that series throughout the week).


    p.s. – I’ve found that while not all of my students live the way I’ve described in that blog, enough of them do where it’s worth noting. :: sigh::

  2. Graham Wegner

    I’m always struck by the similarities between our very different experiences as educators, Jose, and doubly amazed at your speedy response to my post. Pingbacks must show up pretty quick. I think that in my school’s case many of the “yeah-buts” are fostered by a home environment where the kid isn’t held accountable for much but entitled to everything, and we teachers have the audacity to challenge that worldview. Then often enough, the parents come in to push back at me and the child’s worldview is reinforced. I watched a TV series the other night about an underworld killer from Melbourne whose parents refused to co-operate with police and fostered a disrespect for any form of authority with their son. The psychologist who was co-compering the show pointed out the various turning points in this guy’s life and the parental mindset helped to create the callous killer who ended taking a number of lives just for the money. Not saying that any of my students are headed down that path but I can see that tendency at play.


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