How To Be Consistent With Classroom Management

Smart Classroom Management: How To Be Consistent With Classroom ManagementAsk a hundred teachers if it’s important to be consistent with classroom management and every last one of them will tell you that it is.

But knowing that it’s important is one thing.

Actually being consistent is another.

Most teachers only kinda-sorta follow their classroom management plan.

Deciding whether to enforce a consequence not based on what their plan actually says, but on the nuances of the situation, how they feel in the moment, or who is doing the rule breaking.

But this becomes the slickest of slippery slopes. And before long they’re routinely ignoring their classroom management plan.

It’s only much later, upon experiencing the extreme stress and upside-down chaos of letting things go, that they kick themselves under their desk and resolve not to let it happen again.

But then doubt slowly slithers its way back in, and the cycle repeats.

The solution to classroom management inconsistency isn’t intense psychotherapy. It’s not Skinnerian conditioning. It isn’t even a renewed determination to do better.

It’s much simpler than that.

The solution is confidence, confidence in knowing that it is indeed best to follow through with your classroom management plan every single time.

What follows is a list of reasons why you must, must, must be consistent with classroom management. Review it often. Memorize the key points. Internalize its importance. Relax in its reassurance.

And your doubts will be put to rest.

It’s unfair not to.

To enforce your agreed-upon consequences sometimes and not others is grossly unfair to your students. “Why does she get away with calling out in class and I don’t?” Why indeed? And regardless of your reasoning, regardless of the sensitive nature of the circumstances, or the unique personality of the misbehaving student, the rest of your class doesn‘t know any better, and thus will be sure to enter it in their unfairness file.

It causes resentment.

If you don’t follow your classroom management plan as it’s written, the same for every regular ed. student in your classroom, your students will naturally conclude that you’re playing favorites—and fiercely resent you because of it. This can be particularly galling when those few who are given more latitude than others are the same ones who continually disrupt the class and ruin the fun of learning.

You’ll lose respect.

Whenever you say you’re going to do something and don’t do it, you lose a layer of respect from your students. The central message they get from you is that you can’t be counted on. You can’t be looked up to or admired. And you’re not the leader they can place their trust in. To them, you’re just another wishy-washy adult who makes promise after promise but doesn’t come through.

You’ll be tested.

When your most challenging students learn that you’re not so committed to enforcing consequences, that your classroom management plan is written in pencil, they’ll smell blood in the water. And, although they’ll pick their spots, they’ll test you and challenge you every chance they get. They’ll continually skirt the edges of your rules, probing for weakness. They’ll push the boundaries. They’ll hold learning hostage. And they’ll drive you crazy.

Behavior will worsen.

Wherever there is weak accountability or semi accountability, behavior, respect, and kindness take a nosedive. That’s just the way it is and the way it will always be. Try as we might to bury our heads in the sand and deny it, it’s a fact of teaching. We can’t get around it. It’s the human condition. Of course, the inverse is also true: Where there is accountability, polite behavior, respect, and kindness are sure to follow.

Learning will suffer.

You simply cannot protect the rights of your students to learn and enjoy school if you don’t follow through with your classroom management plan. Calling out in class, getting up without permission, interruptions, side-talking, name-calling, drama, misbehavior, silliness . . . your students have a right to come to school and learn without interference and disruption. And unless you rely on a plan for holding misbehaving students accountable, learning will suffer.

You’ll be forever frustrated.

Without 100% reliance on your classroom management plan to curb misbehavior, you’ll naturally fall into potentially harmful methods like yelling, scolding, sarcasm, arguing, and the like. You’ll struggle with anger and emotional control. You’ll also find yourself hoping your students will behave, pleading with them to behave, and trying to convince them to behave. This is a remarkably frustrating and ineffective combination that will cause you to question your choice of career.

One Plan

There are those who would have you believe that you should have different standards of behavior depending on the student, that you should consider each student and every situation differently and individually and adjust your consequences, or lack thereof, accordingly.

And this may sound good in theory. It may very well play out proudly in academia to enthusiastic applause. But in a real world classroom it is a disaster.

A teacher who dishes out consequences based upon her (or his) own, personal subjective view of her students, the behavior in question, or the particular situation will lose control of her classroom and the respect of her students.

A well-written classroom management plan, on the other hand, followed as taught, modeled, and practiced, is fair to all students and never creates resentment, friction, and hard feelings between the teacher and her students.

