Classroom Management #1
A MiddleWeb Listserv conversation
Several months after this chat, we had another one!
Discipline and Classroom Management #2
Discipline and Classroom Management #3
New teachers may also find this conversation about
first-year teaching and self-evaluation of interest!
Phyllis (a new teacher) provided the spark for the MiddleWeb listserv's first extended
conversation about discipline and classroom management. It is, of course, a conversation that
never ends, and we will continue to add fresh conversations to this file as they appear on the list.
Help! I just started teaching 7th & 8th grade Language Arts after being out of the school system
for 16 years! I'm teaching in the Bronx and I keep feeling like I'm hitting walls.
I go in well planned, but the students need much self-discipline and many a time the period is
spent working on classroom management. I must admit, it's not all their fault. I don't know what
With the exception of one observation by my assistant principal., followed by a class taught by
the resource teacher, I have been left to fend for myself. OK. But tell me. What's the procedure.
Does anyone have to put on the board a "Do Now" assignment? When do you check homework?
How do I start a writing journal?
Right now I've been working on literature. It's taken too long, (almost 4 weeks), to read a short
story. I'm certified to teach, but heck, can someone tell me how to go about doing it? No
curriculum. No chalk! I've been asking my hubbie to bring me chalk from the high school he
The school uses the McDougal Littell anthology...and I love it. I would love to know how to
introduce writing. We're finishing up "The Lie" in one class, "Last Cover" in another, and my
eighth grade class has a test in "The Clown" tomorrow. Where do I go from here??????
I haven't even broken them up into groups for some cooperative learning and they're getting
pretty antsy. How do I simplify my life right now? I am spending so much time on lesson plans
and then running into brick walls. So much resistance. How can I make it easier on myself? I am
dead tired. I can't sleep nights worrying about whether or not I'm getting through. I'm
disappointed in myself that I haven't even started a writing log with them.
I know I'd be effective...I just need some tools. Guidelines would be helpful. Does anyone know
what Type l, Type II, and Type III writing is? I am totally overwhelmed. I'm crying all the time.
Is this what new teachers go through in the middle school? I do have some nice 7th grade classes
and I've been calling a lot of parents in my eighth grade home room class. (I also have my
homeroom for LA.) I feel like I'm drowning.
Is it totally unrealistic to expect silence in a Bronx middle school classroom? My 8th grade
students, (not my homeroom), come in and play "musical chairs." I feel so inept.
Somebody, please help! Thanks.
Nancy Long offered this advice to Phyllis -- take "baby steps"
Hang in there, girl! Most of us have been there and survived.
Here are a few survival tactics I have learned in 31 years of at-risk education:
1. Don't assume that they understand anything at all. Break every task down into baby steps,
from the way you want them to put their heading on the paper to the way you want them to
behave. Model the way you want things done, have them do it for you, praise their efforts and
tell them what they need to do differently, let them do it again. Every day, tell them what you
want them to do and praise them when they do it. Yes, you'll feel silly, but it seems to work.
Especially praise them when they do it without being told.
2. Praise should be random after the first few times for one behavior, so they don't come to take
it for granted. "Jerry has his paper out with his heading on it, Tyree has his paper out with his
heading on it, Lupita has her paper out with her heading on it..." is all you need to say.
3. KEEP CALM. If at all possible, draw attention to kids who are doing the right thing and not
the ones who are being disruptive or off-task. They love to make teachers lose their cool!
4. I focus strongly on every student's right to have a safe, supportive learning environment. If
someone is criticizing or bad-mouthing another student's work, ideas, or answers I say to the
offender (usually privately but sometimes in front of the class), "Joey, I am not going to let
anybody in this room criticize you like that. This is a place where you can feel safe to do your
best and make mistakes without getting criticized. And I'm not going to let you do that to
anybody else either. Fair enough?"
5. If several students are talking at once, I remind them that I am so attention-deficit that I can't
concentrate on what a person is saying if there are distractions. I say, "Help me out here. I want
to hear what Jennifer is saying."
6. (Maybe this should be #1) Get Harry Wong's book, "The First Days of School." Read it. It is
7. Go easy on yourself. Don't get frustrated with your lesson plans--you are learning how long it
will take to teach a story and the activities that go with it. Once the kids learn exactly what you
expect and that you are going to consistently reinforce desirable behavior, perhaps they will
settle down and move faster, but for now accept the fact that however long it takes is how long it
takes. They keep telling us that the focus should be on quality, not quantity.
