How To Be Consistent From The First Day Of School To The Last

Smart Classroom Management: How To Be Consistent From The First Day Of School To The LastThere is great freedom in consistency.

Because when you follow your classroom management plan to a tee, you remove the guesswork.

You eliminate the stress of lecturing, correcting, and trying to convince your students to behave.

You wipe away the friction and resentment.

The responsibility for misbehavior, then, falls entirely on them—with none of it clinging to you.

Your students are free to reflect on their mistakes, and you’re free to move on as if nothing happened.

A Slippery Slope

It’s common for teachers begin the school year determined to be consistent.

But somewhere along the line they lose their way. They get distracted and let minor misbehavior go. They look the other way when crunched for time.

They take misbehavior personally, become angry, and deliver a dressing-down instead.

Before long they’re enforcing rules based on their mood, who the student is, or the severity of the misbehavior rather that what their plan actually says.

Which leads to distrust, animosity, and more and more misbehavior.

Unfortunately, it’s so, so easy to ski down this slippery slope . . . and so, so difficult to find your way back up.

One Thing

There is, however, one simple thing you can do on the first day of school to make sure you stay consistent throughout the year.

It’s a strategy that makes following your classroom management plan something you do naturally, even effortlessly.

It becomes automatic, like opening the door when an expected guest knocks or answering the phone when it rings.

It isn’t, however, for the fainthearted, for it entails going on record, making a commitment, and putting your reputation at stake.

The Promise

The way the strategy works is that on the very first day of school, within the first hour, you’re going to make an ironclad promise.

You’re going to make a promise to your class that you will follow your classroom management plan precisely as it’s written. No exceptions.

It will come while you’re introducing your plan and be repeated during every subsequent classroom management lesson as you teach, model, and practice the ins and outs of your rules and consequences.

“I promise that I will protect your right to learn and love school by following our classroom management plan every time a rule is broken.”

Pause, look them in the eyes, then say it again.

Keep on saying it every day until doing it becomes second nature to you, until you’ve proven to yourself and your class that you are indeed a person of your word.

All In

Teachers are quick to ask students to make promises regarding their behavior, even asking for them to be written out and signed.

But the real power is when the teacher makes a promise.

Because when you publicly state your intention and commitment, you create powerful internal leverage to actually do it.

Even when it’s inconvenient. Even when you’re rushed. Even when the storm of the century is raging outside your classroom door.

By putting yourself on notice and holding yourself accountable for doing what you say you’re going to do, being consistent becomes remarkably easy.

In no time you’ll be someone your students know they can trust and count on—maybe for the first time in their life. You’ll become someone worth looking up to and following and behaving for.

Go all in.

Lay it on the line within the first moments you meet your new class.

And the soft pressure to honor your promise, to do the right thing, to ensure your students the best learning experience they’ve ever had . . .

Will never, ever leave you.

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22 Responses to How To Be Consistent From The First Day Of School To The Last

  1. Chuck August 2, 2015 at 1:58 pm #

    Good idea. I would make a similar promise to myself each morning, (and tried not to lose this routine), but I still slipped last year. It might be much more effective to make this promise to my students at the beginning of the year.

  2. Laurie August 17, 2015 at 12:41 pm #

    As I read through your blogs, I am ashamed to say that I was THAT teacher. I was always on the lookout for something else because none of the strategies I was trying for behavior was working the way I wanted it to. I also have hated giving prizes for things I expected as normal every day expectations. Here’s my question…I will be teaching 4th grade this fall. Seventeen of my 27 students are from my class last year. They know how inconsistent I was. Do you think they will be able to accept this new way from me after having me last year?

    • Michael Linsin August 17, 2015 at 2:51 pm #

      Hi Laurie,

      Yes, definitely. It may take a little while longer than the rest to believe it’s true and that you really are going to follow through, but it shouldn’t pose any problem.


  3. Laurie August 18, 2015 at 5:20 am #

    Thanks! That’s what I needed to hear! You have no idea how excited I am to try this. You have so many elements imbedded in your program that are near and dear to my heart. I am going to give this 100%. I’m going to need to put up little reminders in my room that say, “Be consistent, be consistent, be consistent!” I’ve already ripped down my clip chart (which was a pain). I am ready for my dream class.

    • Michael Linsin August 18, 2015 at 7:15 am #

      You’ll do great, Laurie!


  4. Matt August 20, 2015 at 2:22 pm #

    Hi Michael –

    Great stuff here on your website. I’m a frequent reader and recently bought your book Classroom Management for Music, Art and PE teachers. I teach K-5 music.

    I like your idea of putting into place a solid classroom management plan with three consequences 1) Warning 2) Time out 3) Contact parents. I’m going to implement this next year. The one thing I’m wondering about is that in the book you state that if a student returns from time out and then breaks another rule that same day, you will not necessarily contact their parents. You will wait for a pattern to emerge, and then may contact parents at a later date, if the behaviors continue to be a problem.

