Punishing misbehavior is one of the hardest aspects of teaching. For this reason, nine out of ten of the rules of success help to prevent misbehavior. Before the school year starts, have procedures for your consequences in place. Discuss the following consequences with your principal to make sure that they are in compliance with state laws, district and school procedures.
Classroom DisciplineIt is important to have consequences when students break your classroom rules. Three very commonly used consequences are referring a student to the office, calling the parents, or making an empty threat. When a teacher tells a student of a consequence but does not follow through, it affects the teacher's credibility. The empty threat is meaningless. Calling home and using the administration are effective but the teacher should try to handle the problem on their own. Please remember that high school or middle school students can become discipline problems because of a lack of procedures in your class.
- Have the student or students caught write a change of behavior plan that states three things: 1) what happened and how did it make them feel, 2) how did it make other students feel and how did it make the teacher feel, 3) and what are you going to do differently so the behavior will not repeat. The behavior plan must be acceptable to you, the teacher, or else the student will be referred to the office. Have that student or students sign and date this change of behavior plan. This can be useful since the student or students are documenting for you and they explicity know what they need to do differently.
- Call home and explain the misbehavior and what changes you would like to see with their behavior. Have documentation of their behavior so that you can provide the parent/guardian with accurate details. Please be polite and always approach parents from the point of view that you are working together with them. Both of you have the same goals: to get their child to succeed in class.
- A consequence that works well with many students is holding them after class, because it is most effective when a consequence is administered as soon as possible. However, this may be a problem at your school if students have a short passing period after your class. You could always write the student a pass to their next class.
- After school detention can be effective but many students have to take care of siblings, a bus to catch or may not show up.
- Some schools have set up lunch detail for students who misbehave during class.
- Referring the student to the office may remove the student from the class for that period, but usually does not fix the problem. Referring students to the office also has the negative consequence of removing you from the solution. Usually, the office does not have a consequence to change the student's behavior.
- Parent /teacher conferences are also a valuable asset. Please be polite and always approach parents from the point of view that you are working together with them. Be prepared for the meeting with documentation, the student's grades on assignments, and even examples of student work. Your goal of the meeting is to get the student to correct their behavior. The parent's goal is to make sure their kid is going to succeed in your class and is being shown respect. Having good documentation really helps parents to understand that all you want is a change in behavior. Showing parents the change in behavior plans discussed above is a valuable tool.
How to Repair the Harm?After a student or students have received their consequences, it is a great idea to heal people's emotions affected by the harm. Just because a student received a consequence, it doesn't mean that the consequence heals people's negative feelings (including the teacher). Classroom circles are amazing for healing the harm done, but A CIRCLE IS NOT THE CONSEQUENCE, nor does it replace it. The idea of classroom circles comes from restorative practices. Restorative practices are powerful and it is highly recommended you receive training or read this book on restorative practices prior to implementing it in the classroom. You can choose to run a circle with all students in the classroom. Make sure to discuss with your school's administrators before utilizing restorative practices. You can also choose to run a circle with just the students who caused the harm and the students who were harmed, but if you choose to run a small circle, make sure an administrator is present and participating in the circle. Below are some of the best practices for restorative classroom circles:
- Standing circles work best for most teachers as they are fast to implement and require no movement of chairs & tables. Have all the students form a standing circle around the outside edges of the classroom. Rules: All students face the circle, no students can be behind another student, no students can sit, and be respectful.
- Define respect before running a circle each time. For classroom-wide circles, NO SIDE CONVERSATIONS must happen between students. The goal is that everyone contributes to the whole group, and side conversations cause a lack of trust since some people won't be able to hear what was said and wonder what is being said.
- How to run a circle? After students stand in the circle, you, the teacher, post a question or a statement to the class. If you have a projector, that works great for displaying the question or statement. The teacher then calls on a student randomly. That student then says right or left. The student to the right or left answers the question or states how the statement makes them feel. The student next to the one who just spoke then shares. It continues around the circle, ending with the student the teacher randomly called. Then, the teacher can post another question or statement on the projector, and the process repeats with a new random student.
- What are the different types of circles? You can use standing circles for curriculum by having students discuss their thoughts or feeling on a posted question or statement. You can use a standing circle to build community and classroom culture. Ask students what they did last weekend, what their favorite hobby is, what they want to be changed about your class, or anything that gets students and you to learn about other students in the classroom. Another type of circle is about repairing the harm caused by misbehavior.
- Why circles can repair the harm? In a circle, the damage caused is not dismissed or hidden. Since everyone involved gets a chance to share their feelings, people's feelings are heard and acknowledged as important. A common goal of the circle is to build trust by creating a situation where people experience respect.
- Use affective statements. To not cause someone to become defensive, it is best to use an affective I statement. When you say "I feel" or "I think", people don't feel attacked. Don't use "you" statements! You are not blaming others; you are just sharing your feelings or thoughts. This simple modification in your language and how you present statements or questions to the student circle will go a long way. You can also provide a written prompt like "I feel" or "I think" on the projected slide so that all students use affective statements when they share.
- By addressing the issue openingly, including people's feeling while not triggering people's defense mechanisms, you are building a culture of trust in your classroom. As you can imagine, things can go wrong if you have not had training (based on ideas in this book on restorative circles). Once again, seek guidance and help from the administration before running restorative circles.
Rewarding StudentsTo reduce misbehavior, reward good behavior. Rewards should be utilized several times a week. A reward should be something immediately gratifying to the student. You can use this technique to reward a couple of students or reward the entire class.
Catching Cheaters & MisbehaviorA good teacher usually won't be sitting at their desk during class. If you are not helping students, you can help make sure that the students are on task. To catch students who cheat or break your rules can be easy if you follow several simple rules:
- All work done outside of class has a higher risk of being copied. Try to keep all important and valuable learning experiences in class where you can monitor students. Not only do parents help too much with student work, but students may copy off of each other, copy off the internet, and so on.
- Students may try to cheat in class on assignments. If you don't want students to work in a group, you need to be in front of the room watching students' heads and eyes.
- To prevent cheating on tests, ask students to roll up their sleeves to their elbows. This will help prevent students from writing answers on their arms or keeping a cheat sheet in their sleeves. Ask students to move their chair in so that their stomach is touching the desk. This will prevent students from looking at their lap where they may have a cheat sheet. It will also help to obscure their view if they have a cheat sheet on the ground or on a backpack. Have two or more versions of the test so that students may not look for answers from their neighbors. Make sure to check the tables for writing when handing out the test. Never allow cell phones because of text messaging or taking pictures of your tests. Have student remove their hoods and turn the bill of their hat backwards. This will allow you to see the students' eyes the entire time they are taking the test.
- To catch students who are using a cell phone in class, watch for students looking at their lap. There is usually no reason why a student needs to be looking at their lap. Just walk over to that student and ask for their phone, even if they put it back into their pocket.
- Many students will try to listen to their music during class. To prevent this, do not allow students to wear hoods. You can now see if the students have wires hanging from their ears or wireless earbuds.
- If you do not allow chewing of gum, spend 20 seconds during class and scan the room watching students' mouths. If you see a chewing motion, ask the student to spit it out. This can also help if you don't allow any food or drink in class.
* Disclaimer: Before implementing any ideas from this website, please first consult your principal to make sure they are in compliance with state laws, district and school procedures.