In this workshop we will introduce the topic of classroom management. This lesson will address: •Starting the School Year on the Right Foot
•Minimizing Discipline Problems Once School Has Begun
•Identifying Class Procedures and Expectations
The one problem with which almost all beginning teachers struggle is controlling inappropriate student behavior. Students have unique backgrounds and experiences, so every day the teacher needs to address a wide spectrum of individual student needs. On some days the needs of one student may conflict with those of another student or with the intent of the teacher. This makes life interesting for a typical teacher. Appropriate student deportment is critical to establishing and maintaining a learning environment. Student behavior must be under control and directed toward active learning. Some students arrive ready to learn, some arrive ready to disrupt learning, and some do little more than just arrive. It is the job of the teacher to move all students toward learning. As a new teacher, it is helpful to visualize student problems in advance and prepare options for their remediation. Talking with peer teachers, mentor teachers, and administrators is a good place to start. This workshop will help you formulate your classroom management strategies to minimize student discipline problems. A number of subtle discipline strategies are presented that are particularly useful for smaller, misdemeanor types of offenses. Why use a jackhammer to drive a nail when a normal hammer will do the job more quickly and efficiently? In many cases, subtle disciplinary responses are better suited to solving problems and preventing them from recurring because they provide opportunities for the teacher to remind the students of existing class rules in a non-threatening way, and they do so without affecting the flow of the lesson. A wise teacher can maintain class control so subtlety that the majority of the students in class are unaware she is even doing it. For students who need more structure, models for a progressive discipline plan are presented in such a manner that they can be easily modified for use in any new teacher’s classroom. Additionally, a sample Student Daily Disciplinary Form and a Student Cumulative Disciplinary Form are provided that can be used to track continuing discipline problems when additional record keeping is required. It is the teacher’s responsibility to create and enforce the rules. If the students help create the rules for their own classroom, they are more likely to remember and abide by them. Ideas are provided which allow students a modicum of ownership in the creation of these rules and the consequences for not abiding by them. Tactics are presented which allow the teacher to facilitate the development of their own rules that coincide with existing school rules. Sometimes students do not want to do what is in their best interest. When that happens the teacher needs a tool box full of responses that vary from gentle and passive to confrontational and aggressive in order to deal with any discipline problems that arise. Additionally, a narrative is included that helps identify reasons for student misbehavior and how to tweak your disciplinary plan for maximum effectiveness. A sample Student Behavioral Contract and an Office Referral Form are available for use or modification. Once you have completed this workshop, you will be able to develop a Progressive Discipline Model (PDM) and will understand strategies to manage student behavior in a wide variety of scenarios. Starting the School Year on the Right Foot
Behavioral modification techniques must be used effectively and consistently throughout the school year in order to keep students focused. However, there are a few things you can do very early in the school year to minimize later student behavior problems: •Learn the students’ names as quickly as possible. The sooner, the better, so the first day is the best. Experienced teachers often have an opening activity involving the use of their students’ names to help them to remember them more quickly. One such activity asks the student to name something they like that begins with the same letter as their name. An appropriate response would be, “My name is Megan and I like monkeys.” The teacher then calls on a second student and has her repeat the preceding student’s name and choice. The third student called must then repeat the information for the previous two students. This procedure repeats until all of the students have been identified, each student responsible for one more name than the last. The teacher ends the activity by naming all of the students before the instructional period is over. Calling a student by name is a powerful tool. •Be positive. Teachers who expect and emphasize good things in class receive more of them, and vice-versa. Students need to know what the teacher expects of them. The teacher must then create lessons that direct the students to equal or exceed this level of expectation. Before, during, and after that happens, the teacher provides a positive outlook and expects success. An experienced teacher never misses an opportunity to praise a child for good behavior, quality work, or continued effort. •Be prepared. Have a structured, student-centered lesson that requires students to remain attentive and active. Idle hands are the devil’s workshop; idle heads magnify the problem. •Begin class with an introductory engagement activity (IEA). This is also known as a pre-operational set or “warm-up.” The IEA allows the class to begin as the students enter the room, not when the teacher decides to begin class. Most IEAs are displayed in the same prominent location every day so the students can see them as they enter the room. An effective IEA may ask the students to respond to a question from a previous lesson or begin previewing today’s lesson. It is designed to focus the attention of the students while preparing them to learn so that the teacher may complete clerical duties such as taking attendance. Most discipline problems occur at the beginning and the end of class, and IEAs help to get the class period started on the right foot. •Have the students complete an information card on the first day. Make sure it contains the home and work phone numbers and names of their parents or legal guardians, as well as the best time to reach them. Make sure the students include their parent’s first and last names (in case the parent’s and student’s last name are different). Keep it on file for the entire year. If you have a phone in your classroom, verifying a parent’s work phone number during in class is a mild deterrent for student misbehavior. •Be the first one in class or remain in the doorway to greet each student as they arrive to class. A lion tamer is always present in a cage before the animals are introduced. It shows that the trainer is in control of the space. Similarly, to tame your own savage beasts, you should be the first in and last out of your room in order to stake your claim that it is your territory and that peaceful coexistence with you in that territory requires abiding by your rules. Use in conjunction with an IEA. •Familiarize the students with the class rules and penalties the first week of school. Students will usually give you a week or two to establish control of the classroom. During this “honeymoon period,” insist on proper student deportment, citizenship, and self-discipline. It’s the best time to set the tone and work ethic of the class. Teacher actions even on the first day form an impression with the students that will last for the entire school year. Many new teachers make the mistake of waiting too long to identify and enforce their rules. The best first step to establishing classroom discipline is to take steps on the first day. Minimizing Discipline Problems Once School Has Begun
