REACTING TO MISBEHAVIOR
OTHER PROBLEMS :
The concept of growth or improvement should be stressed. Don't expect a student with a chronic behavior problem to go from "trouble" to "no trouble" overnight. Work for improvement, not perfection.
Deciding when to Intercede. Even though the emphasis should be on avoiding problems, you will still have to react to situations.
You want to avoid overreacting to minor problems. As a beginning teacher, you’ll have the tendency to be a “quick draw” artist (nailing students for minor errors); or, you’ll go to the other extreme, not interceding when you should.
In reacting to off-task behavior, you need to consciously consider when and how you should intercede.
Principle: Give students time to correct their errors of judgment.
Don’t treat students like the enemy. Believe in them, give them enough rein to make mistakes, and give them enough time to recognize their errors and correct them.
Consider the following episode: While a teacher is conducting a lesson on homonyms, Cheryl gets up and starts walking toward the back of the room. The teacher’s immediate reaction is to remind her that she’s supposed to be working at her seat. Cheryl may be going after a paper towel to clean up the ink she accidentally smeared on her desk, she may be going after a pencil she left in her coat, or she may have remembered the note the secretary asked her to deliver to Sara. As a basic rule of thumb, “trust your students.” Hopefully, they’re doing what they think is right under the circumstances. You should monitor them, but allow time to determine why they are doing what they are doing, and provide time for them to correct their errors in judgment.
Consider another situation: Bill is taking his spelling test and he’s forgotten to put his spelling list away. You see the list sitting on his desk. If he’s cheating, you don’t want to accuse him publicly; if he’s not, a direct reminder would be embarrassing. Give him time to realize his error. When he does, it could be a laughing matter instead of a blow against his character. Remembers: give students time to correct their errors.
Principle: Keep your instructional objectives in mind;
don’t overreact to minor discrepancies.
“Steve, what’s the paper doing on the floor?”
“Who left the dictionary on the table?”
“Your math counters should be put away, not on top of your desks.”
Such comments stop the flow of a lesson. They direct the class’s attention away from the task at hand. Keep things in perspective, and don’t immediately react to off-task behavior or mislaid items. The ability to judge the severity of an act and to act accordingly is a sign of professional maturity. Keep your objectives in mind.
Principle: Remember, you’re not the only
reinforcing agent in the classroom.
Many teachers err by trying to ignore misbehavior, hoping it will die from lack of attention. Don’t forget that there are other reinforcing agents in the classroom. With a twinkle of the eye, with a raised eyebrow, or with a sly smile, another student can quietly feed the fire while you are trying to ignore the problem. Remember, you’re not the only reinforcing agent in the classroom.
Picture the following: Mark has discovered that, when he pulls his wet palm across his plastic binder, it sounds like a slight gas emission. Rather than recognize the earthy humor, you choose to ignore it, hoping it will go away. That could happen, if it were not for Gil’s wrinkled nose and Jason’s cherub-like grin. But it won’t go away, because Mark is getting all the support he needs. Remember: When a student acts up, others are probably egging him on. In these cases, ignoring the misbehavior probably won’t work.
When you do intercede in a case like the above, make sure you aim your remarks at all those involved, including the students who are supporting the offender as well as those directly involved. If other students in the class are reinforcing the misbehavior, then they should also bear the responsibility for it. Use the following criteria in determining when to intercede: You should intercede if:
the misbehavior threatens anyone’s health or well-being.
other students begin to join in or encourage the offender (i.e., it becomes contagious).
the misbehavior is distracting other students and interfering with your instructional objectives.
the offender is not meeting a behavior commitment that was previously made.
The misbehavior is interfering with other classes or could lead to PR problems with parents or staff.
Other students observed the misbehavior and are looking at you, waiting to see what you are going to do.
If you have to intercede, your reaction should reflect the severity of the act. If at all possible, postpone any direct confrontation with the student until after the lesson or until you can do so privately.
In the case discussed earlier, when Cheryl got up and started walking to the back of the room, you should have been curiously aware of the situation, but to intercede would have been inappropriate. The other students didn’t seem to be distracted by her movement, she seemed to have an objective in mind, and she hadn’t been out of her seat for a long time. If you intercede you draw the class’s attention away from the lesson. You can hope that each and every student in the class is paying avid attention to your lesson, but chances are, one or two students will be daydreaming or momentarily distracted. Don’t overreact when one or two students are momentarily off-task. Consciously decide when to intervene.
How to Avoid Win/Lose Confrontations with Students.
A basic principle for life and for managing a class is to believe people are basically good. If Felipe is whispering when you think he shouldn’t be, force yourself to believe he may have a good reason for whispering. If Salina and Katrina are passing notes during science, consider that they may have a legitimate reason for doing so. If Junior turns around in line and pushes the boy behind him, it may be a justifiable response under the circumstances (at least Junior may see it as justifiable). Misbehavior has to be situationally defined. Don’t be premature in passing judgment.
Principle: Probe, don’t pass premature judgment.
Don’t immediately condemn a student’s behavior. Probe before you pass judgment. Expect the child to have a good reason for his behavior, at least a good reason from his or her point of view.
“Phil, can I help you?”
“Phil, will you need to talk to Sue for very long?”
“Phil, do you have a problem?”
"Phil, how much more time do you need to solve your problem?"
Trusting your students is the key. If you believe that students act from a positive base, both your verbal and your nonverbal behaviors will communicate this trust. If you believe that the students want to learn and want to do what’s right, they you’ll try to find a reason to explain their apparent misbehavior. If students sense your faith in them, they will react by fulfilling your expectations.
