One of my biggest frustrations as a classroom teacher was feeling trapped when it came to managing student behavior and giving consequences for poor choices. Although administrators have their own issues to deal with during the school day, there were multiple times that I would send a student to the office for significant behavior problems, only to have him or her return 10 minutes later with a piece of candy in their hand. I quickly learned that it was going to be up to me, and me alone, to manage student behaviors in my classroom, no matter how severe they were (and I had some BIG ONES). SPOILER ALERT: I AM NOT GOING TO TALK ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF FORMING RELATIONSHIPS WITH STUDENTS. We ALL know how important it is, we ALL work extremely hard at it, and we ALL know that forming relationships, while extremely helpful, is not a magic button to completely eradicate negative behaviors in the classroom! Let’s talk about some real classroom consequences that you can incorporate quickly and effectively TODAY. We as teachers deserve respect, and we have every right to DEMAND it from our students.
Treat Everything as a Privilege that Must be EARNED (and can be taken away)
This does not have to be complicated. If a student is showing a lack of focus, lack of respect, or lack of compliance, take a basic privilege during the school day and remove it until it can be earned back. Here are some examples:
Partner work – is the class working with partners? Well, if Stinkerbutt Student can’t manage their behavior, then they can’t be trusted to work with a partner. They can sit at their desk and work independently while the rest of the class pairs up.
Library trips – Does your student normally get to walk with a small group of students to the library? Well, that trust is now broken! Stinkerbutt Student must now go alone during another time of day (make friends with your media center specialist and find a time that will work for both of you) – even better…make it at a DESIRED time. Free time, class game, you get my gist!
Class Game – Playing a quick game of silent ball at the end of the day? Bummer, Mr. or Mrs. Stinkerbutt needs to sit out until they can earn that privilege back!
Computer Access – Are your students typing their papers? Are they doing a fun math activity on their computer? Shoot, Stinkerbutt Student has lost your trust so they are stuck with pencil/paper today! Such a bummer.
Walking in Line – Even walking in line from place-to-place is a privilege. Has your Stinkerbutt Student lost your trust? Bummer, I guess they have to walk next to you instead of in line with their peers today!
…You get my gist. EVERYTHING is a privilege, and that gives you the power to take it away.
Have your STUDENT Call Home. *Real life scenario you’re going to want to read!*
This is a favorite, and it is HIGHLY effective. Cringy, but effective. When a student in my classroom would say something inappropriate or disrespectful, I would call their parent/caregiver during lunch, special, or during another time of day. I would then put the student on the phone with their parent/caregiver and have them repeat exactly what they said in class. This is one of those consequences that they will NOT want to repeat. Here’s a real life scenario that actually happened in my classroom:
My class was doing a digital activity, and it was time to submit their response…
Me: “Put it in!”
Stinkerbutt Student: “That’s what she said!”
Me (not even looking at the student, completely casually): “That will be a fun phone call for us to make later!”
Student is totally confused….and I just continue right on with the lesson. He did not have the power to stop my lesson, I would not give him that ability.
During special that day I pulled the student to my classroom, called their mom and said, “I’m so sorry to bother you, but unfortunately *Stinkerbutt Student* said something in class today that I thought they should share with you”…
The student then had to repeat what I had said, and their response, directly to their mother on the phone. When I say they were mortified, I mean they were MORTIFIED. And they were very sure to monitor what came out of their mouth from that day forward in my classroom.
It can oftentimes feel like we as teachers are being chopped off at the knees when it comes to holding students accountable for their poor choices, but there are consequences that you can put into place in response to those choices. You have the right to demand respect from your students, and to act accordingly when they are not showing you the respect you deserve.