The benefits of beginning the year on the right disciplinary foot cannot be emphasized enough. However, the entire task of establishing an orderly classroom is not complete once the foundation has been laid. You must build upon that foundation for the remainder of the school year. Here are a few things to keep in mind: •Enforce class rules in a clear, fair and consistent manner. All of the rules apply to all of the students. Do not enforce your policies for some students but not for others. Furthermore, ensure that equal punishments are meted out for equal behavioral infractions. Once students suspect that you favor one student over another, even if those suspicious are groundless, your leadership in the classroom has been compromised. Students expect you to be fair, and in their situation, you would expect the same. •Eliminate visual barriers between you and your students. This typically happens when the teacher is behind his desk and students approach to hand in an assignment or a test. The visual barrier prevents the teacher from full view of the class. When this occurs, watchful students may take the opportunity to create havoc. Position students so that they are always standing by your side, not directly in front of you. •Position yourself so you can always see the entire class. Often teachers circulate around the room (which is a good thing), but end up turning their back on parts of the class for a prolonged period of time while they help a student (which is a bad thing). Continuously move about the room in a manner that allows the teacher to see as many students as possible. Avoid prolonged standing in a position that places students at your back. •Use the overhead or LCD projector instead of the chalkboard. The overhead allows teachers to face the class and maintain eye contact with students. It also allows the teacher to use pre-made transparencies, eliminating the need to write in front of the class. If class control is a problem, avoid writing on the chalkboard because it requires you to turn your back on the class. •Constantly circulate throughout the room. When a teacher moves around, the students sense that the teacher uses the entire space and the “front” of the room can be any location. When giving a test, it is helpful to sit behind the students so they do not know exactly where the teacher is located or where the teacher is looking. A student who is looking around while taking a test is either trying to find the teacher for help or they are looking to see if the teacher is watching. •Handle discipline problems promptly. If you wait too long to take action, that action will have little effect. Besides, the longer you wait to act, the worse the situation usually gets. •Adjust the location of student desks to promote or limit student-student interaction. Placing students in rows limits interaction; placing desks together in small groups enhances student-student interaction. Students working in cooperative groups are not as noisy if their desks are pushed together. The teacher can always direct the class to rearrange the seating before and after the activity. All seating arrangements must allow the teacher easy access and close proximity to all students. •Determine whether or not the student has been correctly assigned to your class. Guidance counselors have been known to make mistakes, usually from a lack of good information or from a simple clerical error, like placing a student into advanced class 4D instead of introductory class 4B. These students are easy to identify and often ask the teacher why they are in that class. The teacher simply needs to connect with the appropriate guidance counselor to remedy the situation. Not correcting the error may doom a student to sit in a class for which the pre-requisites have not been met. This is especially difficult for student enrolled in sequential courses that require and build upon prior learning such as foreign language and mathematics instruction. Teacher Tip:
Be proactive. Check with your guidance department before school begins to identify students who may need special attention and then proceed to differentiate lessons accordingly. •Ensure that your students are able to keep up with the curriculum. A student that is hopelessly lost, for whatever reason, is a potential classroom disruption waiting to explode. In this case, the teacher needs an intervention/remediation plan to bring the student up to an acceptable level of performance. This plan may include differential instruction, peer or professional tutoring, or make-up sessions conducted during lunch or after school. •Implement appropriate accommodations when necessary. A student physically unable to actively learn is at a severe disadvantage in subjects such as physical education and fine arts. Instructional accommodations are needed to keep these students engaged in the instruction. Other physical limitations, such as deafness and blindness, prevent affected students from complete and total access to the curriculum and may create a sense of frustration and hopelessness in the student. Fortunately, students with physical limitations are identified by the school and the information is shared with the teacher so that proper accommodations can be provided. •Monitor students who are absent from the classroom for any length of time. New students or students returning from home, hospital, or extended vacations may have missed too much and lag behind the rest of the class. A wise teacher shares curriculum, helps with lesson planning, and provides resources for itinerant teachers and arranges support for new students or students returning to class after a prolonged absence.
Use Form A to communicate with a substitute or other specialized teacher. Note that this form may be amended to suit the particular needs of the user. It can be used as a monthly, weekly, or daily lesson plan. When completed, this document should communicate exactly what the substitute teacher should accomplish and how it should be accomplished, without any misinterpretation. It can also be used as an emergency lesson plan to be filed with the school administrator for those unfortunate days where unusual circumstances require the teacher to be out of school. Teacher Tip:
A teacher unwilling to provide appropriate lesson plans for substitute teachers creates a position that cannot be defended by the administration. It also makes it difficult to recruit substitute teachers. An organized and well-managed classroom is like a living organism, requiring constant attention and maintenance to ensure its continued good heath. Identifying Class Procedures and Expectations
As the leader of the classroom, you have to define what behaviors are acceptable. Whereas some rules and procedures are universal, the following classroom characteristics are not. All teachers are different, as is the learning atmosphere in each of their classrooms: •Define what acceptable class participation looks like. Does the teacher expect the students to sit passively as they absorb learning from the teacher or is it okay for students to roam freely about the room? Likewise, when are students encouraged to share in a whole class discussion? •Describe the rules that govern student interaction. When students work cooperatively or in groups, what are the rules? A clear reminder of pre-existing rules and classroom reorganization can prevent pandemonium and increase productivity. •Clarify what is implied by “independent work time.” Does it mean that students have to work alone? Do they have to sit by themselves? Are they allowed to talk? Until the pattern is established by the teacher, student confusion may escalate to and become student choice, which may strike against lesson intent. Make sure you define the parameters of your activities, rather than forcing your students to improvise as the activities unfold. Teacher Tip:
