How A Back-To-School Promise Can Transform Your Teaching Career

Smart Classroom Management: How a Back-To-School Promise Can Transfrom Your Teaching CareerThe strategy this week isn’t for the faint of heart.

It isn’t for the wishy-washy.

It isn’t for anyone unwilling to put the tried and true strategies of SCM into practice.

I’ve heard from thousands of teachers who have transformed their classroom using our approach.

And I know it can work for anyone.

But you have to be all in. You have to take a leap of faith.

In the words of John F. Kennedy, you have to throw your hat over the wall.

This week’s strategy, which consists of making a simple, two-part promise to your students, is about throwing your hat over the wall.

It’s about taking control of your career, your classroom, and your happiness.

It’s about grabbing hold of the teaching experience you’ve always wanted in both hands and never letting it go.

The promise will come after you’ve taught your classroom management plan from A to Z. It will come after you’ve modeled, role-played, and explained every detail.

You may be ready to make this promise at the end of the first day of school, or it may take a week depending on your grade level and experience. But at some point, there won’t be anything else to say.

It will be just you, silent and standing in front of your class, and your students, silent and watching you.

You’ll take a deep breath, pause a beat, and then make part one of your promise:

I promise to follow the classroom management plan exactly as we’ve learned it and every time someone misbehaves.”

Then say it again, slowly and clearly.

The second part of the promise will come after allowing the first to sink in. Let your words linger in the air for 30 seconds or more.

Then finish the promise:

Furthermore, I promise to never yell, scold, use sarcasm, or in any way treat you with disrespect.” 

Say it again and pause again.

Let the weight of your simple and direct words settle on each student and trickle down to their core.

Then sum it all up with one remarkable vow:

From this moment on, I will follow our classroom management plan to a tee and never, ever treat you with disrespect.”

Said with conviction, the moment will mark a seismic shift in how your students view school and their relationship with their new teacher.

Few, if any, will have ever heard such a bold and deeply comforting proclamation.

And it will change them.

So much so that you’ll actually feel every vestige of excitability, immaturity, tension, and disrespect drain from your classroom.

Because this—you, the classroom, their role, your promise—is an entirely different experience altogether.

With those two remarkably unsettling possibilities thrown out the window—that is, inconsistency and intimidation—the freedom to learn and truly love school is all that remains.

The moment can be so powerful that your students will never test you, even the most difficult among them. Because if you really mean what you say, they’ll know.

They’ll know, which instantly establishes you as a leader worth following, admiring, and listening to.

The two-part promise will also have a profound effect on you. After all, you’re laying it all on the line—your reputation, your integrity, your very word.

It’s scary and exhilarating.

But if you do it, if you’re willing to bet on yourself and your ability to keep your word, your teaching life will never be the same again.

Your students will value and respect you.

Your frustration and stress will all but disappear.

And you’ll be the teacher you’ve always wanted to be.

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18 Responses to How A Back-To-School Promise Can Transform Your Teaching Career

  1. Gwen Baumann August 6, 2016 at 9:23 am #

    I’m a big fan. Your stuff always makes sense to me. Now that I’ve moved to 6th grade (1st year middle school) I’d love some suggestions on how to Taylor strategies when I only have students for 40 minutes a day and there is no recess. Thoughts?

  2. Gwen Baumann August 6, 2016 at 9:26 am #

    Would also love to see you on Twitter. @Ms_Baumannn

  3. Karen Gunn August 7, 2016 at 6:40 am #

    I love this promise. I will put it on the wall where I can see it. But what should I do if I break it? What if I get frustrated and yell at the class. There needs to be a consequence for me.

  4. Chuck August 7, 2016 at 12:49 pm #

    I love this. It’s ingenious because you are telling kids what YOU will do, and not what THEY will do. So many other management philosophies involve making certain promises as long as students themselves make a promise to do this or that. Of course the kids never follow through on their side of the “promise” (which they generally never really promise in the first place, it’s just the teacher telling the kids what they will do), and then everything falls apart.