8. It's likely that many of your students come from homes where the noise level is high, people
compete for attention, and the TV is always on. Calm, quiet spaces are threatening to some kids--
it means there is something wrong when it happens at home. That takes a while to overcome. Try
letting them hear soft, INSTRUMENTAL music while they are working. Research shows that
remarkable things happen to people's thought processes when they listen to classical music (Bach
and Mozart music especially promotes clarity of thought).
Hey, I didn't mean to write a book. No doubt lots of people have ideas for your "bag of tricks".
One's first year of teaching is always trial by fire, and you have been out of the system long
enough that this is like your first year. There IS life after! I commend you for seeking help fron
your fellow middle school teachers. We are our best resource. Keep us posted!
Anne Jolly offered some additional tips to Phyllis:
Phyllis's plea for advice really tugged at my heartstrings. I'll add a couple of ideas to the
wonderful suggestions folks have already offered. Then I'll end with a question.
1. Keep a sense of humor, and let the kids see it as frequently as possible. Developing good
relationships with students has always been one of the best ways I've found to manage classes.
2. If a student is rude and disrespectful, be non-reactive and keep your responses strictly
professional. Let warmth and enthusiasm pour out when you are teaching and interacting with
your students, but remain nonemotional when dealing with discipline issues.
3. Use as many manipulatives as possible - bags with chopped up sentences to be diagrammed,
or arranged in order for example. I try to vary my activities and approach regularly.
4. Be sure all of your students experience some success.
5. If you don't mind giving out your email address, this worked for me. I wrote my email address
on the board and asked all students with Internet access to email me. I put their email addresses
into a group list and sent them group emails a couple of times a week. I NEVER used emails to
chastise students - just for informal hellos and to give them a glimpse of something good that
was coming up. I also used it to ask them for ideas on how we could make an upcoming topic
(such as the digestive system) more interesting. I let students turn in some assignments to me on
What I found was that students (especially the boys) would share things with me over email
("My dog got killed by a car yesterday and that's why I was so out of it in class today.") that they
would never share with me face to face. In fact, I was able to establish closer contact and better
relationships with many students through email. It did not take a great deal of time.
Now a question - what is your teaching situation like? By that I mean things like -- How many
students a day are you teaching and how large are your classes? What sort of administrative
support do you have? Do teachers in your school collaborate and support one another?
Please stay in there - you are in the world's most important profession and working with the
world's neediest age group! I'm glad you are one of us!
Ellen Berg offered a few hard-won lessons of her own and suggested several useful books:
One thing that I would love to see on here is a list of "tricks up your sleeve" for classroom
management to compile and pass along to my induction teachers.
One of the most important things I've learned about classroom management is to not take
anything personally. When I remain detached, I can cooly assess the goals of the behavior and
take appropriate action. In my diary on Middleweb last week, I wrote about a student who is
giving me a HUGE (understatement of the century) amount of problems. What I realized this
week is that I was giving him the power to get to me.
The most helpful books for me on classroom management and discipline are Linda Albert's
Cooperative Discipline and the Wongs' The First Days of School. They are practical guides that
offer specific suggestions and help identify the goals of the misbehavior. I have been using many
of the strategies from the Cooperative Discipline book for the past four years, and most of my
discipline problems are handled easily.
Using humor when possible is also a huge help. It's just another way of showing kids they're not
"getting" to you.
Turner M.E.G.A. Magnet Middle School
St. Louis, MO
Nancy Long shifted the conversation a bit to discuss teaching strategies that can be used with
ADD and ADHD students -- and other restless kids:
A man named Ron Walker presented a workshop in Corpus Christi last year entitled Active
Teaching Strategies for ADHD Students. It was excellent. He is from Atlanta and can be reached
at email@example.com. His wisdom comes from experience : He is extremely hyperactive and
has dealt with hyperactive students for his whole career as an educator.
His first point was that ADHD is a genetic neurologic condition which FEW students have, but
many other conditions may cause the same behaviors, including bipolar disorder,
obsessive/compulsive disorder, Tourette's syndrome, allergies, asthma, food intolerances, and ear
He states that the presence of severe ear infections in early childhood is the most powerful
predictor of learning disability. 41% of children who have 5 or more episodes of ear infection
with drainage lasting a week in the first two years of life have learning disabilities. ANYWAY,
he says we need not worry about the medical diagnosis of ADHD, we can use the same strategies
to deal with all "difficult" students.