Unless you have a student in need of specific behavioral accommodations detailed in an IEP, it’s best for your students, their learning, and your peace of mind that they all fall under the same clearly defined, objective classroom management plan.

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32 Responses to How To Be Consistent With Classroom Management

  1. Hilary June 16, 2012 at 3:48 pm #

    Thanks Michael, awesome post. It nailed every one of my concerns and habits and “yeah, buts”. Do you have any advice on how to handle it if a student does have an IEP/BSP and other students want to know why it is okay for that student to get special treatment?

    • Michael Linsin June 16, 2012 at 8:42 pm #

      Hi Hilary,

      Yes, in fact it will be a topic for an upcoming post. Stay tuned!

      :)Michael

  2. Autumn July 16, 2012 at 5:37 pm #

    I completely understand and agree with having consistancy in behavior expectations and management. My problem is me!! I get focused on the events of the day that I end up forgetting to follow through on consequences, especially for minor infractions, until the day is over and it’s too late. I know that works against my management plan. Do you have any suggestions?

    • Michael Linsin July 16, 2012 at 7:17 pm #

      Hi Autumn,

      You have to continually remind yourself both how self-sabotaging it is to forget, ignore, or disregard your plan and how much more effective you are when you do follow it. The article above does not make the point that being consistent is important. That’s a given. The article is a wake-up call of sorts for those who are inconsistent and don’t realize how deeply it affects their teaching, their students’ progress, and their ability to manage their classroom.

      Michael

  3. Brenda November 3, 2012 at 8:44 pm #

    I am also curious about Hilary’s question. I have an FASD child who would get a note home every day and twice in the afternoon if I stuck with the plan to the letter. I do follow the 4 classroom rules and the warning through to the letter home but I’ve been expecting him to do it too but he simply doesn’t understand rule/consequence. Suggestions? Also, my sister is a substitute teacher and she would love to hear what you have to say about classroom management for occasional teachers.

    • Michael Linsin November 4, 2012 at 9:44 am #

      Hi Brenda,

      How to manage students with IEP’s is a tricky subject to offer advice about because every situation is different. For me to give an accurate recommendation I would have to observe you in action with the child. For general recommendations, of the sort Hilary was asking about, there will be future articles addressing this topic. I’m considering writing an article about substitute teaching on another website. If I do, I’ll be sure and let readers know.

      Michael

  4. jan November 7, 2012 at 6:03 am #

    Hi Michael,
    every day I go to school I decide to do exactly this, but somehow I get overwhelmed by all the things that are going on in the lesson. All of those kids who are not paying attention, all the things I still need to do in my next period. I just do not know where to start sometimes. I want to be fair, but how can I be fair if I only give certain children consequences? I just can not see who exactly is acting up all at the same time. Sigh…

    • Michael Linsin November 7, 2012 at 8:55 am #

      Hi Jan,

      It’s much more than just having a classroom management plan and being consistent. These are key, of course, but by themselves they’re not enough. If you have many students who are not paying attention, then this problem must be addressed. Just from your comments, I have a feeling that you’ve yet to really teach the routines, procedures, and standards of behavior you expect from your students. If they don’t know precisely what you expect, then it isn’t surprising to feel overwhelmed.

      Michael

  5. Allison Rapp May 17, 2013 at 8:32 am #

    I have felt so empowered and freed by the articles you have written about consistency and accountability. I guess I’m just confused b/c I have seen teachers who do resort to some lecturing, etc., and reminders, and are not totally consistent between students or situations and they don’t have behavior problems or lack of respect in their room. Their students enjoy their class. I don’t want to attack your plan, I guess I just want reassurance that doing what you say in your articles actually will make my classroom and my personal sanity better than theirs:)

  6. Allison Rapp May 17, 2013 at 9:54 am #

    Hi Michael,
    I was just starting to gain confidence about accountabilty and consistency and feeling really empowered. Then I started talking to some of the teachers in my building who do have inconsistencies between students and situations and do use reminders, etc. and have focused and respectful students who enjoy their class. I want to follow your plan but doubts always creep in “well, they are letting this or that slip and their class is going fine so why are you being so strict?” I felt liberated with your plan for the first time but then I get worried if being that consistent is necessary. Could you give me some reassurance that a firm level of accountability and consistency will actually make my classroom experience better than their’s?

    • Michael Linsin May 17, 2013 at 4:16 pm #

      Hi Allison,

      I wouldn’t write the things I do on this site, publicly no less, if I didn’t 100% believe them to be true. Also understand that the goal of this website isn’t just to help you improve and have “good” control, but to be an extraordinary teacher, a great teacher beloved and remembered for a lifetime.