Seek clarification, probe to see if the students have a good reason for what they’re doing. This is consistent with the belief that people are basically good and want to do what’s right. When you probe, you should be honestly seeking information.
Don’t kid yourself by thinking you’re probing when you ask rhetorical questions that accuse or point a guilty finger.
“Jim, should you be doing that?”
“Sally, is this the time to be cleaning your desk?”
“Class, are we supposed to be talking?”
"Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you help them to become what they are capable of being."
These are not probes, they don’t seek clarification, and the answers are known and predictable. Questions such as these can be used to shape student behavior, but when used they represent an authoritarian or power-based approach.
“Fair minded teachers who make the basic assumption
that children are trustworthy are more likely to teach them
to have attitudes of dependability and responsibility.” Dreikurs
Avoid using “why” questions when you seek clarification.
“Pete, why are you doing that?”
“Alice, why did you leave the glue bottle out?”
“Toi, why do you have two books on your desk?”
The “why” question is usually interpreted as an accusation, a faultfinding remark. The student will often read a negative message into the question. “Why” questions usually put the student on the defensive. Don’t use “why” questions to get at a student’s motivation. Students seldom know the psychological reasons why they are doing something. “Why” questions are usually unproductive, unless you are seriously asking for clarification.
Principle: Avoid public win/lose confrontations.
When you confront a student publicly, you run a tremendous risk of negative side-effects. In almost every audience situation, you’re going to be the loser. If you come down hard on a child or punish the child in front of the class, some students are going to see you as being unfair or too harsh. Others will see you as being too soft, or an easy mark. Few will think you are being fair. Few will see your reaction as just right, using just the degree of harshness that was needed. Even if students judge your reaction as fair, it will have negative ripple effects because other timid students will indirectly feel threatened – they may be next. Try to avoid public win/lose confrontations.
With young children, you may be able to confront students publicly without running as great a risk, but the power play still unnecessarily invites negative side-effects.
Think about the following situations:
Another student accuses Jim of cheating during a spelling test. Jim evidently wrote his hard words on his fingers.
A paper airplane whizzes across the room. When you turn around, Berta looks guilty.
Boyd is playing in his desk with what looks like a ball of clay. He is supposed to be listening to Lily’s report on rainforest fauna.
In each of the above cases, you have options. How would you handle the situations? If you confront a child in front of the class, you’re inviting the child to deny your accusation. If the child doesn’t try to save face, you end up publicly embarrassing or giving attention to the student. All are bad news! How should you react at the moment?
An all too common example of public embarrassment is the habit of calling on a student who isn’t paying attention. You’re trying to shape his behavior by publicly embarrassing him. You know he probably can’t answer the question. If he can, you have a different problem. You can just as easily shape the student’s behavior by calling on a child sitting next to the culprit. The close call will bring the offender around without public embarrassment.
If, when you publicly confront a child, the child tries to save face and denies the act, then you’ve got another win/lose situation. Whenever you argue with a child in front of the class, you run a tremendous risk of appearing unfair. Such a clash always appears to be a David and Goliath affair. Being right may not make you a winner. If you don’t allow the student to argue his side, or defend himself against your accusation, you appear unfair. Even when you have a strong case, a public win/lose confrontation will probably cause problems of some type.
Principle: Don’t embarrass students or make them lose face
in front of their classmates.
When you confront a child, try to detour the child rather than block the child. If you tell the child to do something, you’re giving the student a direct challenge. I can still remember my third grade teacher telling me I had to sing. A direct challenge. At that point, there was no way she could make me sing. Hitting my knuckles with a double ruler in front of the class only increased my conviction to “win” at any cost.
As the teacher, in a situation of this type, you want to capture rather than coerce. If you try to coerce, you should provide a detour or a way for the child to save face without forcing a win/lose confrontation.
“Sam, this is Jim’s turn. You can have your chance in a minute.” “Quit talking, Sam.”
“Well, Alice, you can either join in now or you can discuss it with me after school today.” “I’m sorry, Alice, you have to go to PE.”
“Sarah, we need it quiet in this area. If you need to talk with Sue, please go to the back of the room.” “Sarah, you can’t talk during reading.”
“Dick, if you are not going to join in, please sit quietly and we’ll talk after class.” “Dick, open that book and sing.”
If and when you decide to intercede, make sure you try to avoid a public confrontation. Remember to detour the student, giving the student a way to save face. Embarrassing a child or exposing the child’s ignorance or lack of ability is abusing your teacher role whether done consciously or out of ignorance.
Possible detouring statements for young children
Name calling: "She likes to be called by her right name, which is _____. If you like, you can make up names for the puppets."
Call outs: "It's your turn to listen now, and my turn to speak Then we'll trade. I'm glad you have something to tell us."
Continued disruptive behavior: "I'll hold you until you feel better and then we will work this out together."
Abuse of materials: "There's a special way to turn the pages so they won't tear or wrinkle. Your fingers have grown long enough to do it this way. If you feel like tearing something, I have some magazines and newspapers over here that you can tear."
(Source: "Guidance and Discipline: Teaching Young Children Appropriate Behavior," Young Children, May 1988, p. 29)
Ways of Correcting without Moralizing and Relying on Your Authority.
Use I messages. When a student is distracting you or causing you concern, try to own the problem. Notice the difference in emphasis in the statements below:
Negative You Message
“When you change names and pretend to be someone else with a substitute, I’m really discouraged. The sub must wonder about our class. She may think we are so selfish that we like to have fun at someone else’s expense? I really worry about what kind of impression the sub has of our class.” “You know you shouldn’t do that. What’s the matter with you?”