He gave a good deal of info on modifications under SB 504 and the Americans with Disabilities
Act. Here are his ten behavior management "critical rules for educators":
1. Establish and maintain eye contact for all oral instructions. If you can get the room reasonably
quiet and get eye contact with all but 2 or 3 students, it raises the percent of students who follow
direction from 25% TO 75%.
2. DON'T USE YOUR EYES TO DISCIPLINE, especially when working with difficult children.
Negative eye contact is aggressive (fight or flight reflex). Cocking the head, leaning the weight
to one side, not blinking = negative eye contact.
3. Do establish positive eye contact when praising children.
4. Don't require or attempt to force eye contact when correcting or disciplining. Don't do or say
anything to a child you would not want done or said to yourself.
5. Use pronimity as a primary behavioral control strategy. Approach misbehaving students
without giving them attention. Give positive reinforcement for corrected behavior without
making it evident to others.
6. Don't use verbal correction of misbehavior as a primary control strategy. The fewer verbal
7. Do touch children to build rapport and provide positive attention. The upper forearm the
orienting zone, a neurologic reflex appearing within 5 minutes of birth. The center of the upper
back is the stress reduction zone (those nerves are directly connected to the muscles around the
8. Don't "puncture the zone"; do not grab or gesture into the students' proximity zone (5 years
old= within arm's reach; 10 years old= 1 step away; 15 years old = 2 steps away. It stays the
same until old age, when it gets closer again) Discipline at or below their eye level, not above;
this gives the message that it's not a control issue. Stoop or crouch if you have to in order to get
below their eye level. Keep your hands in your pockets of behind your back. Don't use hand
gestures. Look non-confrontational.
9. Do get "softer and closer" when children misbehave or are non-compliant. Use softer voice,
closer proximity. Match the volume and tone of your voice to that of the person you are speaking
with so as not to escalate aggression.
10. Don't raise your voice, except for a "rare fit." Don't direct rare fits at an individual, but at a
He quoted three studies showing that soft, instrumental background (not foreground) music
benefits the majority of students.
He gave several strategies for multi-sensory/interactive instruction, but this message is the
longest one I have ever written! I'll write the rest in another message.
Glad I had a chance to write all this--I needed to be reminded of some of these points myself!
When Alexis Ducat responded to a note from Leighann about her challenges as a new teacher,
she touched on classroom management issues. That part of her message is posted here:
Only four years ago I was a new teacher. I had no ideas what questions to ask. I was
overwhelmed with the proverbial "classroom management", grading, parents, being on the same
page as other teachers in my grade level, etc., I almost quit.
Now, I am an administrator and I mentor to a passionate teacher. However, I fear burnout for her
as she loses sight, sometimes, of what is feasible and what is not. I'd rather any teacher err on
that side. She calls me every Sunday night to check planning, etc. Yet, that still isn't enough.
New teachers coming from other districts, Catholics vs. Public school settings, elementary to
middle, high school down to middle, have many issues to handle, such as grading, discipline,
detention struggles, too much nurturing, not enough, and I could go on. We have new
movements, renewals, reforms spring up every day it seems - standards initiatives, character
education, and middle school structures--advisory, teaming, flexible scheduling.
My question still begs for an answer. Has anyone on the listserve been involved in some time of
collegial--not congenial group of people who truly want to support and have the time? Alexis
Leighann Fuller replied:
Ellen Berg, my mentor last year, was the one who originally posted the message about the
second year teacher who thinks she ought to be "perfect" by now. I know this second year has
been a struggle, which is something I hadn't anticipated. I'm dealing with things better, but things
still are not falling completely into place. Luckily, I have a mentor who cares. Ellen is always
available to listen to me whine, to listen to lesson ideas, to provide a crying shoulder for "those
Newer teachers NEED that kind of support. I have no idea why teaching is so isolating. In the
business world, people are always working together to reach common goals. Even with the
teaming approach, it never seems to work out well. My team is a team in name only. Teachers
should be talking together about struggles, successes, and ideas... most of all children. We need
the time to share together.
PS: Ellen, if you're reading this.... THANK YOU!!
Another new teacher, Stacy Goldberger, had a question about working with parents on discipline
What do you do if the parent gives a response like "He's like that at home. I don't know what to
do with him. We've tried everything."?