    I tend to agree on this matter, and it’s sort of what I’ve always done. My concern is that by displaying the consequences on the board, the students know that the third step in the management plan is always – contact parents. How do you explain to kids that this isn’t always necessarily the case – their parents may not be contacted every time they have “three strikes”. How do you model/teach to them when it would be appropriate for the teacher to call home?

    My concern is that if a student gets to this point in the management plan and then I tell them, “I know it says that the third step is contact parents, but we’re going to save that till later if this behavior continues.” I’m concerned that the students will see the classroom management plan as fluff and think, “I know it says that Mr. Peterson will contact my parents, but I remember last week Johnny got that far on the management plan and his parents weren’t called. Today if I get three strikes, my parents won’t be called either.”

    Any thoughts on this situation? Thanks again for the website and the books! Inspiring and helpful stuff!


    • Michael Linsin August 20, 2015 at 3:11 pm #

      Hi Matt,

      The key is to be clear with your students right from the beginning. There is a third consequence–always–but not necessarily a call home. This too must be taught and modeled thoroughly. If you’re posting your rules (which isn’t always possible for PE teachers or those who move from room to room), then it’s a good idea to have an asterisk next to number three denoting your explanation. I’ll be sure to add this detail in the next edition of the book.


  5. Alissa August 20, 2015 at 5:12 pm #

    Hi Michael,
    I found your site a few weeks ago and I would like to thank you for this incredible resource. I am so impressed with your methods I am using your classroom management plan verbatim in my middle school science classroom this year. So far (4 days) it has been an incredibly positive experience for myself and the students…… except one class. You see I have the same students from 6th to 7th to 8th, and one class of 8th graders is so baffled and confused by my sudden rule change they can’t seem to wrap their heads around it. Instead of doing the introductory lab I had set up on their tables, they spent the entire period asking me “What if this happens? questions or “Will i get in trouble if..” along with trying to see if I could/would enforce the rules if the whole class was doing something. There was 5 or 6 of them humming at one point and I just stood patiently and quietly until it got quiet, and stopped the discussion every time it started again. The funny thing is, these were my BEST behaved students last year.

    Because we all had bad habits from previous years, I wanted time to model and practice, and I couldn’t find an article addressing a timeline, I decided I would enforce warnings the first week, then do warnings and time outs the second week and the third week start sending letters home. I am wondering if I a mistake in not following through with the final two consequences from day one. (I am putting their name on the board as a warning, the second infraction I tell them “At this point I would ask you to go to time out” (or take a letter home) The warnings are working wonderfully for all the other classes, but the one class is so stirred up, it is practically impossible to tell who is speaking without raising their hand, humming etc. 4 our 5 of them said today “This isn’t going to work.” Or on the flip side, I wonder if it may take LONGER for them to get comfortable and buy into the rules before I start sending letters home. At this point I’m pretty sure they would crumple them up and throw them in the trash anyways. Do I slow it down further for these guys or speed it up? Thank you again!!

    • Michael Linsin August 21, 2015 at 7:59 am #

      Hi Alissa,

      Wow, there is a lot there. I’d love to help but there isn’t enough time and space to address your question here. I also would have questions of my own before being able to accurately help you. It sounds like you’ve lost control of the class. We have several articles that address this. (Use the search function of the website.) You may also want to consider personal coaching.


  6. Matt August 20, 2015 at 8:17 pm #


    Thanks for your quick response! What is the explanation you would give regarding the asterisk next to the third consequence? Would you explain that it depends on the situation? I just get worried that by posting this consequence and not using it in every situation that the students will not take the management plan seriously. Thanks again for your help.


    • Michael Linsin August 21, 2015 at 7:49 am #

      Hi Matt,

      You would explain that if their behavior becomes a problem, then their parents have a right to know. You must define for yourself, depending on you, your school, and your classroom management ability, what that means and then communicate it to your students. If you want my help talking you through that, please sign up for personal coaching. Also, you may want to read that section of the book again until the concept becomes clearer and more comfortable to you. (If you wish, you can always just simply send a letter home for every third consequence.)


  7. Alissa August 21, 2015 at 9:23 am #

    Thank you Michael! I will go back to the archive and I do think that personal coaching will help me since the concepts are new. Thank you again for all your information and I look forward to a personal coaching session with you.

  8. Carolyn October 29, 2015 at 6:26 pm #

    Hi Michael,

    I’ve been reading a lot of your articles and they’re really great! I am a first year art teacher and was nowhere near strict enough at the beginning of the semester and have not been consistent at all, despite knowing how important it is. Do you think it is too late for me to change the class rules and consequences to a much stricter one based on your classroom management plan? They’re so used to me being a pushover that I’m not sure it would work. I am afraid that if I come up with yet another set of rules/consequences that would create resentment and further their attitude of not taking me seriously.
    Thanks, Carolyn

    • Michael Linsin October 30, 2015 at 6:45 am #

      Hi Carolyn,

      No, You’re the teacher and if there is a way you can improve your effectiveness and your students’ experience, then you should do it. But like you mentioned, if you don’t stick to your guns, then it will cause resentment.