“You may never spill that bottle of paint on the edge of your desk, but I worry about it. It distracts me because I’m afraid it will get spilled.” “You should move the paint. You’re going to spill it if you leave it there.”
“Please clear your desk. You may not be distracted by the things on your desk, but I worry about them. It is a problem for me.” “Please clear your desk. You should not be playing with anything on your desk.”
The theory behind "I" messages is that the student can’t deny your feelings and will more than likely be responsive to you. But a student can deny your prediction that he or she is going to do something wrong. He/she can feel you’re too picky if you tell him/her there’s a better way. And the student can feel you’re being unfair if you put the blame on the student before something happens. Remember to acknowledge your ownership of the concern. You’re the one with the problem.
In sharing your feelings, it’s also important to provide a rationale for why something bothers you. Young children will cooperate because they want to please the teacher, but this isn’t always the case in upper grades.
In terms of social behavior, the goal is rational decision making. You want the students to cooperate for the right reasons.
Principle: Be task-oriented, not person-oriented.
Clarity is the number one teacher trait in terms of a positive and consistent relationship with student achievement (Rosenshine and Furst). Clarity has also been found to be the most important variable in terms of successfully responding to misbehavior (Kounin). Kounin has indicated that teachers who are specific in their reactions get more conformity to class standards and have fewer class disruptions when compared with teachers who are general or don’t give reasons for their reactions.
“Felix, put that clay away. It distracts me.” “Felix, you know better than that.”
“Felix, you can read after you finish your math.” “Felix, put that away.”
“Felix, please sit down. With all this material on our desks, we can’t risk so much movement.” “Felix, please get in your seat.”
“Felix, it’s distracting when you throw wads of paper like that at the garbage can.” “Felix, you’re causing problems again. Don’t do that.”
“Felix, clicking your pen distracts me, I worry it could distract others.” “Felix, are you nervous or something? Quit clicking your pen.”
“Felix, you can play with the clay during free time. Put it away now, you should be working on your math.” “What’s the matter with you, Felix? You know you’re not suppose to be working on your math.”
The following two questions can be effective in responding to a student who is off-task:
“Felix, what are you doing?”
“What should you be doing?”
Use humor to defuse a problem. A little humor can turn a “would be” discipline case into a lighthearted situation. The message can be communicated without a confrontation. At the same time, you may have to deliver the message that it was funny the first time, but it shouldn’t happen again.
Give up power when a child is escalating a public win/lose situation. When you correct a child in class, some students will respond by saying something like, "Why you picking on me? You're always picking on me! Bart did the same thing, he didn't have......" According to Dreikurs, this type of response signals that the student's goal is power. They want to prove they are somebody. They will escalate the argument, try to bait you into a verbal, public argument. A good technique when you sense this happening is to give up power. Consider the following responses:
"Kyle, I can see you're upset. We'll discuss this later."
"Kyle, you can take a break if you need to."
"Kyle, it's your choice. You can either just sit and not disturb others or you can step out into the hall and wait until I can come out to discuss this with you."
Some students will escalate a situation by refusing to work or participate. This refusal to participate is easily personalized. Don't interpret it as a personal attack against you. It is wiser to assume this is a learned defensive mechanism. It is not a purposeful or willful attack against you and your methods, it is their long-learned method of dealing with conflicts.
References on Oppositional Defiant Behavior (EBSCOhost) (This is a search engine, you need to click on "enter" and then fill in "Oppositional Defiant" to reach the reference materials. You may be asked for a password to use this search engine, as a UI student, your social security number should serve as the password).
Too many teachers will say that the student has the ability to do the work. Remember, there are many abilities. They may have the academic ability, but they do not have the ability to cooperate when they are desperately seeking control. So, you may need to alter the task or the environment. Don't try to just change the child. You may need to change your expectations in terms of how much work has to be completed at a given time, you may have to give choices as to when the students works on a given assignment or how the work is actually completed. At the same time, you have to have consequences and the student has to realize what they are.
When a child is desperately seeking control by resisting or being oppositional, the use of praise and reward system (the use of authority to control behavior) will often backfire, especially if the praise is given publicly. You want to emphasize that the student is in control. They can make good and bad choices ("trouble" or "no trouble").
In dealing with a student with a history of oppositional behavior, it is important that you have clear logical consequences for inappropriate behavior. That you emphasize it was their choice. Their tendency to refuse or choose not to participate may explain their current behavior, but it does not excuse them. There should be logical consequences administered in a non-emotional manner. They chose the consequences by their behavior.
This is a case where consistency (consistency with a given child) is very important. The child needs limits, they need to be enforced in a matter-of-fact manner, and they need to be enforced immediately in a very consistent manner (consistent with the given child).
What if your first desist doesn’t work? There is no surefire technique to which all children will respond. The effective teacher has a number of alternatives. There will be times when your first response doesn’t get the desired results. What do you do next? What does a mechanic do when the wrench he has won’t budge a bolt? Get a bigger wrench? That’s not the only solution. Tapping the end of the bolt with a hammer might help, or applying some solvent might do the trick. So it goes with a teacher. If the first technique doesn’t work, you don’t necessarily have to apply more pressure; you might try a different attack. If have two boys who constantly race to see who will be first in his desk after recess and you ask them to stop, but they continue the next period, what do you do?
Assign the boys permanent places in line.
Move one of their desks closer to the door to eliminate the contest.
Give one of the boys a responsibility (e.g., hold the door open).
Explain your concerns to the boys in more detail (e.g., It gives the appearance that you have an unruly room; if everyone did it you would have absolute bedlam, there are safety concerns that make you worry and thus you can’t allow it).