Another teacher replied:
Actually, I think it's positive when a parent is willing to be honest and share this kind of
frustration. In many instances our students' parents feel a need to hide their feelings of
helplessness behind a wall of defensiveness. (Sometimes the "holier than thou" attitude in some
schools, sets the stage.) The rules for parenting have changed, just like the rules for teaching.
Maybe you could get a conversation going among a group of parents and eachers, maybe your
counselor or a local clergy person could suggest a speaker.
Some schools are offering parenting workshops. Teachers and district guidance folks have a lot
John Norton then replied:
I noticed today when I was checking out one of the references mentioned by Mary Lorenz (see
below) that the "You Can Handle Them All" training materials are aimed at parents as well as
teachers. See this webpage where they emphasize the need for teachers and parents to work on
Stacey then asked for listserv opinions about some of the discipline "gurus" like Harry Wong and
I am curious as to what other middleweb listservers think of Harry Wong, Lee Canter, and the
like... Since they are both behaviorlists, the method involves the teacher 'controlling' the
students. I do assume, however, that many teachers modify assertive discipline techniques.
Ellen Berg offered her opinion about Wong:
I absolutely LOVE Harry Wong. He is 100% on the mark when he points out that kids need
structure, routines, and consistency. I may be wrong, but I don't recall him ever saying that
teachers should (or could) "control" kids....I firmly believe that teachers cannot control what any
child does or says in the classroom. Our students always have a choice. I think what Wong
advocates is setting up the right conditions to help them want to make the right choice--to learn,
stay on task, and have self-control.
At the beginning of the school year, I freely admit to my students that I cannot make them do
anything--learn, act appropriately, be on task, etc. and that they have to make the choice to do
these things on their own. However, I do have my own choices to make, and I may choose to call
home, have a conference with them, keep them after school, or recommend suspension if they do
not choose to follow the standards in my classroom. I also have the choice to recognize
appropriate behavior, effort, and high achievement in my classroom through positive notes
home, praise, and extra help during lunch or after school.
I also think that Wong looks at himself as a teacher of classroom management rather than
discipline. He believes that deliberate, structured classroom management will result in good
discipline in the classroom. I agree completely. Discipline is such a small part of what makes an
effective classroom; the classroom needs to be set up and managed in a way that is conducive to
In terms of discipline, I really like Linda Albert's Cooperative Discipline. She explains the
signals that our students' behaviors send us (attention, revenge, etc.) and gives some specific
strategies to use with each behavior goal. I especially like it because it is designed to bring the
goals of the behavior into each student's consciousness...eventually they have to examine what
they did, why they did it, what resulted, and appropriate ways to resolve their needs.
Mary Anne likes Wong more than Canter:
I make sure every new teacher I work with gets a copy of Harry Wong's The First Days of
School. I don't know if I would classify Wong as a behavioralist. His "method" is based on the
idea that if you teach students the proper procedures for doing things in the classroom, you have
taught them the responsibility for making sure the classroom runs smoothly.
I agree. Trying to teach kids responsibility instead of compliance is something I have been
working on for years! I am a fan of Alfie Kohn--if you have not read "Punished by Rewards"
pick up a copy of it and read it. Some of his articles are availible online. His premise is if we
keep rewarding kids (and adults) for everything you ask them to do--rewards have to get bigger,
and what you are teaching them is to comply. I read somewhere that we have developed a
"sticker and star" generation that will be entering the workforce in a few years. They have been
taught to expect a reward for everything they do.
Lee Canter is too complicated for me! I tried to do the marbles in a jar thing when I first heard
about it at a workshop but I kept forgeting about the marbles-- I was too busy teaching!
However, I have colleagues that have successfully used the technique. It just depends on what
you believe in enough to be consistant and follow through with. Good Luck!
Kathleen Renfrew describes another discipline approach:
Stacy asked: "I am curious as to what other middleweb listservers think of Harry Wong, Lee
Canter, and the like."
I do not know specifically the work of these two. Our school uses the Responsive Classroom
model. Our goal is to teach the students take responsibility for their own actions. We work very
hard to choose appropriate consequences for infractions.
The students all have a voice in the development of the classroom rules. This makes a big
difference. I do very little controlling of my students because I want them to act appropriately
and make good choices whether i am there or not.
Does this mean I never raise my voice or get into a power struggle with a student? No.but it does
happen less often than before? I am really working hard to achieve true community in my
classroom. We are working on practicing mutual respect for each other and the other members of
our school community.