      Michael

  7. Canaan November 11, 2013 at 8:57 am #

    Michael,
    I am a high school teacher that is having problems with several disruptive students in two of my classes. I’m trying to be consistent with my plan, but it seems nearly impossible when there are 4 or 5 disruptions going on at once. I have trouble pinpointing the exact students. All I can really do is write the names of the students on the board I actually see talking or being disruptive, and this feels too inconsistent. I just use the analogy of getting caught speeding by a cop, only a few get pulled over. I’m not sure how to correct this problem.
    I appreciate all your articles on this site!

    • Michael Linsin November 11, 2013 at 9:25 am #

      Hi Canaan,

      I’ll write about this more in the future, but until your students prove they can behave as taught and expected, you have to watch them closer. You have to position yourself where you can pinpoint where the disruption is coming from and thus accurately hold those students accountable.

      Michael

  8. John February 24, 2015 at 5:17 am #

    Michael,

    The biggest challenge I have faced [beyond my personal failings] is the general sense of apathy at a school staff level, leaving me looking like the drill Sargent applying all the rules. I understand that the students do appreciate [generally in hindsight] the fair and consistent application of rules, but it becomes very very tiring being at the ‘pointy end”.

    Maybe a paper for the next level up, showing how destructive it can be if teachers and leadership are not rowing in the same direction or sometimes even the same boat.

    • Michael Linsin February 24, 2015 at 7:34 am #

      I hear you, John. I’ll put it on the list of future topics.

      Michael

  9. Fiona Maycock February 26, 2015 at 11:56 am #

    Dear Michael,

    I have recently come across your website and have found it very helpful. I was an NQT last year and have struggled with behaviour management since starting teacher training. I am currently finding it really hard to be consistent in lessons – some days I pick up on all the things that go against my expectations, and some days I don’t. I can’t find a reason why I do it but know that it is making my experience of teaching worse every day. Have you got any tips to help me focus at the beginning of each lesson on pulling students up who do not meet my expectations?

    Thanks

    • Michael Linsin February 26, 2015 at 5:25 pm #

      Hi Fiona,

      I’m not sure I understand exactly what you mean. Can you email me with more details? It’s sometimes difficult to pinpoint the exact prescription you need without speaking to you or seeing you in action, but I’ll sure consider your problem carefully.

      Michael

  10. Diana March 18, 2015 at 6:49 pm #

    Hi Michael- I am a big fan of your blog and have sent many other teachers here, who’ve often told me how much it helped. I am a music teacher, so I see 500+ kids a week, K-6th (and I have your book for specialists). I struggle with consistency because it’s not always clear to me when a rule has been broken– for example, whispering can be very hard for me to monitor and consistently enforce. If they are politely asking a neighbor for space, or helping them find the right notes, that is great and encouraged. If they are quietly initiating a side-conversation, it undermines focus and management. I have a few groups that really whisper a lot. I also have one group where moral is way down… it makes it hard to teach, and I find that issuing warning after warning just brings morale further down. I know I must have fallen off somewhere along the way, we started off great… how do I bring it back? It’s not a total loss of control, but it’s a loss of respect and enjoyment of the class. Another issue is that, as a newer teacher, I am not always positive that they will love every lesson plan I bring. How do I reclaim permission to experiment and make occasional mistakes in a safe learning environment for everyone?

    • Michael Linsin March 18, 2015 at 8:15 pm #

      Hi Diana,

      Your question is much too big for the time and space we have here. I would also need more information from you in order to give you the right and accurate advice. If you’re interested, I definitely recommend personal coaching.

      Michael

  11. NNN May 17, 2016 at 6:57 pm #

    Good Day Michael,

    I have a question that is related to my classroom management plan, but not exactly. So I am in a position where the school I am at is changing hands and turning charter. This means that I am interviewing with other schools to continue teaching. However, I am going to these interviews and not getting the job offer. There could be other reasons why but the one thing that I heard someone say is that the interview committee was concerned about my classroom management. Now with that in mind, I have stated (during interviews) that I consistently use a plan that includes a warning and if another infraction is broken, a prep destination/lunch detention/ loss of privilege, and third a parent contact. Generally my plan (as inspired by you) works. But there are times when students have reached consequence 3 and their parents aren’t very responsive or helpful. Which is what interviewers ask- “what happen’s when parents aren’t helpful?’I then explain that I will continue on with the plan and hold students to expectations. It seems like there has been push back from administrators that think after I say all of that that all I do is “call home”. Sorry this is so lengthy but I wanted to ask someone who knows that a consistent yet simple plan does work.