Make sure you get back to your class by the end of recess and position yourself in a conspicuous spot to help the boys “remember” not to run.
The key is flexibility. Don’t just get a bigger wrench. If you rely on power alone, you’ll soon find yourself in an adversarial relationship with your class. Once that happens, your life could be very miserable. The students out number you, they can be very creative, and their ethics are not always well developed. Think of a continuum of responses. You want to use the least punitive method; you want to avoid embarrassing or drawing attention to the student; you do not want to divert the class’s attention away from your instructional objectives; and, you want to avoid a public win/lose confrontation.
As a trained professional, you should have many techniques to try. A mark of an ineffective teacher would be one that tries a technique and when it doesn’t work, sends the student out into the hall or down to the principal’s office.
EFFECTIVE USE OF PUNISHMENT
Even though you want to use the least punitive technique, there are times when punishment is recommended. Punishment is a legitimate teaching technique. However, it is often used ineffectively and often used too frequently with the wrong students.
Part of the problem is that the term punishment is underconceptualized by many people. Professional terms are designed to clarify concepts and eliminate unnecessary descriptions; however, they can provide a short-circuit as well as a short-cut. Punishment is one of those words that can muddle our thinking because it covers a whole array of reactions. To clarify and hopefully sharpen thinking, three separate categories of punishment are discussed in this reading.
Changing Perceptions. If you talk with students and try to help them understand why they shouldn't behave in a given way, you're trying to change their perceptions. If you keep students after school to talk with them about a problem, you're trying to clarify the problem and change perceptions. Here the stress is on talking with the students versus keeping the students after school to "put in time".
PRINCIPLE #1: Confer with students;
avoid other punitive measures.
In a comprehensive study, Brophy and Evertson reported:
The most effective forms of punishments were not really punishments at all. Instead they were actions such as keeping the child after school or arranging for an individual conference with him/her in order to discuss his/her misbehavior and come to some kind of agreement about how the problem should be solved.
A private conference is an effective technique for working with individual students in trying to change their perceptions. It is important that the conference be private. Audience situations should be avoided. Conferences should involve only the students having a problem. You should not dominate the talking in such a conference. If you do, chances are you’ll be moralizing. Telling is not helping to the chronic offender.
"If our goal is to help them with a learning problem (discipline), then we must be stronger than they are."
"When I tried to view him as someone who needed help in learning the value of following rules and procedures, I didn't get as angry and disgusted every time he screwed up."
THE EASIEST WAY
TO CHANGE BEHAVIOR IS TO
Encourage the student to actively participate.
Conference Techniques to Involve Students
Ask the student to describe how he sees the situation. Don't contradict his views or imply that they are inaccurate. They are his views.
Ask the student to hypothesize how the others involved might view the situation.
Encourage the student to describe how he feels about the situation. Use a perception check.
"Did that make you want revenge?"
"You sound like you felt cheated?"
Ask the child to hypothesize about how the others feel now.
Ask the student to suggest other ways in which the problem could have been settled.
If the student is reluctant to respond, suggest how the others could have felt, how they could have perceived the situation. As you explain to the student, ask the student to repeat what you have said.
Ask the student if he has any ideas about what should happen next.
Ask the student to predict what will happen next if the same course of action is followed.
Ask whether he thinks the others want that to happen.
In these conferences, it is important to recognize the student's emotions and the fact that we all have different perspectives of a situation and its consequences. Remember, as a teacher, you may not feel that being called "bird legs" or "hummingbird chest" is anything worth fighting over, but to the student it probably is a different matter.
"Each of us tends to think we see things as they are, that we are objective. But this is not the case. We see the world, not as it is, but as we are conditioned to see it."
It's important to remember that in most cases students have reasons for what they do. They may see the situation very differently than you do.
In making an "I" statement, you should tell the student how you feel and why you are bothered by his actions. Concretely explain the type of problems the behavior creates for you.
Stress the fact that the problem arises out of different views of the situation. Have the student try to see the other student’s or your position. Work on alternative reactions and make sure the conference ends with a plan of action, even if that plan is merely to meet again and discuss the problem some more.
In terms of punishment, a private conference after school, during recess, or during class does not force the adversarial role inherent in more arbitrary punitive measures (like detention, writing sentences, etc.).
Logical Consequences. Suffering a logical consequence is the second form of punishment. If a child abuses a privilege, it is a logical consequence that she loses that privilege. For example, if a child can't go by herself to the library without goofing around, it is logical that she only go to the library under direct supervision. If she is playing with clay when she's supposed to be reading, being forced to put the clay away or having it taken away is a logical consequence. If her friends and she are pushing and shoving in line, it's a logical consequence that they be separated and assigned other spots in line.
PRINCIPLE #2: Besides taking time to try and change perceptions, limit your punitive reactions to logical consequences.
In most cases, when the punitive reactions you use follow logically from the misbehavior, most students will think it is fair.
Arbitrary Punishments. If you use arbitrary punishments, many students will see you as being unfair. If this occurs repeatedly, you'll develop an adversarial relationship and become fair game for cheating and other types of student retaliation.
If, as a consequence of talking in class, a child has to write 50 sentences ("I will not talk in class.") this is an arbitrary punishment. If the child loses his art period because he didn't complete his math assignment, this is an arbitrary punishment. The three categories (changing perceptions, logical consequences, and arbitrary punishments) overlap considerably. If a student sharpened a crayon in the pencil sharpener, you might keep the student after school to help the custodian clean the sharpener. This is a logical consequence because he messed up the sharpener. You're also working on perceptions by showing what a crayon does to the inside of a sharpener.