All of this takes time. I have a morning meeting just about every day faithfully. This is our time
to greet each other, share, bring up problems that are affecting our relationships in the
community. I had to take the time to make this happen. I used to worry about the time I as taking
away from academics but no longer
A separate conversation on the listserv about "cultural resistance" to discipline and management
practices provoked this comment from Annie:
Hi, I'm finding in interesting this discussion about cultural resistance. While I agree with some
tenents of it, I don't think it's right to excuse poor behavior or school work because of "culture".
To me that sounds like racism. As in "this group of kids can't do a certain kind of work because
of their culture".
As a social studies teacher I include many perspectives and cultures in my teaching. But I also
hold my kids to high standards, no matter their color or culture. I know the discussors here did
not mean it that way, but I fear that others in the world may do so...and may use it as an excuse
for poor performance.
Also: has anyone ever felt like a total failure??? Lately, I have been having a tough time...an
extremely tough time, with my 7th graders. Their behaviour has been so off and disrespectful
and I've come down hard on them. I know they "don't like" me right now. I don't like them right
now....and I don't myself as a teacher when I'm around them right now.
I've tried assertive discipline...I've tried a lot of things... ugh. I feel like a poor teacher. I know I
could do better in responding to the constant behavior disruptions..I'd like to hear how others
have dealt with difficult students/classes. And how they dealt with feeling like failures.
Ellen Berg replied with some suggestions for Annie:
When I was at the NMSA Conference in 1999, LouAnn Johnson (Dangerous Minds, AKA My
Posse Don't Do Homework) was a keynote speaker. She said that if children are at school, then
they want to be there although their reasons are not always the same as ours. I try to keep that in
mind even as I hear them tell me, "I'm not going to do that," (as one charming little guy told me
today) or roll their eyes at me as I correct them for miscellaneous actions.
We all have those experiences. Seventh graders, especially, are an unpleasant, unhappy bunch.
Developmentally they are trying to pull apart from the adults in their lives to form their own
identities. On top of all of that, they're hormones make them cranky and irrational. It is a
clinically proven fact that seventh graders completely lose their sense of humor and don't get it
back until eighth grade. (They lose it again as sophomores in high school!)
That, however, is no excuse for their behavior. You mentioned, "I don't like myself as a teacher
when I'm around them right now." That is a cue that you are probably reacting to their behavior
rather than constructively addressing it. (I was the queen of reacting!) When you are reacting,
you are not staying calm, consistent, or even fair. I hope you are not taking this the wrong way;
many teachers make the same mistake.
Suggestions? First of all, stop taking their behavior (all of it) personally. They act ugly for many
reasons, one of which might be to see you get upset. When you start looking at it as a symptom
of something else--nothing personal--you remove the emotion from the situation. When you are
calm, you are more able to make rational, constructive decisions. (Besides, do you *really* care
what a 13 year old says about you? :) )
Second, have you established clear routines and procedures that you adhere to on a consistent
basis? For example, how to line up to come in, how to sit down, what to do when you enter the
room, how to get their attention, etc.? I had a nightmare sixth grade class this year (they acted
like seventh!), but once I realized I was reacting and wasn't giving them the structure they
needed, I changed. Guess what? So did they. They're still not perfect (we had to practice walking
into my room 5 times last week...they've been inordinately wonderful since then!), but I'm not
dealing with the overwhelming backtalk that I was in the past.
IF YOU DON'T HAVE IT ALREADY, GO BUY HARRY WONG'S THE FIRST DAYS OF
SCHOOL. He gives very specific suggestions about how to have good classroom management.
He asserts that discipline problems are usually the result of poor/inconsistent classroom
management. I have to agree, because once I became more consistent and explicit with my
expectations, the number of problems I've had severely decreased. Another fantastic book that
focuses on discipline is Cooperative Discipline by Linda Albert. It helps you understand the
goals of behavior and gives specific suggestions about how to attack it.
On the discipline front, one thing I do is keep a log of student behavior. I write the name, date,
behavior, and response for every discipline issue I have. First of all, it's good documentation.
Second of all, it keeps me honest and specific once I contact the parent. Parents are quite
respectful when you whip out your book and say, "On November 10 Johnny did XYZ, then on
November 15...." and so on.
