Another Day…Another Classroom Management Encounter

The moral of the story is this: It is difficult to discipline students and at the same time to show them they matter. It is a difficult situation unless you already paved the ground for that to happen. You can’t be a jerk and then suddenly show a student that you care. You have to cultivate that ground, to till it, and to plant those seeds just right. You have to cultivate it from day one. It’s not something you can just start. But that doesn’t mean teachers can’t change.

Today, the student from the last post came into 1st period. He was talkative and in good spirits. After a few minutes I asked him to come out into the hallway. I told him that I was really proud of the choices he made the previous day. I told him he made some difficult choices and I know it had to be kind of tough to not say or do something. But in doing so, he would have taken three steps back. I repeated I was proud of him and respected what he did. I also told him that it just showed me he is a good kid and just had to make tough choices. He kept his head down the whole time. He told me thanks and that he really appreciated it. I really enjoy having this kid in my class. If he had the right teachers who respected him and let him know that he mattered, he’d be a great student and excel. It’s my hope that he achieves his dreams and becomes a train engineer if that’s what he wants.

Later today, after lunch and the start of 6th period (4th block), I had a student that was working on a U.S. History web-based course. He had worked pretty far ahead and has two more weeks till he returns to his regular school. He had already received one negative referral today before lunch. When he reported to me at the start of 6th period, I told him I wanted him to go to the library and get a non-fiction historical book and he was going to write a book review on it. He immediately balked about this and whined and asked me if he could just do work in the classroom; that he really didn’t want to get a book. While he was telling me this, I then told him that once he got the book, he was going to sit in the hallway and read so he wouldn’t be distracted. He then balked at this and whined some more and requested to sit in the room to read. I told him this wasn’t up for discussion and I wasn’t going to compromise or negotiate. It was final. At this point, he started to turn away from me and, at the same time, he took his level 3 and level 2 name tags out (He had been dropped from level 4 this morning) and told me that I could just go ahead and take these cause he wasn’t going to do what I asked him. At this point they fell on the floor and I told him to get the name tags and give them to me. I also told him to go to the office. I went with him, sat him down near the office and went and found the principal. I told her what happened and told her that I think he had gone from being dropped to needing to be suspended (I was pretty upset at him). I then went back to him and told him a few things…

I told him, “You really made a bad choice. I want you to know right now that everything that is about to happen to you, you brought upon yourself. I am not responsible for it, so don’t blame me. I’ve treated you with respect, with kindness, with dignity, with all that humanity dictates I should treat you. And today you treated me with such great disrespect and unkindness. It really hurt me. Have I ever been disrespectful or unkind to you?” (He shook his head no). You need to own what you did and take responsibility for your actions. You made a serious error in judgment. I think you have a lot to contribute to this world. You’ll do some great things in the future and I want to be around to see what you do. But if you can’t control your actions and your behavior in making judgments, you won’t be able to make those contributions. I like you and think you’re a great student. I think you’re very kind and you’re going to be successful, but you got to control your actions. I know it’s tough as a 17 yr old guy to do that sometimes, but you have to do it. Now, let me tell you something else. Whatever happens with the principal, I still believe in you. I still respect you. I hold nothing against you. I got no beef with you. As far as I’m concerned everything that just happened is water under the bridge, it’s beyond us, it’s past us and you got a clean slate with me. When you come back to the room, everything’s cool. I got no hard feelings against you.”

He stood up as I was saying this last part and he looked me in the eye and apologized for his behavior and for disrespecting me and offered his hand. I shook his hand and told him thank you and to hang in there. It’ll be alright.

He came down a few minutes later and asked me what level I wanted him to be on. I look questioningly at him and he explained that the principal didn’t have a write-up on him so didn’t know what kind of discipline I recommended. I quickly wrote a referral and took it down to the principal. I spoke to her and told her that I didn’t really want to drop him another level in one day, but he had been extremely disrespectful to me and his refusal to follow instructions was poor judgment. I told her that I wish there was a way we could help him to not internalize such things so quickly. So we agreed to have him lose his breaks for two days and he would have to eat in level one lunch for a week (level one lunch = no talking and complete silence; almost isolation).

Later in the afternoon we were about to go down the hallway for a drink of water (single file) and I asked them to all make sure they had their name tags on and he jokingly said, “I’m wearing mine! I’m proud of it!” (Level four students do not wear name tags and now he was on level three from being dropped earlier in the day). I smiled and said, “Well you should be, you earned it!” He smiled back and took it in good spirits. The day began on a good note and it ended on a good note.

The moral of the story is this: It is difficult to discipline students and at the same time to show them they matter. It is a difficult situation unless you already paved the ground for that to happen. You can’t be a jerk and then suddenly show a student that you care. You have to cultivate that ground, to till it, and to plant those seeds just right. You have to cultivate it from day one. It’s not something you can just start. But that doesn’t mean teachers can’t change.

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