Why You Should Handle Your Own Behavior Problems

It’s common for teachers to send difficult students to the office.

Fed up with the interruptions, the silliness, and the overt disrespect—and after so many threats and warnings—they haul the offending child down for some face time with the principal.

Some schools require a referral form to be filled out while others take a more informal approach. Either way, most teachers try to milk the moment for all it’s worth.

“Okay, Joanna. You’ve done it now. I warned you. Now you’re going to have to explain yourself to the PRINCIPAL!”

The student waits nervously outside the office for a period of time before being summoned into the chambers of the big boss.

Once inside, he or she may be forced to wriggle and squirm through some hard questions, endure a stern lecture, or offer assurances of improvement. A phone call home may also be in play.

Then the student is right back in your classroom, sometimes minutes later—causing some teachers to throw up their hands and complain that they’re not getting enough support from administration.

But in the long run, sending students to the office makes managing your classroom more difficult. It also puts your administrator in the difficult position of trying to do for you what you can more effectively do yourself.

You see, when you send students to the office for misbehavior, you’re making a clear statement to your class that you’re not the ultimate authority of your classroom.

This, in turn, emboldens your most challenging students to test your boundaries, push your buttons, and probe the limits of your patience even more. It also undermines your classroom management plan and weakens the power of your words.

The more you send students to the office, the more you’ll find yourself threatening, giving reminders and chances, and trying to persuade and even plead for your students to behave.

And principals? They don’t have the advantage of getting to know your students, of being able to build rapport and influence over time—at least not to the degree that classroom teachers can. They also can’t so simply refer to a classroom management plan and its progression of agreed-upon consequences.

Thus, in many ways their hands are tied.

They’re left with using their title and authority to try and convince or intimidate students into behaving for you. And although some principals are very good at this, it pales in effectiveness when compared to a teacher with solid classroom management skills.

A principal’s influence is important, to be sure. But it comes from their vision and leadership and the standards they set for the entire school community.

Asking them to handle individual students whose misbehavior takes place in your classroom and on your watch puts them in an awkward position. It’s hard to even know what to say to a student dropped off at their door with a brief note about disrespect.

Of course, if a student engages in dangerous behavior like bullying or fighting—or anything else that could affect the safety of themselves or others—then you absolutely must involve your administrator. No doubt about it. But even in such cases, when possible, you should take the lead.

Try never to simply hand a student off to the principal and be on your way.

Being seen as the leader and decision maker of your classroom will engender greater respect and admiration from your students. Your words will carry more weight and relevance. And your buck-stops-here classroom management plan will be strengthened.

For every time you handle misbehavior with calm, quiet conviction and unwavering accountability, you empower yourself to create the peaceful, inspiring, and one-of-a-kind learning experience your students so gravely need.

No matter how easy it may seem in the moment, no matter how satisfying it may be to remove a student from your classroom, it’s a mistake to send students to the office. It’s a mistake to ask your principal to step in and do for you . . .

What you can more effectively do yourself.

Note: This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t consult your administrator if you feel you’ve lost control of your class or a student in particular. In such cases, you most definitely should.

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23 Responses to Why You Should Handle Your Own Behavior Problems

  1. Catherine January 12, 2013 at 5:16 pm #

    Great advice! I try to avoid sending students to the principal. The few times I do, such as when a student does something very dire that requires me to send him/her according to our school handbook, I back it up by implementing your idea of a full day timeout. This is also written as part of my classroom management plan. That way, my students know that whatever much or little admin might do, they will still be responsible for that full-day timeout from me.

    • Michael Linsin January 12, 2013 at 5:39 pm #

      Excellent, Catherine!

      :)Michael

  2. Alicia January 14, 2013 at 8:00 am #

    Micheal,
    I have been using your techniques to help my classroom management, but i have been having problems – and have been sending kids to the office in one of my classes.

    I give a verbal warning – from the front of the room while writing on the board, I go to the student, or I mouth warning when I make eye contact during offending behavior. Then they get time-out if they do it again. If they misbehave in time-out (or aren’t working in time-out) I send home a letter and never get it back. I wait 2-3 days and call parents. No response.

    I have had some students in time-out for a week and a half. They have tried to create a little club over there. I have sent the group of them (3 kids) to the principal when they talk loudly to eachother while in time-out after they have earned a detention (which they won’t show up for) and a phone call home (where no one answers the phone or returns my calls). Any ideas?