I have a lot more I could say, but this is long already. After a VERY difficult first year (I yelled
every single day, and the kids walked all over me) I made it my mission to find out everything I
possibly could about discipline and classroom management. My second year was dramatically
better, and things have improved every year since. I'm now in my fifth year, and I have very few
real problems when I stay calm, consistent, and thoughtful.
If you would like to contact me on or off the list with specific questions, I would be happy to
help you further. Give yourself a break; we've all been there! :)
Annie reflected on discipline in "days gone by":
On Boston Public the other night a character said that he remembered growing up and teachers
were admired and respected. Students knew what was not accepted in school, but today it is
different. I think that is one major reason I am feeling so frusterated, burnt out and stressed.
I hate feeling like this. I feel as if my 7th grade class treats me (and other staff) like a joke. Some
of them smirk when we give them directions. Many of them don't care if they recive punishment
or consequences...they don't care. It has no effect on them. A problem also is that it's coming a
lot from the home. Many of the parents are the same way: being disrespectful to me and other
staff, blaming me for thier child's rude behavior and poor school performance (when the child
does no work), and modeling this disrespectful behavior to their kids.
I am sorry I am sounding negative guys...I feel very burnt out. It's only my 3rd year teaching!! I
know some of it is that as a performing arts school, Christmas is hectic for us. We are losing A
LOT of class time due to performances and rehersals. And our music director-who is also our
principal- won't suspend or punish the ones in the 7th grade who cause the troubles because they
are the most talented and the soloists and she needs their voices! When's vacation?!!!
Mary Lorenz offered a website suggestion and several excerpts from books by William Glasser:
Another resource for the teacher who is troubled by her 7th graders is www.disciplinehelp.com.
This is a web site by the people at The Master Teacher. Two sections she should consult are
"Behavior Management: Overview and Foundations," and "Solutions for Handling 117
Misbehaviors." The followings is excerpted from The Quality School and The Quality School
Teacher by William Glasser.
Your students need to know and like you.
(Adapted from: The Quality School Teacher. By William Glasser, M.D.)
Teach so that your students get to know you far better than most do now. The better we know
someone and the more we like about what we know, the harder we will work for that person.
Control theory explains that we will work hard for those we care for (belonging), for those who
respect us (power), for those with whom we laugh (fun), for those who allow us to think and act
for ourselves (freedom), and for those who help us to make our lives secure (survival). The more
that all of these needs are satisfied in our relationship with the manager who asks us to do the
work, the harder we will work for that manager.
During the first few months you are with your students, look for natural occasions to tell them:
1. Who you are. Your students are interested in statistics such as your age, your marital status,
whether or not you have children and their ages; do you have a mother, father, or grandparent in
your life? Do you live in a house or apartments? Even more they want to know your interests:
What have you done besides teach, what your favorite television programs are, what music you
listen to, what food you like best or dislike, the list could go on and on. Children are not
sophisticated. Most of them don't know very much about the people the live with, much less
2. What you stand for. Most interesting to all of us, and usually totally unknown to your students
about you, is what people stand for. To form their own opinions, they need to find out what
people like you think about and why. Explain to the class, and reexplain as the situation arises, as
it often will, that most of all you believe that no one should put another person down. Quality is
achieved through harmony and respect; there is no other way.
3. What you will ask them to do. Never surprise your students. You are much more interested in
them solving their own problems than in you doing it for them. Tell them the purpose of school
is to teach them how to use what they have learned, and that you will expect them to be able to
show you they are able to do this.
4. What you will not ask them to do. When you are sure you are ready, explain clearly and
specifically that there are no threats, punishments or busy work in your classroom and that you
will not ask them to learn anything that is not useful.
5. What you will do for them. As long as they come to class, you will help them in any way you
can or, if possible, in any way they want. You are their friend, you are always on their side, it
will never be you against them. If they have any problem in their lives, you will try to help, but
most of what you help with will be limited to school. Conduct class meetings whenever you
think there is anything that needs discussing and encourage them to speak out.
6. What you will not do for them. You will not do their work or figure out their problems for
them. You will not tell them what to do if you believe that it is something that they could figure
out for themselves. You will spend a lot of time teaching them how to evaluate their own work.
Once they know how to do this, you will expect them to do it and to defend their evaluation of
their work against you or anyone else.