Different types of instruction and modality should come with a set of rules and expectations. The moments spent in transition between lessons are the ideal time to remind students of these rules and expectations. •Communicate the details of your homework policy. Homework extends the learning process and is an essential component of students’ academic and character development. Clarify in advance whether the students are allowed to have assistance—whether parent or peer—or whether each assignment is a solo event. The teacher may introduce specific limitations on particular homework assignments such as no internet surfing or references allowed. Note that if no limitations are clearly declared in advance by the teacher, then no penalty can be assessed if 21 assignments look identical. •Model the correct procedures for handling and storing equipment and materials before allowing the students to work with them. Subjects like art and chemistry have elaborate, expensive, and easily broken equipment. In certain subjects like industrial arts, the students may have to pass a practicum before using a particular piece of machinery. Included with these procedures are the appropriate times for wearing safety glasses, aprons, and other items of protective clothing as well as the location of the safety shower, eyewash, and fire extinguisher. A lack of rules or enforcement of rules can lead to a student and/or teacher injury and resultant lawsuits. An ounce of precaution is better than a pound of your flesh. •Define a clear policy for late assignments. Late assignments, whether from class work or homework, require exquisite record-keeping by the teacher. Late assignments will happen. Students get sick or leave on vacation and miss school; students daydream in class and forget to turn in their assignment; students don’t start on the assignment until after it is past due. Most teachers develop a plan for easy access and entry into their record keeping system. Some teachers code late assignments to note the reason, whether excused or unexcused. Other teachers allow a grace period for turning in late work while other teachers do not accept late assignments. Given evidence that demonstrates a legitimate reason for late work, most teachers will accept such an assignment without imposing a penalty. Teacher Tip:
Check with your school before deciding your method. Most schools have a procedure for accepting late work. •Seize opportune moments to instruct students how to “play fair.” Whether it involves a classroom situation or an outside recess activity, specific instruction concerning how to pick teams, how to line up, how to pass in single file, and how to handle disagreements, when reinforced at the teachable moment, are effective in preventing future problems. •Employ all of the above strategies in a judicious, timely manner, and in a sequence most effective for the given situation. The ability to make complex judgments based on the seriousness of a behavioral offense, the atmosphere of the classroom, and the previous history of a student comes with experience and forethought. The clarity of communication between a teacher and his students is commensurate with his potential success in the classroom. After all, one cannot enforce rules that aren’t first understood by all parties involved. Objective
In this lesson, we will discuss:
•Subtle Disciplinary Strategies
•Moderately Aggressive Disciplinary Strategies
•Implementing a Structured Discipline Plan
•Progressive Discipline Scenarios
•The Consequences of a Referral
•Ten Things to Remember About Student Discipline
Subtle Disciplinary Strategies
The best way to control improper student behavior is to prevent it from happening. Experienced teachers employ a number of techniques that prevent or minimize student disruptions so that the student remains focused on instruction. The following examples are a normal and regularly-occurring element in most teachers’ “behavioral toolbox.” They are designed to prevent student misbehavior or minimize it when disruptive situations arise, thereby keeping students out of trouble while encouraging learning. These tactics are, for the most part, non-intrusive and allow for the continued flow of the lesson. Teachers may choose to use a number of subtle ways to handle discipline problems when an overt, aggressive approach is not mandated by the situation, such as: •Employ the “evil eye.” Maintain obvious, non-blinking eye contact with the offending student until the desired outcome occurs. If this isn’t enough of a warning, often an accompanying audible sigh of exasperation and a momentary cessation of class is enough. This technique also alerts the rest of the class that the targeted student is on thin ice. The offending student continues to receive glances from the teacher to prevent a recurrence of the troublesome behavior. •Ask the student to stop misbehaving. This is a mild rebuke, a casual directive, and should not be extended beyond a simple remark with accompanying eye contact. This act should also be followed at a later time with a positive comment when the student cooperates. In some cases it may be as simple as asking a student to stop talking so the class may continue. Following student cooperation, the teacher should continue to monitor this student’s behavior in an obvious manner in order to discourage further problems. •Move to or stand in close proximity to the troublesome student. Often students will get the message from this subtle change in location. Close proximity to a student has a quieting effect on most students. This technique is effective and has the least disruptive effect on the flow of the lesson. It also alerts the surrounding students. The teacher should move away from the student once the behavior is under control. Continued surveillance is needed as a preventative measure. •Ask the troubling student to recite, read, or respond. This action directs the class’ attention to the problem. The offending student gets the message and relents. Requiring the student to respond vocally has another benefit: it may help the offending student to realize that by not paying attention, she is failing to understand the lesson. At the very least, the recitation may take the student’s mind off of the misbehavior so class can proceed. It also sends a message to the student that the teacher is aware of the situation. •Tell the student to remain once class is dismissed. Once the other members of class have left, the student should be again told that the offending behavior is unacceptable. Outside of class, if time permits, the teacher may also ask the student if there is something wrong that may be affecting the classroom behavior. In a closed, one-on-one situation, often students will open up and provide a solution to their own problem. For instance, they may explain that they are seated in a distracting area, perhaps around friends and would like to be moved. Teacher Tip:
Avoid being alone with a student. Confidential conversations may be held in a room with the door open and with other teachers within visual range of the situation. •Move the student’s seat. This is a more aggressive strategy, best accompanied by a verbal warning, and is often the final step a teacher takes before implementing a more structured and severe disciplinary plan. Examine the floor plan and array of student seats to make sure there is an island, or semi-isolated location, for offending students. Teachers sometimes move disruptive students to a location in front of the class where they are in continual proximity and line of sight. Though it does disrupt the lesson, sometimes breaking the flow of class is a positive move as it demonstrates the seriousness of the issue. •Call parents. This strategy is very effective. Contacting the parents serves as a deterrent when the parents are involved early and therefore have an opportunity to intervene and persuade their child to deport themselves in a better manner. Open and continued communication with parents presents a coordinated effort to improve student deportment. •Plan lessons that last for the entire class period. Most students will not politely wait until the end of class once the lesson is completed. Given free time due to a lesson that ends early, students will create their own diversions