    Thanks,
    Alicia

    • Michael Linsin January 14, 2013 at 6:08 pm #

      Hi Alicia,

      Remember, although critically important, a classroom management plan is a small part of classroom management. By itself, it does little to curb misbehavior. Reread the article A Classroom Management Plan That Works and then work your way through the Rapport & Influence category of the archive. How To Send A Letter Home Redux is also an important article. If you then have any questions, email me. I’m happy to help.

      :)Michael

  3. Wendy January 18, 2013 at 9:08 pm #

    Do you have advice for teachers that see every student in the school? I have well over 500 students and 22 classes. I see students anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour a week and although I work hard to build rapport and use many of the techniques I’ve read about in your blog, I find myself sending students, not necessarily to the principal’s office but out of the room to stop them from wasting the little time I have with the rest of the students in class.

    • Michael Linsin January 19, 2013 at 10:00 am #

      Hi Wendy,

      I’ve written a couple of articles specifically for specialists like you in the classroom management section of the Art Of Education website.

      :)Michael

  4. Tami January 19, 2013 at 4:58 am #

    I just finished your book and have signed up for the newsletter. I am a veteran teacher of 18 years and I’m embarrassed by how much I have learned from you. I’m fortunate in that I teach art. The subject in itself is fun so the time- out technique works beautifully. Thank you for sharing. The ripple effect is wide reaching. I have shared my successes with other struggling teachers and have suggested they sign up for your newsletter and buy your book.

    • Michael Linsin January 19, 2013 at 9:25 am #

      Thanks Tami! I’m glad you found us.

      :)Michael

  5. Lisa M January 20, 2013 at 6:13 pm #

    I say this all the time. My administrators know something is REALLY wrong if I send a student to the office. I would rather send them to a buddy teacher with the option to come back when they are ready.

    BTW – Glad I found this blog!:)

  6. Roderick Woodard January 26, 2013 at 3:41 pm #

    Michael,

    I have been a paraprofessional for the past 4 years, 1 in elementary and currently 3 in middle school. Most of the students are respectful, polite, and follow directions quite easily. However, I’m finding that I am having to raise my voice quite frequently with students who demonstrate disrespectful behavior, refusing to follow directions, and I find myself threating to send them to the office and I often have to seek assistance from other teacher because I’m not confident in myself in handling disciplinary situations and find myself not demonstrating consistence at certain points and I find this extremely difficult and frustrating and often beat myself up over it. My ultimate goal is to become a teacher and my preference is teaching 4th or 5th grade at the elementary level or 6th grade at the middle school/junior high level. I feel that I have to give away my authority to other teachers because certain students refuse to listen and demonstrate respectful beahvior. I want to correct this issue I have before getting my own classroom someday and I would like to know how can I correct my issues with discipline and consistency with the students before it gets worse. I have a good rapport with most of the students but some students demonstrate the behaviors mentioned just to get a rise out of me and I often find myself caving in and losing my cool at times. Thank you in advance for your website.

    • Michael Linsin January 26, 2013 at 5:16 pm #

      Hi Roderick,

      Just keep learning and getting better. It’s a greater challenge when students don’t see you as the ultimate authority. This underscores the importance of being a leader they can admire and look up to, which starts with keeping your cool and following through with consequences. I hope you go after your goal sooner rather than later.

      :)Michael

  7. Carolyn February 16, 2013 at 9:57 pm #

    Hi Micheal,

    So what is the teacher to do when they are feeling overwhelmed with the teacher-student ratio like 35-1 better yet how about 50-1.How or what can a teacher do to keep his-her cool under these circumstances?

    • Michael Linsin February 17, 2013 at 9:44 am #

      Hi Carolyn,

      Please read through the Calm, Focused, And Happy and Classroom Management Tips categories of the archive.

      Michael

  8. Dee Dee October 7, 2013 at 10:34 am #

    I’m a substitute teacher. I have to deal with disrespectful students every day. I don’t like the idea of sending every single disrespectful student out of the classroom. But sometimes I just come home feeling like I fail as a teacher.
    I know that with being the substitute they wont all give me much if any respect.
    Do you have any suggestions for how a substitute can “keep the reins” so to speak?

    • Michael Linsin October 7, 2013 at 4:38 pm #

      Hi Dee Dee,

      I hope to write an ebook specifically for substitute teachers in the near future. In the meantime, the key difference is that you don’t have the luxury of being able to create leverage through likability, rapport, etc. Thus, the most successful subs are those who are able to create their own leverage through learning games, activities, and projects they have handy and ready-made that they can mix with the regular teacher’s plans and know students will look forward to.