Almost all of your students will have come from an educational environment where they always
turned to the teacher to tell them how they were doing: This is what you want to change. If they
ask for your opinion, give it, but not unless they are also willing to express their own opinions
and defend them. Explain that to be successful in life, we must evaluate ourselves and work to
improve: We cannot and should not depend on others to do this for us.
Mary also included this excerpt from Glasser:
Three most important things taught in the first days of school are:
1. Discipline, in this lab there are three stages related to how I will handle discipline:
a. You and Me - First and foremost there is a problem here (your resulting behavior was
inappropriate, what caused you to react that way?). Together, let us identify the problem and
figure out how to solve it so that it does not happen again. Between you and who ever else is
involved or effected (if it involves the whole class, then have a class meeting to reach a group
consensus on the solution). Handle the disruptive student in a way that is not punitive yet gets the
situation under control and, at the same time, open's the student's mind to the option of beginning
to work in class.
b. If together, we cannot solve it, then we will bring your parents into the picture.
c. If the three of us cannot come up with a solution them we will involve the school
-- Let them know that you believe you are capable of working out their problems with out getting
the parents involved. "It looks like you have a problem. How can I help you to solve it?"
-- There is no reason to get angry or be put on the defensive by one disruptive student.
-- Never get into an argument or even a long discussion with an angry student about the merits of
his case. Above all, do not threaten. If the student will not calm down in twenty seconds, ask him
to leave class. "Since you won't calm down I will have to ask you to leave. I hope we can get
together later and work this out, but if you are not willing to settle down, it is better that you
leave now." This way the door is kept open, and there are no threats or hassles. The disruptive
student is looking for someone to blame in order to keep his grievance alive. But it is hard to stay
angry at a teacher who is saying, in both words and demeanor: "I want to help you work this out.
I am not looking to punish you for what you have just done. If you have a problem, let's solve it."
-- The focus here is not to assign blame (you are not looking for whose fault it is, just a solution).
No matter what students do, stick to getting the facts on the table: What was done was against
the rules. What matters is that you insist that there is a way to solve the problem. If they want to
stay in class, they have no choice but to follow the rules, at least until you talk things over. If the
students calms down in class, you need to find a time to talk to him. This may be in class,
between classes, before or after school, or any time you can spare a few minutes.
-- This approach can involve having a "time-out area" in your room. When a student becomes
disruptive, they are matter of factly assigned to the time out area and remain there until the
teacher tells them it is time to return to class. This gives the student and teacher a cooling off
period. The student has time to sit down and think through the problem to begin to solve it. At an
opportune time the teacher can go over to the area and work to solve the problem with the
student. As you counsel, be warm and friendly. Do not make the student's problem into a big
deal. Imply or say flatly that what he is struggling with is solvable but that he has to do
something different in order to solve it. To make this point, go through what he did in class to get
removed. Ask him if what he did is against the rules, which of course it was, and then tell him
that she should be prepared to stay in time-out until he works out a better way: There is no other
choice. The length of stay is up to him.
-- In the "time-out" area the only rule is that the students sit quietly. They are encouraged to do
their work, but if they just want to sit, that is their privilege.
2. Procedures -- Create a student office area. This is their area. They do not have to ask to use
the items in this area, just quietly get up and do it. (This way they do not use the stuff that is on
your desk). Place these items in it: heavy duty hole punch, stapler, staple remover, scissors,
pencil sharpener, scrap paper, tissue, a tray to turn their paper work into, first aid kit (band aides,
first aide ointment, gauze), pencils and pens you find on the floor and desks after the class has
left ((these are available for "rent" (25 cents, to be returned when the item is returned, place the
"rent " in your pocket for safety)).
The "RENT" Concept - Nothing is given away for "free". Not a sheet of paper or pencil, or
anything, from you or another student, period. Never charge less than a quarter and never more
than 1 dollar. Do not make change, if your charge 5 cents for a sheet of paper, and all they have
is a quarter, give them 5 sheets. This will save you endless frustrations. In the real world they are
expected to carry their own weight and have their own stuff, this goes for your classroom also. It
teaches them to be responsible for their own learning.
3. Routines. A list of things/routines that they are expected to take care of every day, without
being told. They are just a part of being in your classroom. Randomly/Periodically check and
assign a grade for the completion of these routines (make it a small grade, but be stringent about
that if it is not completed they will not receive credit). The importance of routine:
-- It fosters a sense of security;
-- Routines are task oriented and predictable.
Program Specialist for Technology Education
Texas Education Agency