and entertainment to while away the empty minutes. Begin each lesson with a structured activity. If the lesson plan ends before the time allotment allows, the teacher can continue the lesson in a variety of ways, such as providing a unit summary in preparation for a quiz or test, giving the students a chance to display what they know on an impromptu formative quiz, or allowing the students extra time to practice solving sample problems. •Use humor to wade through tense situations and to put students at ease. Humor is especially effective for misdemeanor items such as talking in class. Some of the most effective types of humor involve a positive aspect about a student. For instance the teacher may have prior knowledge about a student who won an award at a cheerleading competition the previous weekend and can use that information to say to a student, “After that cheering competition you guys won last weekend, I didn’t think you’d have the vocal chords left to talk over me during class this week.” Demeaning or sarcastic humor should be avoided, as should using humor as a behavior control technique before the teacher has established control of the class. Never try to be funny in the face of serious misconduct. Teacher Tip:
Inserting humor into a tense situation allows the student(s) to get out of a situation without losing face. Interestingly, humor is often successful with tough-minded students. Through bad treatment, some students are hardened beyond their years and are considerably tougher than their teachers. For tough students who come from a tough background, the teacher may be the only friendly face and soft-spoken adult they see on a daily basis. Most tough students have an emotional callous that deflects all incoming insults and mean treatment. They may also react with the anger and violence that has been modeled for them through their environment. Surprisingly, they are often defenseless against someone in authority who is nice to them. The standard warning goes with this technique: Do not let the student take advantage of the situation and receive preferential treatment after the reprimand is complete. •Love thy neighbor. Students first sense and later know whether a teacher likes or even cares about them. A loving teacher is one who looks for ways to help students; a statue teacher is more interested in delivering content regardless of whether the students learn it or not. A loving teacher meets students on their academic and social level and differentiates instruction accordingly to improve the academic standing of all students. Rigid teachers often think their students are too ignorant or lazy even to be in their classes. The loving teacher is disappointed when their students do not perform well; a frozen teacher blames the students for their failure or states that the students got what they deserved. Teacher Tip:
Do not be judgmental. Students are in their formative years and change daily. They have the youthful capacity to reinvent themselves like a Phoenix if they have the right support and opportunity. Loving teachers teach students, and everyone else teaches curriculum. As you probably realize, students prefer a loving teacher. Because of this, students often go out of their way to be kind and pleasant to that teacher. They are usually the students’ choice for Teacher of the Year. Discipline problems are minimal and the loving teacher seldom has the occasion to employ extreme disciplinary measures or send a student to the administrator. Conversely, normal students can also be monsters to a teacher that they do not like. People who like students may become great teachers, but teachers who do not like students will never receive the satisfaction of being a great teacher. The vast majority of your disciplinary strategies should be subtle in nature. Although you must learn to use them appropriately, they quickly become instinctual. Moderately Aggressive Disciplinary Strategies
Sometimes non-threatening disciplinary strategies fail to work. What should you do if that happens? First of all, realize that no discipline tactic works for all students all of the time. The following approaches are common in the teaching profession, but your mileage will vary depending upon your students, your personality, your school, and an infinitely large collection of other variables. When to use the correct preventative response is a function of teacher experience. You will make mistakes, but as long as you learn from them, the mistakes are worthwhile. These moderately aggressive strategies are less subtle than the preceding list and are best applied only when subtle strategies have failed or are unlikely to resolve the issue at hand. Delivering Verbal Reprimands
A verbal reprimand is a direct, in-class address to a particular student that contains the following elements: student name, description of the rule violated, corrective actions needed by the student, and the consequences imposed by the teacher if the student does not comply. The reprimand should not be a crazed shout, but rather delivered in a calm manner while maintaining direct eye contact. The purpose is to confront the student, identify the problem, provide a means to correct it, and lay the groundwork for possible escalation of consequences if the misbehavior continues. A verbal reprimand is intended to send a clear message to the student to correct poor behavior or face additional consequences. If you find that you are verbally reprimanding students repeatedly, then it may be a sign of something else. It may simply be that the students are not impressed by a verbal reprimand. Unfortunately, some children come from dysfunctional families where the child may be screamed at on a regular basis. If that is the case, your verbal reprimand may not be seen as a big deal. Your reprimand may be ineffective; consider your technique. Be conscious of the tone of your voice, your position in the room, your posture, and your eye contact. There is a delicate balance that must be maintained. On one hand, you do not want to verbally (or literally) back a student in a corner. A cornered student may react out of fear and adrenalin, like a cornered animal, which bodes poorly for his responses to the teacher. On the other hand, the teacher must present a position of power and authority at all times, especially when reprimanding a student. It is a good idea to arrange the classroom so that the teacher can easily move throughout the room and gain proximity to all students. Keep the following precautions in mind when using verbal reprimands: •Don’t walk away from the student as you deliver your warning. It will be interpreted as weakness. Literally stand your ground as you metaphorically do the same. •Do not scream at a student. Yelling at members of your class severely limits the way they can respond to you. Basically, it gives them two options: stand their ground and get in worse trouble or submit and lose face with their peers. If you don’t want the student to yell and be disrespectful to you, then act in kind. •Do not invade a child’s personal space during a reprimand. Doing so belittles the student and may stimulate a knee-jerk reaction by the student that makes things worse. Select a position in the classroom where you can deliver your verbal warning shot so that everyone (especially the offending student) can see and hear you clearly. If, even for a moment, a child feels you are a physical threat, your actions become indefensible to parents and the administration. •Reprimand the student immediately and by name. Do not wait until the end of class and say, “I saw some people copying off each other’s work, and I want you to know that’s against the rules.” Stop what you are doing, look directly into the eyes of the offending student, describe the disruptive behavior, describe acceptable behavior, refer to the class rules, and announce this event as a verbal warning. For instance, you could say “John, stop copying off of Megan’s paper. You know that’s unacceptable behavior. This is not a group project, so you have no business looking at anyone’s paper but your own. I don’t want to see you, or anyone else in this room, with eyes pointed anywhere but straight at your own desks. Understood?” Verbal warnings are very effective if handled correctly. They are one of the lowest and least obtrusive forms of intermediate student discipline. Be careful to read the situation: the student’s demeanor, causative agents, and then deliver a reprimand that corrects the student behavior without belittling the student. Writing Names on the Board