    • Michael Linsin May 18, 2016 at 8:10 am #

      Hi NNN,

      This is something we would have to work out via personal coaching. I would need to know more information and have questions of my own before being able to provide accurate advice. I will, however, be sure and cover the topic of parental support in a future article.

      Michael

  12. Jessica July 20, 2016 at 11:03 pm #

    Dear Michael,

    When I taught three classes of fifth grade every day I worked on implementing your plan and it worked well. Now that I teach self-contained first grade, I think all of my students would get a note home everyday for talking without permission if I followed the plan exactly. Obviously it would need to be modeled and taught explicitly, and I’ll keep reading the beginning of the year articles but would you actually enforce (with consequences) this from day 1?

    • Michael Linsin July 21, 2016 at 7:55 am #

      Hi Jessica,

      Yes, however, because you’re teaching first grade for the first time, you may want to give two warnings instead of one for the first few weeks. You can also hold off on the letter home until you feel confident your students understand what is expected.

      Michael

      • Sara August 9, 2016 at 12:43 pm #

        Hello Mr. Linsin,

        Thank you very much for this website. I am a college instructor, and I have seen great results when I started implementing your suggestions. However, my problem is when it reaches to the “letter home” level.
        I teach sections of 20-25 students. Our college has automated attendance where students swipe when they come in and receive automatic Fail in the course if they miss above certain number of hours.
        The misbehavior that I am facing is cell phone use, and leaving the class for “bathroom breaks” and coming back. For cell phone use, my class rules are “weekly classwork grade lost” for the first time, and “attendance swipe” taken off for the second time. For leaving the classroom, I delete the attendance for the day, unless the student is has a medical excuse documented with the College health center (eg diabetes). The problem is that our students like to play with the hours of allowed absences and some will miss nearly all of them, until the last one is left, and will then start coming in, and trying to test the limits with my rules. Now, at this point if I follow through with my rules I am knowingly failing them. They don’t see this as their responsibility, but as my choice. This is also an Eastern Country, where such acts are taken personal.

        What am I doing wrong? Is it ok to fail a student because of classroom behavior? Is my plan wrong?
        It is also difficult to monitor cell phone use, as they will use it under their desks and sit in the back. It is difficult to ‘catch’ them doing it, without moving near them and breaking the flow of the lecture. So some did get away in the past. As you said this affects the class negatively. How do I deal with my past inconsistency? Do I just let this summer semester close and start anew next semester? Should I try to be consistent with whatever is left of the summer? HOW DOES one get the class back once some inconsistency has slipped in? Is there hope mid semester?

        I would really appreciate your advice.

        • Michael Linsin August 10, 2016 at 10:58 am #

          Hi Sara,

          There is a lot to unpack here, and I certainly have advice to give you, but I would have several questions first. I wouldn’t want to steer you wrong. There is a cost involved, but because there are so many variables in your questions, you may want to consider personal coaching. Short of that, because students are paying for the privilege of taking your class, you potentially have a great deal of leverage—which I would darn sure take advantage of.

          Michael

  13. Lydia September 26, 2016 at 8:49 pm #

    Hi Michael,
    I really appreciate your calm, clear insight into the tricky parts of management. I was wondering about how to best keep track of those students that get warnings or go to time out? I often give out the warning right away, then forget I gave them a warning a little while later so I may give them another warning! Should I write them down on a list? I feel like this is an inconsistency that is ruining my follow through with my management plan.

  14. Sara September 29, 2016 at 1:13 pm #

    Hi Michael,

    Thank you very much for your blog and for this article. Is there any hope to regain respect and control back if the teacher slipped a few weeks into the semester and was not consistent? Could a teacher attempt consistency already in the middle of a semester? How could this be done gracefully without sounding like threatening or getting back at students (high school)?

    • Michael Linsin September 29, 2016 at 4:15 pm #

      Hi Sara,

      Keep it simple and be honest with your students. “I’m unhappy with how things are going, and I know can do much better protecting your learning and enjoyment of this class, so let’s review the rules and consequences.” Then make a promise to follow them to the letter. It may not be easy to break bad habits and start being consistent, but it is that simple.

      Michael