George Lucas Educational Foundation
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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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Shawn Blankenship's picture

Throughout my many conversations with teachers, I have heard time and time again how they feel bad for the rest of the class because they spend all their time and energy on just a few students. These teachers are correct, it's not fair. Yet, they continue to give more attention to these disruptive students, in which I believe, increases the likelihood that this undesired behavior will continue.

According to Michael Linsin, "When you attend to poorly behaved students more often, you're communicating to them in a subtle but clear way that they're different, that they don't have what it takes to control themselves like other students, so they need extra attention."

I believe you hit the nail on the head. Provide small re-directs and simply move on. When it becomes a bigger problem, simply talk with the student on his/her own time privately such as before lunch or athletics. Reframe from interrupting valuable instructional time. It isn't fair to the rest of the class. For more readings on this subject, visit

Great Post and great job at caring enough to resolve problems with your students!

Reade's picture
Elementary teacher in training, at the University of Florida

Mr. Provenzano,

Thank you for sharing this post! I have not yet begun teaching, and one of the things that frightens me the most is the possibility of failing to enact a successful classroom management program. Particularly if I work with older students, I'm afraid they will not respect me and I will find myself in the sort of "showdown" scenarios that you described. Your suggestions are straightforward and easy to follow. I will definitely try out these steps to classroom management in the future!

Joel's picture

I never get tired of reading about classroom management; I teach sixth grade all subjects in an inner city school and let me say I have seen it all. I have seen the egregious and most volatile behaviors. I work with the shining students of under privileged homes and let me say that whether the child comes from affluent or low ses background the key is to get to know the student. The underlying reason for the acting out is the key to changing that child's attitude toward class. Thank you so much for this great blog because many educators like myself can always use a helping hand in this never ending struggle with classroom management!!

Scott's picture

Great post! Classroom management is a topic I feel I could improve in. I always felt that the better you get to know the students and show them that you care, the better easier the classroom management takes place. I tend to ask students to leave into the hallway when they are being troublesome, and will speak with them a few moments later. I wonder if this is something I should avoid doing, and if asking students to stay after class would work better.

Nichole's picture

Thanks for sharing your ideas with me. I have struggled with the choice of should I or should I not send students to the office. As the new year approaches, I'm interested to try your techniques for dealing with my disruptive students. I really liked what you said about talking to students one on one instead of in front of other students. This is something that I have seen other teachers do and it think it embarrasses the students and that is something that you do not want to do!!!!!

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