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The Office Doesn't Do Anything..

I try very hard to handle my own discipline so that I know that there will be a consequence. I don't like sending students to the office. On this particular day I was tired, crabby and not in the mood to put up with this student's insolence. I don't remember what she said that day but it was insolent, rude and not warranted.

I knew that if I didn't remove her from the class that minute I might say something that I shouldn't. So... I sent her to the office. I called ahead to let the office know why and sent her with the appropriate paperwork required in cases such as this. Basically it is a note explaining what the offense was.

IF the "right" administrator had handled this situation things would have gone better but I got the "wrong"one. Since I very rarely send students to the office, admin knows that if I do, the student needed to be there.

However, I got the ONE administrator that does not give consequences to the student. When I went to the office after class to follow up on what action the administrator had taken this is how he started the conversation, "She said you said......" I knew right then that this was going absolutely nowhere. This is precisely why I don't typically send students to the office. When a person starts with that, there will be no consequence for the student.

When teachers say, "the office doesn't do anything" this is often the case. Sometimes the office is so busy that an offending student will simply sit there for a hour or so and then get sent back to the next class with no consequence. They get a somewhat entertaining time out of class. This is clearly not an effective consequence AND the office now has the power. If you can keep the student in your room and work through your own behavior management plan then you have not given your power away. Principals and counselors are often varied in their responses and if you get one that is very good at handling misbehavior then "great" but if you don't, then sending a student out is more for you, in the moment. There are times we need this but, if it is possible, keep the student in your room and stick to your plan. If you don't like your plan then change it. Make it one that you like.

You are busy with 30+ students and when one has totally gotten on your nerves that is very frustrating. You have a lesson plan to teach and a student is getting in the way. You WANT to send the student to the office but since often they don't really do anything, ......what do you do?

This is not only common but has been for YEARS! This is not new. Here are a few ideas that have worked for me:

1) To reduce behavior problems: Remember to be CLEAR about what you want every class, every day, throughout the period. Sounds simple but it works and it's easy to overlook because it's so obvious.

For example:

You need your students to stop talking because you are ready to share some information.

START by telling them exactly what you want.

Teacher: "Everyone stop working for now, look at me, and listen.

IF only 5-10 students do what you ask, follow with:

Teacher: "Table 1, 3 and 5 are ready, thank you." Now, tables 2, 4, 6 and 7, stop talking and look up here."

Now, you should have more table teams quietly looking at you.

Teacher: "Tables 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7 and 8 are ready. Table 6, look up here at me and listen."

By this time, the students that did as you asked should be ready to listen because you have thanked them, and noted their effort.

If the last table team is not doing what you asked then it is time for a consequence.

2) Consequences: Give them now. Make sure that your behavior management plan is one that you are comfortable with. If you don't like your action steps then you won't act. You'll just keep repeating the warning. Students catch on to this right away. I've mentored enough new teachers to see this pattern. The action comes WAY too late or not at all.

For example:

Teacher: "Table 6, I can see that you are having trouble with getting on task so I am going to change your seats right now. I have already asked you twice to look up at me and listen and so you've had your step 1 warning. Step 2, as you know, is that I move your seat."

Tip: When you change student seating make sure that this is not at the expense of a table team that is working well together or this would become a punishment for their good behavior. If you have room, move the most disruptive student to a table by themselves. At this point the student needs to have no nearby student to talk to.

3) Next Steps: If the student or students in question are still disruptive after you've moved to step #2 (and made a brief note in your computer so that you have a written record) then move to whatever your Step #3 is. For me this was a "meeting" with me. I ask the student/s to step outside on the concrete (I have one foot in the door to keep a connection with my other students) and I interview the student to find out what the issue is. I want to know what is keeping the student from "listening/working/being on task."

Usually this works. Students tend to be MUCH better after our "concrete sidewalk talks."

If this fails, then we move to Step #4. Notice we have not sent the student to the office.

4) Final Step: By the time the student/s have:

a) Had CLEAR instructions for what has been asked.

b) Had a warning.

c) Moved to Step #2 and 3 on your behavior plan.

Then...this is STILL not a call to the office for me. Why not? I want to make sure that I have solid consequences that are fair to the student and ACTED on. No sitting around in the office doing nothing.

I contact home at the end of the day. Students definitely do not like this step so rarely go there. For most students a call home is way more meaningful than being sent to the office. If the student has not changed behavior during this one class period with ALL of the above-mentioned steps, then you may have to send them out to the office that period just so they don't take any more of your teaching time.

In the event that calling home does not work then it is time to meet with a counselor and address a more serious behavior issue. The vast majority of students will do well with a fair, stepped behavior management plan but there are some that need outside help. (counseling)

When is it a good time to send a student to the office?

a) There is a potentially dangerous situation brewing (fight, threats, self harm)

b) You need a break from that student to stay calm and teach on!

c) The student is so emotionally upset that the student needs a time out.

If a, b or c have not happened then it is usually better to keep the student and work through your behavior management plan. My "meetings" outside with my foot in the door were usually very productive and informative. This can give you an opportunity to find out more about what is causing the student's behavior.

These brief one-on-one discussions can also help the student improve their behavior for the rest of the school year because now you've made more of a personal connection with them. The challenge is that you can't keep your foot and head in the door and stop teaching for very long. You are needed in the classroom. So....another option is to have the student meet with you during lunch or after class to work on the behavior problem. I offered this in lieu of a call home and virtually all of my students preferred this option.

Final Thought: It is draining to have behavior management issues so having a plan that you are comfortable acting on will help reduce behavior problems in your class because students will know that you mean business. You will not continue to repeat warnings.

If you must send a student to the office then do, and if possible, try and send them to the administrator that will back you up!

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