Writing a student’s name on the board is a good way to reprimand most students. There’s something powerful about seeing a written record of wrongdoing on the board that constantly and silently reinforces your classroom expectations and rules. There are some students, however, who like to see their name on the board. It is a form of positive reinforcement, an advertisement for bad behavior, and they will actively try to maintain their “celebrity status.” In such cases, choose a different disciplinary path. Teacher Tip:
You can write the student’s name on a sheet of paper at your desk, in your grade book, or other a non-public location. This removes the glamour from the event and makes it less desirable for the student. Assigning Detention
Detention requires the student to remain in a location at an inconvenient time as a form of punishment. Typically detentions are held before or after school or during lunch. Some detentions are held on Friday after school or Saturday morning for greater inconvenience. The detention is magnified if the student is also given a meaningful assignment to complete, such as extra arithmetic problems to solve or a passage to read. Note that detention may require the parents to provide transportation, which provides the opportunity to confer with the parents and elicit their support to prevent further discipline problems. Believe it or not, some students look for creative ways to wind up with detention. There are two common explanations for this odd type of behavioral pattern: •The student likes, and wishes to spend more time with, the teacher. This is especially true if lunch detention is held by the teacher in the teacher’s room. In such cases, assign after-school detentions or lunch detentions that are monitored by an administrator or another teacher. Teacher Tip:
A student that is very attracted to a teacher is a career-ending catastrophe waiting to happen. Do not be alone with the student for any reason in any location. This preventive behavior is in the best interest of both parties. Do not present a private situation in which the student may feel emboldened to act upon his feelings or to fabricate a tale that no other witness could dispute. In the case of sexual harassment between a student and a teacher, “he said/she said” is more accurately described as “he said/she’s fired.” •The student would rather stay after school than go home. As little as older students seem to want to be in school, they think it is cool to stay at school after hours. The students get to see their teachers in a different light, which is fascinating to them. They can also stay for detention and then afterward go to the after-school dance, athletic event, or other activity without having to arrange transportation. In fact, it may be easier for them to stay after school rather than go home and come back later. Unfortunately, sometimes a student’s home situation is a disaster and they would rather be anywhere but at home. To avoid sticky detention situations, assign after-school detentions when no other after-school activities are scheduled and ensure that you and the student being punished are not the only people in the room. For more difficult cases, assign a consequence other than detention. Calling Parents
Parent phone calls are probably the most overlooked and effective technique that teachers possess. An effective parent phone call is made on the day of the classroom disturbance, clearly describes the events that precipitated the call, identifies any previous incidents and the consequences meted out, and suggests a course of action to address the behavioral problem that is based upon a parent-teacher partnership. Use Form C, the Student Cumulative Discipline Record Form, and Form E, the Office Referral Form, to bring the parent up to speed on any prior history between you and the student very quickly. If your students filled out a personal information card at the beginning of the school year, you’ll have phone numbers at which the parent can be reached and the hours you should call. When in doubt, call at dinner time and ask for the father. Be prepared! Most parents do not want to hear anything bad about their child, so keep the following things in mind during the call: •Stick to the facts. Honestly and accurately explain the situation, your resolution thus far, and cooperative plans for the future. •Keep your parenting advice to yourself. Do not tell the parent how to raise their child. •Don’t assume the child has been honest to her parents. Don’t be surprised if the parent does not believe you, or if the child lies to further the problem. Again, simply state the facts. Be a “broken record” until the reality of the situation sinks into the parent and the student; the truth tends to come out eventually. •Call parents as soon as you have exhausted your ability to handle the student by means of subtle or moderate means within the classroom. Most parents, after an initial period of anger, are very glad that the teacher has called—it shows that the teacher cares and it allows the parents to get involved. Conversely, one of the worst things a teacher or administrator can do is fail to inform the parents of a serious or repeated misbehavior and then call to inform the parents that their child has been disciplined or suspended from school. In such cases, the parent will always blame the teacher and, appropriately, wonder why they were not informed when they could have intervened and helped their child. Whenever possible, call parents before you involve school administrators. Go to parents when you feel you’re in over your head, and then go to administrators once you and the student’s parents need further guidance. •Remember that your class may not be the only problem that child is facing. The parent may also be working with that child on similar or other discipline matters within the family or with other teachers. •Do not attempt to solve an issue that is beyond your realm of expertise and authority. Parents may be angry at you and label you a lousy, stupid, and bad teacher. You’ll probably hear a familiar refrain: “Megan doesn’t have any problems with her other teachers.” If a parent phone call degenerates into an argument or a series of accusations, invite that parent into the school for a meeting. When the parent arrives, make sure that you are part of a school team and do not meet with an angry parent alone. Tell the principal (or other school official participating) everything she needs to know about the situation, so that she is not blindsided or surprised by anything the parent may say. Teacher Tip:
You are not required to listen to parent profanity, nor are you required to be the parent’s punching bag. Refer the abusive parent to the administration or guidance counselor for future actions. When talking to a parent, keep everything positive, productive, and purposeful. Your job is not to determine whose fault it is that the student is misbehaving, but to determine what everyone’s going to do about it as a team. Generating Rules with Student Assistance
Sometimes teachers allow the class to generate their own rules and consequences. It identifies students as individual stakeholders in the success of the class and promotes adherence to the class rules. The students often consider past incidents in previous classrooms that interrupted learning, and are able to address those potential distractions preemptively. Beware that student-generated rules are generally very specific and are accompanied by an abnormally harsh penalty; therefore, the teacher should help to generalize the rules and the consequences. Teacher Tip:
