Why Reminders Make Classroom Management More Difficult

If there is one classroom management mistake made more often than others, it is the practice of giving reminders after misbehavior has already occurred.

It’s so common, in fact, that it passes the lips of many scores of teachers daily—even hourly—in schools from Fresno to Timbuktu.

“Excuse me  . . . excuse me . . . boys and girls? There is no talking when I’m talking.”

“Leila, go sit down right now. You know you may not leave your seat whenever you feel like it.”

“Anthony and Eric, we don’t push in line. You know better than that.”

Anytime you spell out for your students what they should or shouldn’t be doing—based on behavior standards previously taught—you’re giving a reminder.

And teachers in the habit of reminding often struggle with classroom management.

Here’s why:

It undermines your classroom management plan.

Every time you give a reminder in response to misbehavior, you fail to follow through with your classroom management plan.

And with no promise of a consequence backing your words, a reminder is nothing more than a suggestion your students can either take or leave—or weigh the merits of based on your mood and the situation.

So naturally when you ask them to line up quietly with their hands at their sides, to them it doesn’t really mean you expect them to do it—at least not the first time you ask.

You see, if your students know they can count on your repeated reminders before you enforce a consequence, then there is little urgency for them to follow your directions.

It weakens the power your words.

When your first reaction to misbehavior is to give a reminder, you’re communicating to your students that you don’t really mean what you say—unless, that is, you raise your voice, lose your cool, or otherwise show your frustration.

There is a direct relationship between the number and frequency of reminders you give and your students’ inclination toward listening and doing what you ask.

If you give a lot of reminders, your words won’t pack any punch. Your voice will no more cut through the static in their heads than the soft drone of a Hummingbird outside your classroom window.

And amidst the resultant daydreaming and boredom is the frequent sting of those who see your weakness as an opportunity to push the limits of your patience.

Your Words Realized

If you just make this one change, if you decide that you’re no longer going to give post-misbehavior reminders—and instead follow your classroom management plan as it’s written—you will notice dramatic improvement in behavior.

Not at first, mind you. There will be long days in the beginning. Going from multiple reminders to zero will be a shock to the system.

But in time the sound of your voice will matter to your students. It will have meaning and power and resonance. They’ll be tuned in and leaning forward, with a sense of urgency that will allow you to teach with passion.

And then when you give a direction, you’ll see your words materialize in front of you.

The dream becoming reality.

In next week’s article, we’ll learn how to give a reminder in such a way that does improve behavior. I hope you’ll join us.

Thanks for reading!

-Michael

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4 Responses to Why Reminders Make Classroom Management More Difficult

  1. Cindy September 27, 2012 at 9:46 pm #

    Oh, my goodness, this is me! I have been so frustrated lately and this is exactly why! Thank God that it’s only September and I have time to get back on track early. Thank you for this newsletter, Michael, it is exactly what I needed to hear.

    Cindy

    • Michael Linsin September 28, 2012 at 6:29 am #

      Great! You’re welcome, Cindy!

  2. Sarah October 3, 2012 at 2:41 pm #

    Hi Michael,
    First let me say that I really apprecitate your classroom management advice. I teach pre-kindergarten and I am a first year teacher. Would you recommend your methods for 3-4 year olds, or would they need adjusted since the students are so young? Also, I have one particular student who is very defiant and often disrupts class. Do you have any suggestions for dealing with this type of behavior from such a young child?
    Thanks!
    Sarah

    • Michael Linsin October 4, 2012 at 6:36 am #

      Hi Sarah,

      I don’t have experience with preschool children, but the one universal is that they too need to be held accountable for misbehavior–especially the one being disruptive. You would definitely need to simplify the rules to meet your needs and may want to offer two warnings, shorter time-outs, and probably a personal talk with parents rather than a note home.

      Michael