  9. Tara March 26, 2016 at 2:03 pm #

    I agree 98%. There are those times when we have to weigh our behavioral policies against the context of an individual situation. There also times where it would be illegal to not be flexible with our home room management choices; such as behavioral contracts through 504s and IEPs.

  10. Edwin Holand July 15, 2016 at 4:09 pm #

    I really like this article.

    Consistency is definitely the key . Right now, I am listing every rule that I tried to enforce this past year but for some reason, only “kind of” enforced them. It will probably be a lot of work at first but I’m sure it will be worth it.

    At the end of last year, when I asked my students what they liked least about our math class this past year, it wasn’t the work load or anything academic – it was the fact that I fussed a lot (some said at least half of class time). The fussing was about some of the same things over and over again and usually at the ones who didn’t want to learn. The ones who suffered were of course, those who wanted to learn. I won’t repeat that mistake anymore.

    Instead of fussing so much, I will be clear on consequences on the FDOS, handle things as quickly and discreetly as possible, and will enforce the rules consistently.

    I’m looking forward to reading and sharing more.


    • Michael Linsin July 15, 2016 at 5:01 pm #

      You’re welcome, Edwin. Thanks for sharing.


  11. Marrielin July 20, 2016 at 3:30 pm #

    Hi Michael. First of all, thank you so much for all the wonderful and helpful articles. I’m so glad I joined!
    I have been teaching for 22 years, most of them in Kindergarten, and have noticed such a shift in the behaviors of my students since the switch to all-day everyday, and the increased academic expectations. This past year was, by far, the most difficult year I have ever had in all of my years of teaching. I have always been someone who has prided myself on having good, consistent classroom management, and thus have had classes that are overall well-behaved and respectful groups of students. However, this past year was completely different. I had students that all of the normal routines for management and behavior didn’t work for, and several parents that were very unsupportive, thus causing me to second guess myself and to change things up to please students and parents alike, which was a choice that, in retrospect, completely backfired. Needless to say, after such a year, I am feeling quite apprehensive about the year to come!

    I guess part of the reason I’m giving you so much background (sorry for my wordiness!!) is that I know I need to “step up my game”, so to speak, as Kindergarten rigor has changed so much and our expectations for these little ones is, in my opinion, developmentally far beyond what we should be expecting from them. But since I can’t change that, I feel like I need to implement other changes in my classroom WITHOUT sacrificing my expectations for appropriate behavior. I find myself almost feeling sorry for some of these little ones that can’t sit still, that are hopelessly impulsive, that are melting down by noon, that can’t keep their hands to themselves….etc. because truly many of them cannot handle what we are asking of them! So how do I put my rules and consequences out there on day 1, when many of these little ones have no idea what school is all about? When they have disappointed faces because they thought they were going to be able to PLAY most of the day? So then when they act out, knowingly or unknowingly, do I call them out on the first day of school? Do I give them a consequence for “talking when the teacher is talking” because that was one of the rules that I just taught them? Or do I give it some time because they are, after all, just Kindergarteners and have no idea how this school thing works!?

    The majority of my Kindergarten colleagues wait until the second week of school to introduce their rules and consequences, giving their students time to become familiar with with “school” and what it’s all about, what the teacher’s expectations are, etc… However, the past few years have begun with many more behavior issues than in the past, and students who “act out” on the first day of school are more common than before. It’s not uncommon to have students laying on the floor while I am talking, and when reminded that we sit up and sit “criss cross”, it’s also not uncommon for that same student to choose not to comply, or to test the limits. Behaviors such as blurting (rather than hand raising) and talking to classmates while the teacher are common and constant interruptions. At what point do I stop reminding and start holding students accountable?

    I would greatly appreciate any feedback on this. Kindergarten is such a different world in so many ways, and there really are so few articles that address the topics that you address, but specifically for Kindergarten.

    Thank you so much for all you do!

    • Michael Linsin July 21, 2016 at 11:19 am #

      Hi Marrielin,

      I’m so glad you found us and are enjoying the articles. Your question is a big one, far too big for the time and space we have here. However, I believe it’s important to begin teaching students how to behave and perform routines from the first day of school. As for accountability, which you can ease into during the first week (ex. two warnings instead of one, short time-outs, no letters home), as soon as your students prove to you they understand your instruction, then they can and should be held accountable.


      • Marrielin July 26, 2016 at 4:10 pm #

        Thanks, Michael. This is very helpful!

  12. Stevie musto August 10, 2016 at 6:06 pm #

    Hi Michael,
    How do you handle a situation where a student tells you another student broke a rule but you didn’t see it?
    You articles are very informative and I’m excited to begin using them. Thank you. Stevie

    • Michael Linsin August 11, 2016 at 10:32 am #

      Hi Stevie,

      You get to the truth. I’ve written about this in the past but will revisit the topic in the future.


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