Abnormally harsh or unrealistic rules and consequences create an unworkable classroom environment and cannot be justified to parents. In order to jump start the brainstorming session, the teacher may present scenarios and ask the students to propose a rule and a consequence. The scenarios should reflect incidents that are likely to happen during the year. The teacher then asks leading questions like, “What rule should we make for waiting in line for a drink of water?” or “What type of behavior is expected when the teacher is talking?” A series of follow-up questions defines the consequence for violation of the rules. It is usually better to list the consequence for a violation of the rule as the rule is created. The class may wish to “balance” the consequences upon completion so that the consequence for a minor violation is not more unpleasant than the violation of a more important rule. Contact a peer or mentor teacher to generate a list of likely scenarios to use in this activity. When students construct their own rules and consequences, it provides invaluable insight into the students’ collective psyche. You learn what is important in their lives and what aspects of class are foremost in their minds. It also minimizes the needs for an extensive explanation of the class rules and penalties. However, the downside is the initial investment of time required to create the list. Because the rules should be generated early in the year, the students may be less willing to speak freely in class, and participation may be agonizingly slow. Teacher Tip:
Make sure your class rules are consistent with school policies regarding student discipline. Share your rules with the building administrators. Implementing a Structured Discipline Plan
When individual students do not respond well to subtle and moderate disciplinary measures, a more sophisticated strategy is necessary. At its core, a progressive discipline model (PDM) is a sequence of events designed to address the habitual rule-breaker. As the number of violations increase, the severity of the consequences increases progressively. So, if the teacher is confronted with a student who continues to break the rules, the discipline ladder can be enforced in a fair, predictable, and equitable manner. The Progressive Discipline Model
The progressive discipline model has several benefits. First, it allows the students to see that the teacher has a mechanism in place for dealing with student misbehavior. This knowledge helps a good student to resist temptations to break the rules. Second, a PDM benefits the teacher, because the other students can see that justice is swift and impartial. In other words, if you commit this particular offense, then this particular consequence will happen. The action-reaction, violation-consequence chain is clearly communicated. When the presence of a PDM, itself, fails to deter inappropriate student behavior, then the components of the PDM are activated by the teacher. Consider the generic progressive discipline model below: First offenseInsert consequence
Second offenseInsert consequence
Third offenseInsert consequence
Fourth offenseInsert consequence
Fifth offenseInsert consequence
Serious offenseInsert consequence
The number of offenses that pair with the resultant consequence are created at the discretion of the teacher—some teachers consider three offenses, rather than five, to be too many. Any more than five offenses usually means that either the consequences are not severe enough or the student’s habitual rule-breaking cannot be addressed in the classroom alone; in such cases, the child should probably be referred to an administrator. The following sample PDMs present several appropriate consequences to choose from as student behavior gets progressively more disruptive. Table 1: Elementary School Progressive Discipline Model
First or second offense Verbal reprimand; name on board; yellow or red card used as visual warning; time out Third or fourth offense Sitting away from peers in a chair that identifies rule-breakers; lose portions of free/recess time; call home to parents Fifth offense Arrange for parents to shadow student; arrange parent conference; referral to administrator Severe misconduct Immediate referral to administrator; immediate advancement along the PDM (i.e., a single serious offense may constitute two or more typical offenses) Table 2: Middle School Progressive Discipline Model
First or second offense Verbal reprimand; name on board; write the rule 25 times on paper and turn in Third or fourth offense Call parents; lose free time; write the rule 25 times during lunch detention; write the rule 50 times at home and have parents sign it Fifth offense Arrange for parents to shadow student; arrange parent conference; referral to administrator Severe misconduct Immediate referral to administrator; immediate advancement along the PDM (i.e., a single serious offense may constitute two or more typical offenses) Table 3: High School Progressive Discipline Model
First or second offense Verbal reprimand; after-school or lunch detention; lengthy or repeated detentions; call parents Third or fourth offense Arrange for parents to shadow student; send note home to parent to be signed; loss of after-school privileges (to be coordinated with parent or sponsor of student’s extracurricular activity) Fifth offense Arrange parent conference; referral to administrator Severe misconduct Immediate referral to administrator; immediate advancement along the PDM (i.e., a single serious offense may constitute two or more typical offenses) These sample PDMs are intended to spark your own imagination and to help you design your own. Make sure to choose consequences that you are able to enforce and are allowed to enforce—you can’t assign consequences that would violate school policy. Remember, the entire purpose of a progressive discipline model is rehabilitating students who are continually disruptive. When used properly, they reestablish the productivity and deportment of a student, not hassle and nag the child to the point that restitution and a smooth return to class are impossible. Notice that the PDM does not directly affect the student’s grade. For instance, the student does not receive a 5% grade reduction as a result of poor behavior. It is true that student behavior influences student learning, but you cannot alter a student’s grade as a result of her ability to conform to the rules of your classroom. Academic prowess and student behavior are certainly related, but it is legally indefensible to lower a student’s score because of bad behavior. Progressive discipline works by advancing a student through increasingly invasive levels of consequences. At some point most students realize that the consequence is too great and will forego bad behavior. Post your PDM on the wall in a readable location until everyone understands how it works. For emphasis, use the chart during an actual disciplinary event to demonstrate how it works. Progressive models require teachers to keep track of discipline on a daily basis to prevent future problems and to document past problems. Keep careful records of daily bad behavior when it occurs, especially if the behavior is habitual. You may want to use Form B, the Student Daily Discipline Form, to record a series of behavioral infractions observed during a single class period, and Form C, a cumulative student discipline form that tracks and documents instances of a student’s misconduct over a longer period of time. Feel free to modify the forms so that they better suit your PDM. For instance, you may want to include a spot for parents to sign the form and thereby communicate to them, in detail, how the student has violated your class rules and over what span of time it has occurred. Addressing Serious Misconduct
