31 May How to Improve Discipline in Your Public High School Classroom
How to Work With Security and Administration to Properly Discipline Students
I know that some days I feel more like a security guard than a teacher. It seems that in between class I’m pulling kids apart who are trying to beat each other up, and in class I’m dealing more with behavior than Beowulf. But there are some common sense strategies you can employ that I promise will get you a better reaction from Administration and Security, so that the students you send to the office stay there, and you can focus on your class.
This is your mission, should you choose to accept it: Get to know every member of the Security Staff by name. Don’t be sly about it. On your first teacher workday, or the first day of school, walk straight up to them, shake their hand, introduce yourself, and strike up a conversation. Ask them about their family, where they live. I don’t care what you talk about, just make sure that after a couple days of this, they remember your name, and know which classroom is yours. The biggest reason I want you to get to know the Security Staff is because it will make you’re job a lot easier. This is some of the best advice I can give, and that is why it is one of my first posts.
As the weeks go by, get in the habit of saying hi to them, and stopping for thirty seconds to ask them about their new girlfriend. Then, on days when you need them, stop by and give them a heads up that your hardest class is coming up, and ask them to drop by and help you get the kids in the door. Heck, invite them in your classroom at the beginning of class if you have a hard time getting the kids to be quiet (by the way, I will have another post soon about how to start class in the coming weeks). Just get in the habit of making friends with security, and while you’re at it, you better get to know the Assistant Principal in charge of discipline too.
Your relationships with the people in charge of discipline will determine how effectively you are able to discipline your students in the classroom. If your school is like mine, many teachers, especially new teachers, don’t feel like they have anywhere to send the bad kids. They send them out, and they seem to come right back ten minutes later. Teachers feel that the students aren’t even being punished when they’re sent to the office. Eventually, they become frustrated with the entire process, and wonder what exactly it is the security guards and Assistant Principal are even doing in the office. But that is why I have to ask – why wonder? I know exactly what is going on in the office, and because of this, I am a part of the discipline process. I am not just someone who expects others to deal with the students exactly how I expect them to, as if they can read my mind.
That is why you need to get to know these people – so that you know exactly what they are doing with the students you are sending them.
Let me tell you something. Even in my first year of teaching, I NEVER had problems disciplining students. EVER. I was never frustrated by the administration’s response to a referral I wrote, and I never got kids sent back to my class that same day. In fact, when teachers tell me this is happening, I am puzzled, and I think I know why this is happening.
These are some basic rules you must follow when sending a kid to the office:
- MAKE SURE THEY GO! Good lord, half of the students coming back to your room ten minutes later didn’t even go to the office. They just came back with a story that the Assistant Principal sent them back, and teachers believe them!
- Try to have a security guard escort them to the office. This makes sure they get there and stay there. I know this is not always possible, but that is why you make friends with the security staff. My security guard Dean knows me by name, and even knows that I go to Lake Tahoe some weekends to play craps. When I ask him to come to my classroom, he comes. When he hears it over the walkie-talkie, he comes quicker.
- Learn how to write referrals. Ask the Assistant Principal in charge of discipline what he or she is looking for in a referral. Depending on what you write, the student may be suspended for three days, or sent back to class while the referral ends up in the AP’s wastepaper basket. Here’s the thing about referrals. Be hard on them. Don’t beat around the bush. If the student directed an F-bomb at you, write his exact words. Write: “Michael yelled ‘Fuck You’ directly at me, the instructor. I feel this to be a direct threat to my safety.” I’m serious, if you feel threatened write it. You are not doing anyone a favor, especially not the student, by letting them get away with that kind of behavior. They need to know how serious it is. End the referral suggesting suspension, if that is what you feel the appropriate punishment should be.
- Follow Up. After school, go talk to your AP about that particular student. Tell them the whole story, all the stuff you couldn’t fit on the referral. Make sure they understand how serious the situation is. Trust me, if you want to ensure a student is properly reprimanded, you need to do this stuff.
Like I said, I’ve never had a kid come back to class the same day I sent them out. When I send them out, I send them out right away if I can’t get security, and I make sure they know I will be calling the AP’s office in two minutes to make sure they got there. I send another student, or a senior assistant, with the referral afterwords. NEVER write the referral while the offending student is waiting, and NEVER send the actual referral with the student. Get them out of class right away, and patiently write the referral and send it down after them.
If you follow this advice, I promise you a better response from Administration and Security. We all know there are some kids who just can’t be in class some days. It is a reality of our job and their lives. Knowing how to get these students out of your classroom and into the proper hands is an art that you need to master. If you do, it will make your job that much easier, and you will find yourself being more of a teacher in your classroom, and less of a security guard.