As the year progresses, have students reinforce and explain the rules strategically, and sit back and bask in their authentic explanations:
If you have to remove a student from class, at the end of that class, have students explain why his or her behavior had harmed the learning environment. Brainstorm ways that you, as a learning community, can help keep poor Distracting Derek to remain in the classroom, and out of detention. Give kids the power to explain, understand, and take ownership of your rules. When you send a student out, don’t mock him after he leaves the classroom, enlist your class to help that student assimilate tomorrow as if nothing had happened. You'll find that in empowering your class with strategies to help Derek, that they've developed strategies to help themselves as well.
Here’s where this blog is different than a research-based dissertation: the above strategy DOESN’T work 99% of the time. Any strategy in this book won’t work 99% of the time in isolation. If, at the middle school level, a student behaves poorly enough that she got kicked out of a classroom, very little will help her, and change will be a SLOW process earned over months of a thousand effective, small decisions that each build 1% of trust in a great trust deficit reinforced by everyone else the student can remember during the only decade she's been alive. She’s probably beyond your saving and will spend most of her time in suspension, or maybe she was simply having a bad day and tomorrow will be better regardless of what you do, or don’t enforce.
Even if you never change the problem student’s behavior, you still won though, because by strictly enforcing rules for even the best and the worst kids, you help that middle 90% of kids behave better. This won’t work for every student. It won’t work for every class. It won’t work every year. It won’t work for every teacher. It doesn’t work every day. Sometimes, some people will still misbehave even if you follow every strategy in this blog. The worst students might still be the worst. The best students might still resent that you don’t let them get away with murder because they’re well-dressed and smart. None of that matters though, because following these not so research based methods will help you teach that middle group to control their own behavior, which will make dealing with the top and bottom far easier. Speaking of the top and the bottom of the class, our next post will examine how to manage and cure the disengagement that occurs when you can’t differentiate infinitely and when in the real world, intrinsic motivation isn’t something you can create outside the 1% of students that have it intrinsically.
So much of the writing published about education is published by people who don't teach. I figured it was time for a teacher to write about teaching. I've been proud to teach 8th-grade ELA in Dunkirk City Schools since 2007, and to serve at Fredonia State University as an adjunct professor, teaching educational technology since 2017.