Once the components of your progressive disciplinary model are in place, it is time to think about refining some of the scenarios and consequences. Are all of the rule infractions treated the same? Are some infractions more serious than others? Do some infractions require a stronger consequence than others? For instance, consider the scenario where a student blurts out an answer in class without being recognized by the teacher. What is the consequence? Consider a more disruptive example such as a student who is continually talking to a neighbor thereby preventing that student from being attentive to the lesson. Are the infractions of equal value? Will the consequences be the same in both cases? Interesting question. In general, most teachers weigh some infractions more heavily than others. A fight in the hallway or in your class is more serious than a student who forgets his pencil. Because of this, the wise teacher always prepares for a serious misconduct event and creates a rule that circumvents the step-wise approach described in the PDM. Examples of serious misconduct include: fighting, bullying, sexual harassment, threats to the teacher or other students, and possession of a weapon or controlled substance. When these events occur, the teacher immediately moves to the serious misconduct plan and bypasses the normal procedure. Notify the school administration, usually by means of the classroom call box, intercom, or phone system. You may also send a trusted student to carry the same message to the front office in person. Note that a “severe misconduct” category is a component of each of the sample progressive discipline models. This specialized category serves several important functions. First, it allows the teacher to send a student directly to the administration for a serious offense without working through the progressive discipline ladder. Second, the teacher has the offense-advancement option, when the behavioral issue does not warrant a trip to the administration but is significant enough to require a more severe penalty. In both cases, this allows the teacher to skip one or more levels on the PDM to reach a consequence consistent with the offense. It provides the teacher with the authority and opportunity to define what is considered an action requiring the severe misconduct designation, and also prevents students from using your own discipline system against you. Not all first offenses are created equal. A first offense of talking at an inappropriate time is not equivalent to a first offense of physically fighting in the classroom, and those infractions require different consequences. Teacher Tip:
The serious misconduct option allows the teacher a great deal of freedom in applying the proper corrective measures for a variety of situations. Progressive Discipline Scenarios
Although the progressive discipline ladder is not perfect, it does an excellent job of addressing most situations. The tool, in and of itself, is useless—the teacher must use it appropriately and not allow students to take advantage of the system. As you read the following scenarios and try to diagnose the problems, consider how to best apply the disciplinary strategies you have learned in this workshop. Scenario 1: The teacher implements a progressive discipline sequence and her students are still unruly. Solution 1:The consequence may not be unpleasant enough. In other words, the penalty is not persuasive enough to prevent the students from correcting their behavior. If this is the case, either strengthen the progressive discipline model or utilize the “severe misconduct” option and move them through the sequence more rapidly. Solution 2:Sometimes students are unruly because they do not understand the rules, or the teacher has not enforced them fairly and consistently throughout the year. In that case, the teacher needs to rethink the class rules and enforce them in an even, impartial, and consistent manner. Teachers who need to reinvent the class rules may find it more productive to time the change so that it coincides with a major break in the school year, such as holiday vacation. In so doing, the students return fresh and the new rules and procedures can be implemented without the veil of recent history confounding the issue. Solution 3:You may be the problem. Maybe your lessons are boring the students into civil disrespect. This misbehavior might be their way of telling you that something is wrong. Consider changing your methodology. Are you involving the students or do you lecture all or most of the time? Do you think of the students’ reactions when you prepare your lesson plans? Are you creating an environment that fosters active learning? Is the level of student achievement below expectations? Consider incorporating new techniques that favor a student-centered classroom that make students active learners. Scenario 2: One or more students are disruptive enough to reach the “verbal reprimand” or “name on the board” stage every day. Solution 1:This is a common situation. The students know how far they can go before they get into real trouble so they abuse the system. To remedy this behavior, use the serious misconduct rule to advance the targeted students on the progressive discipline sequence because of their pattern of misbehavior. Make it clear that repeat offenders will be promoted up the discipline ladder more quickly, as repetitively breaking a rule is an infraction of its own. As a result, the other students in your class are reminded of this option and, equally as important, feel the offending students have been duly warned. You don’t want to give your class any reason to defend the offending student, and thereby undermine your discipline policy, by interpreting your actions as violations of your own policy. Solution 2:The teacher may not maintain cumulative records for class discipline. Each teacher will have to decide if the progressive discipline sequence begins new each day or if previous offenses remain active as a cumulative record. A wise teacher records offenses in a cumulative manner so troublemakers do not start at the bottom of the PDM ladder each morning. This begs one question: What are the statutes of limitation, the length of time that an offense remains active? Most teachers are willing to drop or forgive minor offenses in a relatively short period of time if the student changes behavior patterns to an acceptable level. Removing previous offenses may also be a sign of forgiveness and an outward expression of reward for improved student behavior. If you are going to expunge a student’s record, make the announcement during class so that the rest of the students feel the warmth generated by this act, a kindness toward the teacher, and a better understanding of how the progressive discipline sequence works. Consider using Form C, the Student Cumulative Discipline Record Form, to keep careful records.
Solution 3:Introduce a student behavioral contract between you and the student, as illustrated by Form D. This document explains the problem in detail, outlines the behaviors expected of the student, and describes the consequences for compliance and noncompliance with the terms of the contract. It should contain the signatures of the teacher, student, parent, and administrator, if practical. In this way, all parties are aware of the situation and have made gainful efforts to cooperate on a winning plan. Scenario 3: After one or more trips to the administrator’s office, a student repeats the same behavioral offenses. Solution 1:The administrator may be ineffective, for any number of reasons. Several of the reasons are beyond the control of the classroom teacher. For instance, the classroom misbehavior may not be an isolated incident. The student may be in trouble in all of the classes. In this case, the student is likely reacting to something outside of the school, such as an awful situation at home or trouble in the neighborhood. The administrator may be trying to bring balance to the student’s life by giving her another chance.