    I’m moving to High School this year, and I might even point this out to students asking them to note that I’m not asking them or forcing them to do anything as part of this promise. It’s just a promise of what “I” will do. I can’t make them DO anything, and I can only control my own actions. It’s up to them how they choose to comport themselves in my classroom, but I want them to be aware of how I will react (and how you will not react with yelling or disrespect).

    Kids will be less likely to test or will test less, because you’ve flat out told them exactly how you’ll react, and if you actually follow through with it, they’ll know you’re a man (or woman) of your word.

    I’m excited to see how your strategies translate over to the High School. I KNOW they’ve worked for years with my middle school kids. My guess is that it will be important to allow students more freedom to comply with my expectations, and ensure that my procedures are less controlling and more geared towards mature students. If you have any tips, let me know, but thanks for this reminder about the beginning of the year promise. I made this promise last year (from your previous article) and it worked wonders. I love the addition about informing them that you will not resort to disrespect, though I think I do have to be careful that I make it clear that it’s my definition of disrespect and not their definition, as some students believe holding them accountable for their behavior is “disrespecting” them.

    • Michael Linsin August 7, 2016 at 4:41 pm #

      Hi Chuck,

      I’m glad you like the article. Since you’re moving to high school, I recommend checking out the new high school e-guide.


  5. Kim August 12, 2016 at 5:07 am #

    Hi. Thanks so much for your commitment to teachers. I teach in a small middle school and see my 6th grade classes 2/3 times a day. I was wondering if the consequences should be reset each day or each period I see the children. If I give a warning at 8 am would the child receive a new warning at 1 pm or a time out? Thanks for your help.

    • Michael Linsin August 12, 2016 at 9:08 am #

      Hi Kim,

      Yes, I believe that would be the most effective way to do it.


      • Kim August 12, 2016 at 3:59 pm #

        Hi. I am unsure what you mean. Do I reset the consequences each period or each day? Thanks again.

        • Michael Linsin August 13, 2016 at 10:49 am #

          Each day. 🙂


  6. Melissa August 14, 2016 at 5:12 pm #

    I purchased the high school plan and am excited to implement it. Do you have a document/contract that the students and their parents sign?

    • Michael Linsin August 14, 2016 at 7:00 pm #

      Hi Melissa,

      I considered including a sample, but because the document is so school specific, I thought better of it.


  7. Randy E. Perry August 22, 2016 at 9:02 am #

    Ii just completed my first year aa a substitute teacher. This is a career change for me. I am a former Special investigator in healthcare & I am semi-retired. I choose this career because I want to give back to the community. To me the best way to accomplish this is through education. Do have any pointers for us new kids on the block.


    • Michael Linsin August 22, 2016 at 1:13 pm #

      Hi Randy,

      My best advice for new teachers is to become an expert in classroom management. Your satisfaction and success, as well as that of your students, is dependent on it.


  8. Marie Hsiung September 3, 2016 at 3:58 am #

    Michael, I’ve been reading your blog the past year and trying to let it change my way I respond to students. I’m a new teacher (2nd career) but an experienced parent. Do you aim your advice more to middle school than elementary?

    • Michael Linsin September 3, 2016 at 8:03 am #

      Hi Marie,

      No, I always have in mind both.


  9. Jamie Wolf September 11, 2016 at 7:21 pm #

    Hi Michael,

    While I’m all for making and keeping agreements, and while I totally support being respectful of students, a teacher making a PROMISE to NEVER do all the things you mention is doomed to fail. As you said in a response above, none of us is perfect, yet this promise sets up an expectation within students for consistent perfect performance from their teacher. And your description of the anticipated student response similarly creates an expectation in teachers that students will behave perfectly.

    It makes far more sense to me for a teacher to set a goal for her/himself and to express that goal to students. This teacher presents as human and fallible with a strong desire to grow and a willingness to be vulnerable. This is excellent modeling for students.

    It would be reasonable and useful for a teacher, at this point, to support students in setting goals for themselves. It would be helpful if all could agree to support one another in achieving their goals and also agree to respectfully call one another out when one does not perform at the level he/she has set as a goal. This is a real relationship which is the basis for effective teaching and learning in the classroom.

    Jamie Wolf

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