So you have this student.
Let’s call her Brittany. And Brittany frustrates you to no end.
Because despite holding her accountable, she continues to break the same rule over and over.
Oh, she may hold off for a few days, a week perhaps, but it inevitably happens again.
She pushes a classmate in line. She runs out to recess. She leaves her seat without permission.
Whatever the behavior, the scene plays out the same.
But the habit never breaks.
Now, it’s important to point out that if you’re not consistent, if you don’t enforce a consequence every time a rule is broken, then this is the first order of business.
Inconsistency is the number one reason students continue to break the same rules again and again. Shoring up this one area will eliminate most, if not all, recurring misbehavior.
There are, however, those rare students whose impulsiveness gets the better of them.
Despite knowing that you’ll hold them accountable, they can’t seem to help themselves. They see a clear pathway out to recess, for example, and the moment overwhelms them.
Their eyes light up. Their heart begins racing. They think, soccer, soccer, soccer . . . freedom, freedom, freedom . . . fun . . . laughter . . . friends!
The excitement of the moment so dominates their thoughts that nothing else occurs to them. They blurt out the answer. They shoulder a classmate out of line. They race to the playground without looking back.
So what’s the solution?
Well, if you’re a regular reader of SCM, then you know that pulling Brittany aside to discuss her persistent misbehavior is a mistake.
Questioning, lecturing, forcing assurances, and the like is too personal. It will only alienate her, create friction between you, and ultimately lead to more problems and misbehavior.
What she needs is much simpler than that. What she needs is an interruption of her impulsive habit.
What she needs is a reminder.
Now, in and of itself, offering reminders isn’t an uncommon strategy. Having learned what moments, activities, or times of day trigger a student’s misbehavior, many teachers do this.
The problem with the strategy, however, is that it singles her out. The other students can see you and often hear you reminding Brittany.
Which makes her feel different.
No, you’re not scarring her for life. But what you are doing is labeling her as incapable.
You’re telling her in a very subtle way that she is unlike other students, that she alone needs a reminder in order to control herself.
Before you know it, she is telling herself, and even friends and family members, that she has trouble controlling herself. It feels like a permanent condition she can do little about.
Although it may work in the moment, which is why the strategy is so common, your reminder is actually creating, reinforcing, and cementing a limiting belief she has about herself.
It has the opposite of the intended effect.
So how can you give Brittany a reminder in a way that helps her break the habit once and for all?
You remind the entire class.
Although Brittany may be the only one who pushes other students while jostling to get in line, you remind everyone.
You restate your expectations for the routine and then position yourself where every student can see you watching them carry it out.
In time, whole-class reminders combined with faithful accountability will break Brittany of her impulsive rule-breaking.
This doesn’t mean that you have to give reminders every time you transition or begin a routine. You’ll only give them during those moments throughout the day that seem to trigger her misbehavior.
Brittany, and other students like her, don’t need to be pulled aside for lectures, threats, and warnings. They don’t need your pep-talks, glares, or whispered admonishments.
They don’t need to be singled out at all. They just need one simple reminder.
Given to the entire class.
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