Strong administrators will often try to work with a student before implementing the administrative progressive discipline model (APDM). In these situations, the administrator is focusing on changing the student’s situation as a means of changing behavior. As an example, an administrator may interview another student who may be bullying the troubled child to relieve the pressure on that student and apply it to the bully instead. Normally the administrator would secure a promise of good behavior from the student before allowing him to return to class, a promise reinforced by threatened consequences along the administrative discipline ladder. Within the same time frame, an effective administrator should communicate details of this plan without giving away confidential details. However, if the child continues to be a disruption in class, then the teacher may have to create a new discipline sequence, or send the child back to the administrator, or both. Teacher Tip:
Sometimes sending a student to an administrator is in the best interest of the child. Remember that administrative actions may be based on information that the teacher does not (or cannot) know. Avoid complaining about an administrator’s decision, especially to other teachers in the faculty lounge. Complaints, once aired in a public location, have a tendency to find their way to the people you’re complaining about, and the results are rarely uplifting.
Solution 2:There are two other reasons that an administrator’s actions may not prove helpful. One possibility is the APDM ladder—either the administrator’s discipline sequence is too weak or the student was started too low on the ladder. Both examples are easily addressed. The other possibility is that the teacher did not fully describe the nature of the offense and the actions already taken by the teacher before the referral to the administrator. The worst possible scenario for an administrator is a student that just shows up at her office. The administrator does not have the teacher’s side of their story, the background history, or the charges that are levied against the student. The student’s version of the events leading up to the referral will invariably differ from the teacher’s version. When no accompanying paperwork arrives, the administrator may not understand the gravity of the situation and return the student to class with only a warning.
Contrast that situation with a student who arrives at the administrator’s office with a complete written summary report that details the actions of the teacher prior to the student’s cataclysmic incident, prior consequences imposed by the teacher and served by the student, and a clear description of the offending event that forced the teacher to send the student to the administrator. Armed with quality information, most administrators will provide appropriate corrective action. If the school or school system does not have a standardized form for referring students to the office, it is in your interest to develop your own, like Form E, the Office Referral Form.
With a referral form in hand, the teacher and administrator are able to communicate even when the teacher cannot leave his classroom. Furthermore, the student knows that the administrator and teacher are aware of the teacher’s documentation and the administrative consequences, and cannot play one against the other.
Note that the referral form should contain the same elements that are found in the teacher’s progressive discipline model. The congruence between the forms is important. The checklist clearly shows the administrator that the teacher has attempted a sequence of corrective actions before sending the student to the office, not as a first, knee-jerk reaction. Often the teacher is harried when completing this section of the form because the troublemaking student may still be in class. However, the “reason for referral” section is important and may be hurriedly scribbled by the teacher or sent to the administrator at the next earliest convenience. Either way, it must contain the reason for referring the student on that date. Describe the figurative straw that broke the camel’s back. Teacher Tip:
Except in the case of a serious misconduct offense, do not send students to the administrator before completing all of the steps in the progressive discipline model.
For a particularly troublesome student or a unique situation, the administrator may wish to have a follow-up conversation with the teacher to plan for the return of the student to class. Usually these sessions are designed to create an environment so that the child and teacher can once again work together successfully. The administrator or parents may have constructive suggestions about how to deal with this particular student or may inform the teacher about outside circumstances that may be affecting the student’s behavior. Be prepared to accept the student back in class.
When you send a student to an administrator, call the front office to let them know that (insert student’s name) is on the way and an administrative referral form will follow at your earliest convenience. If the action is severe enough, the teacher may send a trustworthy student as an escort to the administrator. If you feel the situation is out of control, call for an administrator to come to your room to escort the student from class. Do not leave the rest of your class unsupervised to walk the student to the office yourself. The way you implement your progressive discipline model is just as important as the model itself. Ensure that you are consistently implementing it so that it operates effectively. Consequences of a Referral
When a teacher sends a student to the administrator, the administrator assumes that the teacher can no longer control the behavior of that student and makes the following assumptions: •The teacher has admitted that his inventory of discipline tactics is ineffective for the referred student. If an unusually high number of students end up in the administrator’s office, it reflects teacher weakness or a lack of experience in handling students. •The teacher abdicates any right to complain about the actions taken by the administrator. Complaining about how an administrator handled a problem is one of the worst breeches of professionalism a teacher can commit. Remember, there may be items or circumstances that affect the situation that you don’t fully understand. If you feel that an administrator is undermining your authority or not supporting you, go to the administrator in private and present your side of the story in a professional manner. •This may be a good time to ask for help. You are expected to discipline and manage your classroom. This expectation originates not only from the administration but also your peers, parents, and even your students themselves. A class must be disciplined before meaningful instruction and active learning can take place. While no teacher can handle every single discipline issue without involving the administration at all, you can reduce your number of administrative referrals by removing the temptation or opportunity for misbehavior. Enforce a system of class rules in a fair and consistent manner that models justice and promotes peace. There are a number of subtle discipline strategies that work almost all of the time. When those strategies fail, a progressive discipline plan brings structure to more aggressive discipline solutions. Prevent problems if at all possible; be ready with a rapid response for all other situations. Ten Things to Remember About Student Discipline
•Students are human. Treat them that way.
•“Bad” students do not necessarily move away from your city or town once they’ve graduated. Don’t treat a student in such a way that you’d regret meeting them later in life. •Some students are tougher than their teacher. Do not try to overpower them. You are not lord over a barbarian society—there are methods other than brute force and intimidation at your disposal. •Well planned lessons that utilize the entire time period prevent discipline problems. •Student-centered lessons require less student control efforts than teacher-centered lessons. •Learn your students’ names today. They already know yours. •Adjust the configuration of the room to maximize instruction and teacher movement and to minimize social and physical limitation problems. •Measure the situation before you react. A quick but terrible response is worse than a slow but correct response. Speed will come with experience. •Be prepared. Have rules and consequence set on the first day of school. •If things are already bad, don’t let them get worse.