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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

To Send or Not to Send (To The Office)

Over the past 5 years, I have sent about 2- to 3-students to office during class for discipline issues. I would like to tell you it is because my students are perfect angels or that every student respects me the moment they walk in (ha!). The truth is, I have students that cause trouble and goof around like 99 percent of all classrooms. But save for the most egregious behaviors, I refuse to send them to the principal, and this has created a better classroom environment.

Dealing with discipline in the classroom is no small task. The easy solution is to send the student to administration and let them punish the student. But what does that really accomplish? It shows the student that you do not want to deal with them and it tends to validate their behavior which is usually about getting attention. If you deal with the student yourself, you can not only avoid rewarding bad behavior, but it can help prevent long-term problems in the classroom as well.

Level One: Let Them Know You're Paying Attention

If a student is causing problems, small re-directs can be helpful during the class. Stand by the desk and tap on the shoulder to let them know you know what is going on. Sometimes eye contact can go a long way in managing a disruptive student. The main objective is to the let the student know that you are aware that they are acting up and that you have your eye on them. Sometimes, of course, this is not enough for certain students.

Level Two: Discipline in Private

If a student is undaunted, you may need to use some kind of discipline.

One thing I learned early as a teacher is to never engage in discipline in front of the class. It is a losing battle for everyone involved. The student cannot back down in front of his peers, and the teacher cannot back down in front of other students.

Instead of issuing punishment or calling more attention to a disruptive student, address them quietly. Tell the student you need to talk to them after class. It should be short and discreet while class is going on. Never make a big deal out of the behavior with the student, as that would give them exactly what they wanted.

Level Three: Time to Call in the Administrators

There are some student behaviors that absolutely warrant a trip to the principal's office. One is disrupting the learning environment for all students in class after multiple attempts by the teacher for re-direction. Any aggressive or violent behavior is also grounds for removal from a classroom. Students that choose to act this way in class need to be removed for their safety and the safety of others.

That said, simply removing the student from your classroom will not solve the problem.

If you have to send a student to the administrators, make sure to follow up with him or her before see each other in class. Reach out and try to find out why they were acting out. Sometimes communication breaks down between counselors, administrators and teachers on what is going on with students, so teachers need to engage students directly to find out what is at the root of their behavior. When you reach out with genuine concern, the student will be more likely to share important details about their life that can help explain their behavior. Like most things, communication can solve many problems.

In the next post, I'll show how clear classroom rules can be established to make the school year run smoothly.

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