If you paddle a child, you are definitely using an arbitrary punishment. It is never a logical consequence. Note: it is also illegal in many states.
If you make a child sit with his head on the desk for five minutes, it is usually an arbitrary punishment. Why five minutes?
If two students are talking and you decide to move their seats to separate them, that's a logical consequence.
If a child is using a jump rope at recess as a whip, and chasing other children, taking the rope away would be a logical consequence.
If a child loses the privilege of taking a rope out at recess because the child was talking in class, that's an arbitrary punishment. If the child is sent out so that the teacher can talk the child privately, this would fall under the category of trying to change perceptions; however, if the child is set out in the hall for 10 minutes, then it would be an arbitrary punishment.
As a general rule of thumb, the use of logical consequences and the attempt to change perceptions are more desirable than the use of arbitrary punishments. This is particularly true with older elementary students.
In this section, stress was placed on reacting to undesirable behavior by trying to change perceptions. A distinction was made between punitive acts that follow as a logical consequence, and those that are selected arbitrarily. If you have to use punitive measures, try to use logical consequences. Avoid arbitrary punishments as students will see you as unfair. If they see you as unfair, this will help develop an adversarial relationship. In every case, use the least punitive desist (reaction to misbehavior) possible.
IMPORTANT DO'S AND DON'TS REGARDING THE USE OF PUNISHMENT .
PRINCIPLE #3: Punishment is a legitimate teaching device.
Taking a privilege away, being "benched", and other punishments are legitimate teaching devices. They have their place when a change of behavior is needed immediately or when someone's well-being is threatened.
I can remember giving my two-year-old son a key case to keep him occupied while my wife and I shopped for a refrigerator. It wasn't long before I found him trying to put a key into an electrical outlet. My reaction was swift and to the point. I gave him a good slap on the hand, knocking the key away from the outlet. The message was clear: "No! That's dangerous. Don't ever do it again." This was one of those cases where learning had to be immediate.
PRINCIPLE #4: Punishment is appropriate when the learning has to be immediate.
Punishment puts you in an adversarial relationship and should be used only when time is of the essence. When you force an adversarial role, you effectively close the door for cooperative problem solving. You also place students in a defensive posture, and any change in perceptions becomes highly unlikely. Furthermore, when you force an adversarial role, you increase the likelihood that students will see you as unfair; thus, you become a target for revenge.
Punishment has its place but should be used sparingly. It should never become the standard reaction to misbehavior.
PRINCIPLE #5: Avoid harsh punishment.
With confident and able students, mild criticism is correlated positively with student achievement. With all types of students, harsh punishment has a consistent negative relationship with achievement. Telling a child that his answer is wrong or correcting the way a student holds a pencil are necessary parts of teaching. Mild criticism is needed, but harsh punishment is a problem.
You can be firm without being harsh. Kounin used the following characteristics to define firmness:
A clear break in the ongoing classroom activity: the teacher changes his location in the room, using a tone of voice which clearly conveys that the activity is undesirable. The teacher lowers his/her voice.
Establishing eye contact with the offender: the teacher looks right at the misbehaving student and maintains eye contact while correcting the youngster. The teacher also maintains eye contact for a short time after the child has been reprimanded. Note: some cultures see eye contact when you are in trouble as rude. Be sure you understand the cultural norms of your students.
Movement toward the offender.
Physically assisting the offender. The teacher moves a chair or leads the student by the arm.
It is important to stress again that Kounin's findings indicate that effective classroom management is not determined by the skillful meting out of punishment or the skillful reaction to misbehavior. Instead, the key is how successful you are in avoiding misbehavior. Try to be in control. Engineer, don't just react. We don't see our students as they are, we see them as they react to our program.
Engineer rather than react. More ideas (Florida Dept. of Ed)
Locate activity areas out of the main stream of traffic in the classroom.(Source: 1)
Offer the same sequence of events each day, alternating livelier and quieter activities.(Source: 1).
Maintain predictable classroom routines and rituals. Allow adequate time for transitions between activities. Let the children know when an activity will be ending and that a new activity will begin. (Viadero, 1989, referenced in Source 2)
Provide for repetition and practice of functional tasks. Teach skills in natural clusters and in the environment where they will be needed. This allows students to rely on the context of the entire action and accompanying environmental cues (Westling, 1989, referenced in Source 2)
Divide children into small groups for stories, discussions, and activities.(Source: 1)
Plan for individual differences within each activity. Children need challenges, but not serious educational frustrations.(Source: 1)
Provide opportunities for success. When it comes to following procedures, keep tasks simple, and break them down step by step. For example provide activity lists taped to their desks, and have them check off their own lists as work is completed (Curwin & Mendler, 1988, referenced in Source 2).
Use social contracts (agreements between teachers and students regarding rules and consequences for classroom behavior). To be effective, consequences must: preserve the student's dignity; be non-punitive; strengthen the student's internal locus of control; increase motivation; and relate to the student's life as directly as possible. (Source #2)
1. "Guidance and Discipline: Teaching Young Children Appropriate Behavior," Young Children, May 1988, p. 30)
2. "Drug-exposed Infants," (source of article unknown)
PRINCIPLE #6: Punishment does not solve the child's problem.
If a negative consequence is powerful enough, it will subdue the behavior. The roots of the behavior still exist even though the student is kept at bay. Students in a quiet class ruled by fear are seldom well disciplined, they are just intimidated. As Hymes has indicated, the mark of a good teacher is not how quiet you keep the pond, it is what you do with the ripples.
When you use punishment in bringing order to a class, you're solving a problem, your need for a quiet class. You're not dealing with the cause of these students' unrest or misbehavior.