      Michael

  9. Douglas Green, EdD November 10, 2014 at 5:56 am #

    Great article and comments. Look for it to be posted by 9 am 11/10/14 at http://DrDougGreen.com. As a retired elementary principal, I had great teachers and there were times when a students needed to leave class. They were usually emotionally upset to the point where you couldn’t take to them. I would have them sit in my office and do nothing. After a while I would place my face close to theirs and calmly say “where would you rather be, here or in your classroom.” About 90% of the time the asked for the classroom. I would then say “I’ll go see if your teacher will have you back.” After a conversation with the teacher who usually said ok, I would ask the child if they were a person of their word. When the assured me that they were I escorted them back and had a short conversation with the teacher and the child in the hallway where the child promised no more interruptions. That worked most of the time. If it didn’t, I would either send the child home without a written suspension or keep the child in the land of boredom for the rest of the day. Share this with principals you know.

    • Michael Linsin November 10, 2014 at 7:20 am #

      Thanks for sharing your wisdom, Douglas!

      Michael

  10. Gary February 13, 2016 at 4:53 am #

    Hi Michael,

    Your website is stimulating and inspiring. Good work.

    I taught grade nine students last year and found that time-outs did not work with them. The time-outs would often congregate together at the back and chatter loudly. I’d then remove them from the class, only for them to shout and scream outside the classroom door. This all took place before I discovered your website.

    So, after that debacle, and finding your website, I was interested in finding out what consequences you would suggest in your management plan. Alas, as I am teaching grade ten this year, I decided that I couldn’t use the time-out part of your suggested consequences. My consequences for the semester just finished were 1. warning 2. Detention. 3. Send to vice- principal or his deputies 4. Phone parents.

    Very few turned up for detention so a good few ended up on number three. In three classes it worked quite well, while in the fourth, after a considerable effort, I kept control but with the result of a bad rapport.

    Basically, it worked ok with most students, but created a bad rapport with the less motivated ones.

    Questions.

    1. Have you taught high school before, Michael?

    2. Do you think time-out is inappropriate for year ten?

    3. If inappropriate, is there a reasonable consequence you can suggest I could use, instead of time-out

    4. Is it a mistake on my part to make the vice principal or one of his deputies, the third step of my consequence plan?

    If time-out is inappropriate for grade ten and sending them to the principal or other leader as a regular third step of my consequence plan is, also, inappropriate, I don’t know what other consequence to use.

    Gary

    • Michael Linsin February 13, 2016 at 9:32 am #

      Hi Gary,

      Thank you. I’m glad you like the website.

      1. Yes, I currently teach high school.
      2. Yes, they are too old for time-out.
      3. Yes, but it is too involved to cover here or even in an article. I’m planning an ebook on the topic.
      4. No, but again, I’ll cover this in the upcoming book.

      Michael

  11. Judith Sides June 4, 2016 at 1:15 am #

    Hi

    I just found your website. I am going to read and try your advice. In my school the children are extremely verbally abusive to each other and to teachers. It becomes a nearly impossible task to protect learners that want to work against learners that don’t want to work.

    A lot of children are repeaters and you will find that some are 3 – 4 years older than the normal hardworking learner.

    The junior kids take the example set by senior kids. In our school very little to nothing is done to kids that misbehave or bully each other. No matter how bad the situation gets. I came across a drug deal at my school and reported it. Nothings was done with the information.

    How involved should a teacher be in the managing of discipline outside the classroom? I found that by trying to intervene and stop bullying outside the class, you become a target inside the class.

    I became a teacher because I really enjoy teaching and motivating people butt the stress from day to day is really getting to me.

    Thanx for your website. It’s motivating me to try and think positive.

    Regards

    • Michael Linsin June 4, 2016 at 4:34 pm #

      Hi Judith,

      Since you’re a high school teacher, and given the situation you describe, I couldn’t give you accurate advice without first talking to you. There are several variables at work and I wouldn’t want to steer you wrong. We do offer personal coaching.

      Michael

  12. Judith Sides June 5, 2016 at 8:12 am #

    Hi Michael

    I am at a primary school. (Gr 1 – 7)

    • Michael Linsin June 5, 2016 at 10:46 am #

      Even more reason to need to speak to you personally if you’re interested in comprehensive advice.

      Michael

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