On the Importance of Consequences
In years one through three of my career, I looked to punish BIG behaviors with BIG consequences. It was a very “Level 1: Screamer” view of classroom management. The idea was that most small, bad behaviors were pretty much ok, and then when something major wasn’t ok, you let loose with everything you had at your disposal, screaming, removal, write ups, calls home to parents, and ideally prison forever. Decapitation? If it’s on the menu. You can see why the above “pound of flesh” theory is stupid and useless. It’s used by teachers early in their careers, and terrible teachers late in their careers who have never learned the finer points of manipulating classroom management. The goal, of course, is never to become the teacher who proudly says “I’ve been doing this for twenty years and [insert huge consequence here] is the only thing that these kids understand!”
You might recognize the comments made by middling classroom managers. “My fifth period is terrible, but no one is bad enough for a consequence.” “My homeroom doesn’t listen but there’s nothing to do to control a homeroom.” “I know that my second period is bullying Adriana but there is no way to tell who is doing it.” Students are experts at misbehaving in ways that are not quite middling. They are subtle and clever, despite being largely idiots, and so you must be exacting and precise enough to squash their subtlety and prove that you are cleverer on a microscopic level while they’re measuring using the inadequate rulers with which you provide them.
I don’t bother with middling anything anymore. I realized that it’s best to manage micro-behaviors that no one else bothers with (or pays enough attention) to notice. It is with the careful management of micro-behaviors and micro-consequences that I have moved myself towards the higher levels of classroom management. It is very important to note that if you are a lecture and notes kinda teacher, you will never have time to rise above level two of consequence ascension. You’re also doing far too much of the work. It’s much better to have your students do the work, and the learning, while you just watch for pinprick-sized micro infractions, and get pricking with that silent, but precisely-sharpened pin.
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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.