PRINCIPLE #7: Always explain why you use a punishment.
The student should be told specifically why he is being punished. Too frequently, students see the punishment as a personal rejection rather than as the logical consequences of misconduct. You should make a personal contact with the student as soon as possible after the punishment has been administered. It is important to show your concern for the student while rejecting his misbehavior.
PRINCIPLE #8: Avoid delayed or long-term punishment.
With punishment, time is important. Punishment should be swift and to the point. Extended punishments allow bad feelings to fester. We all have selective memories and we each perceive situations differently. During an extended punishment, students have a tendency to generate many negative feelings about you, the situation, and/or themselves.
PRINCIPLE #9: Don't use mass punishment
unless the group is either condoning or supporting
If the other students are laughing at a child's antics or are in some way reinforcing his misbehavior, the group should be addressed. Work on their perceptions. Help them see why the misbehavior is undesirable. If the group is reinforcing the misbehavior, you need to address the problem with the whole class.
When the class is supporting or reinforcing misbehavior, be slow to discipline the offenders. With class support, it could be possible that the student who is clowning around is acting as the agent of the class. He is providing a release of tension that may be building between the class and you, or between the class and some part of your program. If you sense that this is the case, try to initiate dialogue with the class to see where the problem lies. Try to do this at a time of your choice, not as an immediate knee-jerk reaction to the situation.
Be sure to stress changing perceptions, avoid more severe mass punishments. Using mass punishment is one of the quickest ways to get students to see you as being unfair.
PRINCIPLE #10: Don't use exclusion from learning experiences as a punishment.
Don't exclude children from exciting learning experiences unless there is a logical reason for doing so. Your children have an unconditional right to learn. They're your students. Providing exciting learning experiences should not be a reward for good behavior but should be an unconditional part of their schooling experience.
With some children you will want to use an exciting experience as a contingency to motivate. In these cases, if a student doesn't perform as agreed, he doesn't get the reward. But this is an individual contract, and you are not excluding a student from a learning experience as an arbitrary punishment.
PRINCIPLE #11: Punishing a socially remedial child
confirms his feelings of failure and inadequacy.
Punishment works best with children who are socially healthy, not those who are remedial in terms of maturity. When you react with punishment, you reinforce or confirm the student's negative feelings of failure and inadequacy. The child with severe behavior problems needs the most help. Punishment does not help, it does not provide direction toward solving the problem. Chronic problems really need support. Most of the chronic difficulties are not willful disobedience. In some cases, students have bad habits that need to be changed. However, often the problems stem from physiological problems complicated by environmental conditions (poor parenting, stressful lives, etc.). With remedial cases, changing behaviors takes considerable time and skill. The ability to do this is one of the key differences between the skilled professional educator and the intelligent warm body off the street. "Adults who blithely insist that children choose to misbehave are rather like politicians who declare that people have only themselves to blame for being poor. In both cases, potentially relevant factors other than personal responsibility are ignored. A young child in particular may not have a fully developed capacity for rational decision making or impulse control that is implicit in suggesting he made a choice. Teachers who think in terms of a lack of skills would be inclined to respond by trying to help the child develop these facilities, rather than be punishing and blaming. Indeed, two researchers recently discovered that the more teachers resorted to saying that a child simply 'chose' to act inappropriately, the more likely they were to use punishment and other power-based interventions." (Kohn, 1996, p. 17)
PRINCIPLE #12: Do not lower a student's academic grade as a punishment for unrelated misbehavior.
The courts have clearly ruled, it is illegal to lower a student' academic grade for any reason other than that directly related to the stated grading criteria. Students who talk back to a teacher should not have their math grade reduced. The math grade should reflect the student’s academic ability in mathematics, not his social graces.
PRINCIPLE #13: Aggression teaches aggression.
In classrooms where teachers frequently exhibit anger and punitiveness, students react by exhibiting more disruptive, restless, off-task behavior. When you punish a child, you present a real threat to the other children. The increased anxiety often surfaces in more disruptive behavior. Aggression teaches aggression. When you punish, you model the type of behavior you want to stop.
PRINCIPLE #14: Many negative side-effects are associated
with the use of punishment.
When you administer punishment, there will be negative ripple affects on other students. Some students will wonder, "Who will be next?"
Whether you use logical consequences or arbitrary punishments, many students will see you as being unfair. The students will have a different picture of the situation. They will view the consequences of the undesirable behavior in a different light, and they will have a different view of your reaction. Some students will see your punishment as too light and will think that you're an easy mark. Others will see you as too harsh and will judge you to be unfair. If students view a teacher as unfair, they tend to misbehave more and cooperate less. For these reasons, you should try to use the least punitive technique possible.
In this section, a distinction was made between punitive acts which follow as a logical consequence of a student's behavior and those selected arbitrarily. Under most conditions, the use of logical consequences is more desirable. Fourteen principles for using punishment were presented. Stress was placed on avoiding harsh punitive responses. Use the least punitive technique possible. A case was made for merely conferring with students and trying to change perceptions, rather than forcing an adversarial relationship by using punitive measures.
The use of isolation and systematic exclusion.
There will be days when some students are so difficult to handle that they need to be isolated for the well-being of the teacher, the rest of the class, or the child him or herself.
Removing the student may be defeating your purposes in terms of trying to keep the youngster at work and progressing toward desired behavioral goals, but trying to deal with the student under the given conditions may be like knocking your head against the wall. The end result of trying to stay with the child and trying to keep her involved in the activity may find the child, you, and the rest of the class worse for the wear. Any learning that results will probably be negative learning.
