A teacher I am coaching sent this series of messages the other day:

Hi Bryce,

Today I had a student that rushed in the room and did not say the password. Has this ever happened to you? I was standing at my door and she just walked in without saying it. This is a first!  Just wondering how you would address this.


Yes, this has happened to me. It is predictable that some students will do this.

Maybe she forgot it. Perhaps she was distracted or distraught. What was her body language like? Was it a passive aggressive move to resist doing what you have asked? If it was resistance to saying the password, you can’t let that happen or it will spread, and soon no one will be saying it.

I would talk to her as she was leaving class. If there is not enough time to do that, the next time she is entering class, step in front of her nonchalantly to block her way and (pleasantly) make sure she says it.

Yes, I talked to her at the end of class.  She seemed to be having a bad day.  I will address it if it happens again and tell her that she can either say it or write it 15 times each after school with me. Does that sound ok?

I wouldn’t approach it punitively, unless she was being blatantly rebellious. Even then, I probably wouldn’t punish her like that. It might be better to ask her to help you out by waiting and being the last student to enter the class.

This is an application of the Ben Franklin Effect. When dealing with haters, Benjamin Franklin noticed:

“He that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another than he whom you yourself have obliged.”

The Ben Franklin Effect is a real phenomenon in modern psychology.  Haters become helpers when you ask them for aid. Surprisingly, asking students to assist you in some way works better than being overly kind to them. And asking for help works much better than browbeating or giving out punishment.

The password greeting routine sets up a situation where you are tacitly asking students for assistance every day before they even enter your classroom. You are covertly asking them to do you a favor by saying the password just by the routine. You are asking them for a bit of cooperation in the running of the class, and when you do, the Ben Franklin Effect comes into play.

So, if a student does not like you, ask them to help you somehow—it will make them like you more.

This tactic has worked for me. If she isn’t confident saying the password that’s another thing. Invite her to stand beside you as other students go. She will hear it many times and she will get it. Plus, the social pressure of seeing others cheerfully greeting you, and you giving them attention and respect will start to gnaw on her psyche. Most students will give in.

It is a matter of using your official power as a teacher to assign a detention (not optimal) versus your personal power of wooing students to do your will voluntarily and cheerfully (much better) by giving students attention and respect. You are smart and likeable. You can woo her, I’m sure of it. She will likely submit if you show her you want to help her get it.

Thank you!

She always knows the password!  I called home out of concern and got some insight. She was having a bad day yesterday. I asked her to help me today and she really did enjoy helping me pass things out in class!  I may ask her to help me with the password and more tasks. I’ll talk to you more about it during our meeting on Thursday.

Thanks again.

Bryce listens and he’s seen a thing or two. He has probably been through something like your situation. He has the experience and insight to help you. Sign up for professional one-on-one coaching with Bryce here.