When a child is taxing your patience to the limit, some type of isolation may be needed. Note: the reason for isolation is the welfare of the rest of the class. Isolation is not being recommended as a punishment.
PRINCIPLE #15: Isolation may be used to protect the welfare of the students and not as a punishment.
We have a professional problem in that several terms are used synonymously: isolation, time-out, in-school suspension. They are not the same. A few notes of clarification:
Time-out should be used prior to a problem developing. When a child is losing control, you use time-out to provide a chance for the student to calm down. Time-out should never last for more than a couple of minutes (less than five).
Historically, time-out was seen as a positive alternative to scolding or spanking a child. But, today, it is often overused. There should be alternatives to time-out. Alternatives that do not send a message of rejection or run the risk of embarrassing a child or giving the child attention for being out of line. Remember, the goal is to teach, not to punish. Make sure the use of time-out is helping the student, not just helping the teacher cope. As stated by Ann Clewett: "Rather than removing the child from the learning situation when she makes mistakes, we should stop the inappropriate behavior, coach her in some alternative behavior, and send her back into the situation to practice the new behavior. (Source: "Guidance and Discipline: Teaching Young Children Appropriate Behavior," Young Children, May 1988, p. 28)
Isolating a problem child may be needed. The group's right to learn outweighs the individual's rights, even constitutional rights of free speech. Federal courts have ruled we can isolate a student who is disrupting a class. In this case, isolation is a logical consequence. It is a punishment used after the fact, after the student has become disruptive.
Think about the ramifications of isolation. Reflect on Dishon and O'Leary's quote:
Remember! You don't say, "OK, that's it! No more math for you kids. I'm sick and tired of your mistakes. When you show me that you can do math, then I'll give you some and not until!"
Isolation should provide time for the student to calm down and time for the teacher to gather his wits and come up with a better strategy for handling the situation. In most cases of in-class isolation, the child can return if he feels he can do so without creating further problems.
When you punish a child by using isolation, you're using an extended punishment. If a child has to sit in the corner for ten minutes, the child has a lot of time to generate negative thoughts about you, other students, and/or himself or herself. When "putting in time" is not protecting the welfare of other students but is being used as a negative contingency to try to shape the student's behavior, it is a very questionable practice due to the potential for negative side-effects.
Time-out Areas. Room arrangements should provide various ways to partially or completely isolate a student. These areas can be used when you anticipate difficulty, rather than as a reaction to misbehavior. Consider the following in developing a variety of isolation areas:
Hanging streamers from the ceiling.
Use individual carpet squares to identify an area.
If you can get a supply of small boxes, these can be painted, decorated, and used to store interest centers. They can be stacked to make portable walls that can isolate a desk or student office.
Pegboard or lattice work of some type can be attached to a three-drawer file and used as a partition.
Steps to follow in isolating a child or sending a child to time-out:
Warn the child. Let the child know that he is reaching the limits of your tolerance and that if his behavior continues he'll be asked to go to the time-out area.
When you send the child to time-out, explain your reasons explicitly. Be brief and to the point. Do not feed the child's need for attention. Do not argue with the child. Going to time-out is not to be negotiated.
Tell the student exactly how long he/she will have to stay in the area and give him/her the alternative to return earlier if he can do so without disturbing the others. If you merely tell the child that he/she can return when he or she is ready, you open the door for a battle of wills. The student may decide to see just how long you'll let him/her stay, forcing you to play your hand. This kind of adversarial relationship should be avoided.
Whenever a child is sent to an isolation area, follow his return to the class with a private conference. In that conference, have the child verbalize why he/she went to the area and discuss alternative ways in which the problem could have been resolved. Try to be as encouraging and supportive as possible.
DEALING WITH OTHER PROBLEMS
The College of Education has prepared a web site containing links to topics and information about helping children cope with the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks. This site was designed to serve as a resource for educators, school counselors and psychologists, school administrators, mental health providers, and parents.
Selected Topics Frequently asked management questions
Peer mediation programs. A number of schools have developed peer mediation programs. Some key elements of these programs can be adopted and used even if your whole school has not adopted such a program.
Teach the value of conflict.
"focuses attention on problems and increases the energy to solve them"
"strengthens relationships by increasing one's confidence that disagreements can be resolved, keeping the relationship clear of irritations and resentments.."
"increases the use of high-level cognitive and moral reasoning"
"clarify identity, commitments, and values"
(Source: "Teaching Student to be Peacemakers," by David and Roger Johnson, Research Practice, University of Minnesota, Fall 1996, p. 10)
Teach students to verbalize what is happening and how they feel about it. Johnson and Johnson initially have students mediate in pairs. "This ensures that shy or nonverbal students get the same amount of experience as more extroverted, verbally fluent students." (Source: "Teaching Student to be Peacemakers," by David and Roger Johnson, Research Practice, University of Minnesota, Fall 1996, p. 18)
"describe what you want, 'I want to use the book now.'"
"describe how you feel, 'I'm frustrated."
"describe the reasons for your wants and feelings, :"You have been using the book for the past hour. If I don't get to use the book soon my report will not be done on time. It's frustrating to wait so long."
(Source: "Teaching Student to be Peacemakers," by David and Roger Johnson, Research Practice, University of Minnesota, Fall 1996, p. 10)
Teach conflict management strategies (Source: adapted from Classroom Management, Elementary School Edition, Rialto Unified School District, p. 80)
be generous because you are able to be ("you can go first, because I get to a lot")
chance (flip a coin)
compromise/negotiate ("OK, I get to cut it in half, you get first pick." "You can pick the channel this time, I get to pick it at.....")
seek a third party (get someone to arbitrate or give an opinion)
admit some guilt ("It's not all your fault, I could have....")
humor (make sure students are laughing with and not at each other)
Strategies to avoid
violence - "The confidence and trust one person feels for another can be ruined by violence. Violence also results in more violence. What begins as a push, results in retaliation as a shove which escalates to a slug and then an all-out fight. Children are often surprised to find how quickly violence escalates and how easily they are drawn into fighting. Also, violence seldom clarifies just what the conflict was all about. Neither party has learned how to avoid similar conflicts or learned a positive way of dealing with them." (Source: adapted from Classroom Management, Elementary School Edition, Rialto Unified School District, p. 86)
Teach Students to Disagree without Being Disagreeable
No name calling
Stick to the immediate conflict, don't refer to past problems
Identify points of agreement
flight - "We're all aware of copping out. When people are faced with a conflict situation, often they will become silent and seek refuge inside themselves instead of dealing with the problem head-on.
Children, of course, do the same. When confronted with a conflict, the child may quietly internalize it, where it may fester and boil into something much greater than it was initially. Often if boils into a destructive form of expression.
The escape strategy is one that can be used as a means of coping with conflict, and can be used alone, without the necessity of another's cooperation. But it has tremendous negative side effects. It leads to a slow deterioration of self-esteem and doesn't resolve the conflict issues. A man, for instance, works under a boss who constantly berates him, yet he continues to take it and take it, keeping his resentment and fears inside. This kind of situation can only end in an explosion. Yet if the man had confronted the boss earlier in the game, the end results might have been different.
A child who can't confront conflict becomes a patsy for the group. Called 'sissy' and 'crybaby' and mistreated by the group, the child draws more and more inward as retreat becomes a habitual means of handling conflict.
There are other kinds of escape. One is physical. People who go from job to job, mate to mate, town to town, running when the going gets tough, never face up to conflict. Children do this too. When they can't deal with the conflict, the classroom, the peer group, the family, or whatever is overwhelming in their life, they play alone or withdraw to another corner. It's all a part of the same flight syndrome: one simple moves one's mind or one's body away from the source of conflict.
Either way, this kind of strategy leaves the conflict issues completely unresolved. There is no growth or maturing." (Source: adapted from Classroom Management, Elementary School Edition, Rialto Unified School District, p. 87)
tattling - "The problem with tattling is that it doesn't provide those involved in the conflict with an opportunity to examine or manage the conflict for themselves." (Source: adapted from Classroom Management, Elementary School Edition, Rialto Unified School District, p. 87)
You want to build an internal locus of control. You want the student to learn to cope or solve problems on their own. Some good responses to use with a student who is tattling on another include:
"Are you trying to help ______ or get _____ in trouble? If you are trying to help _____, what else could you have done?"
"Well, I'm glad you don't act that way." (In this case you confirm that the student is different then the person who is causing a problem for the student, but you don't talk to the other student or solve the conflict, you merely confirm that the student who is tattling is different.)
Tattling is a normal developmental stage for primary students. Students are growing out of the ego centric point of view, realizing that others act differently than they do. Don't get angry with students who tattle; however, don't reinforce this behavior either. Help the student learn to deal with the problem on their own.
The Talking Bench is an idea that makes use of some of the principles of peer mediation. With this technique, the teacher identifies a particular spot in the classroom or in the cafeteria or on the playground that will be identified as the talking bench. When students are having a disagreement, they are given the choice of dropping the issue or going to the Talking Bench to solve the problem. At the Talking Bench they are to (1) each tell what is happening and how they feel about it; (2) each suggest what should be done next (they are not to decide who is to blame or who started it); and (3) decide what should be done next. Their solution should be reported to the teacher. If they cannot resolve the conflict, they the teacher will have to mediate the problem solving session. This will have to be done when the teacher has time. That time is usually not very convenient.
Suicide. This is a topic that usually is not a problem in an elementary school. However, it can be and students can identify with celebrities or others whose suicide may be highlighted in the media.
"For schools to deal effectively with the impact of the suicide of a student or faculty member, they need a postvention plan to guide their actions. The impact of a suicide is devastating. Fear, panic, and anger can be anticipated together with sorrow and other signs of grief. There is a real danger that other vulnerable young people will choose to imitate the suicide act. Although the dynamics of contagion are not fully understood, cluster suicides are a reality. School and community must work together to provide reassurance and a sense of security after a suicide. Timely and appropriate efforts can alleviate the intensity of the crisis, help protect other at-risk students and facilitate the process of recovery. Such a plan should be established before a suicide, not after.: (Source: "Suicide Postvention Guidelines," American Association of Suicidology.)
Selected Counseling Guidelines. Note: Usually when a school is directly affected, a crisis team will provide a plan for dealing with the situation and will assume the responsibility of dealing directly with troubled students. These guidelines are presented to provide a general knowledge of what is recommended to counselors, not to suggest that an untrained classroom teacher should provide direct classroom intervention.
Explain, encourage and normalize expression of feelings such as shock, fear, sadness, guilt, anger at others or at the victim, etc. Assure students that these painful feelings can and will be alleviated through discussion, counseling and emotional support and will become less intense over time.
Do not describe the suicide in positive terms or glamorize the act. Suicide is neither romantic nor heroic. It does bring attention, which may be appealing for those seeking attention. The focus needs to be on ways to get attention from significant others without threatening or attempting suicide.
Ask the students or survivors to describe their memories about their friend. These memories may be happy, sad or angry. They can talk about how long they have known the victim, what they did together, what he or she was like, etc. Ask them to describe the last time they say the victim and what they said or wish they had said if they knew this was to be the last time they saw him or her.