How To Avoid A Big, Ugly Bad Day

Smart Classroom Management: How To Avoid A Big, Ugly Bad DayIt happens for no apparent reason.

You’re cruising along.

Your students are attentive and respectful.

They’re listening and getting their work done.

Behavior is good.

But then, out of nowhere, you notice a slight fraying at the seams.

They enter the classroom with a hint of carelessness.

They seem less motivated to follow your directions.

They slouch an inch or two lower in their seats.

No rules are broken, but there is an attitude or mood in their demeanor you can’t quite put your finger on.

Your instincts are telling you that something is off.

You know that if you leave it alone, if you allow your class to continue down the path they’re headed, then a bad day is just around the corner.

Now, in previous articles we’ve talked about the importance of never moving on until you’re getting what you want from your students.

This is so, so important.

But there are times when you sense something is amiss without knowing precisely what it is. The author Malcolm Gladwell wrote a book about this gut feeling called Blink.

When you have a “blink” moment in your classroom, when your intuition tells you your class is headed off the rails, it’s best to do something about it right now.

But the question is, what to do?

Many teachers will stop everything and give a lecture. They’ll remind. They’ll warn and threaten. They’ll cross their arms and let their heavy words hang in the air.

But the problem with this approach is that your boundary lines of behavior, as defined by your classroom management plan, were never actually crossed.

In fact, your students may have no idea why you’re even lecturing them, which causes resentment and the belief that you’re being unfair or even “mean.”

So what’s the solution?

The solution is to back up to the previous transition and cheerfully teach that routine again.

Remember, well-taught routines transfer excellence to everything you do. They’re the best way to eliminate complacency, sharpen sloppy performance, and get your students headed in the right direction—without causing resentment.

They replace borderline behaviors that lead to misbehavior, and the inevitable bad day, with alertness and pride in being part of your class.

There is no need to say much or make a big deal out of it. Just, “Hey, we can do better than that. Let’s try it again. This time, be sure and do it like this.”

Then, as a refresher, model how to line up for lunch, circle into groups, put away materials, or whatever routine that took place nearest the moment your teacherly instincts kicked into overdrive.

Model with the same lighthearted enthusiasm you did during the first week of school. After a long pause and a smile, and your ‘go’ signal, let them practice as a group.

When they finish, if they did well, go ahead let them know it. Tell them that you appreciate their good work.

If they didn’t perform the way you modeled, then, without showing a hint of displeasure, send them back to do it again.

Once they’ve proven themselves, you can rest assured that they are back on track. It’s a proven strategy that works as long as you have good classroom management to begin with.

In other words, your students must know the feeling of returning to doing things the right way.

What’s great about the strategy is that it’s easy. It causes no friction or misunderstandings.

It fixes that off-kilter feeling you can’t quite put your finger on.

So you can avoid a big, ugly bad day.

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24 Responses to How To Avoid A Big, Ugly Bad Day

  1. Sharon June 11, 2016 at 9:13 am #

    Great post for the end of the year. The students are getting keyed up, the teachers are getting a bit stressed, and this gentle way of getting the students and ourselves back to routine is pleasant and effective..

    • Michael Linsin June 11, 2016 at 11:42 am #

      Thanks Sharon.


  2. Dubbs June 11, 2016 at 10:22 am #

    You tips have been great for middle school (6-8), but I may be moving to the high school next year. What works best with (9-12th grade)?

    • Michael Linsin June 11, 2016 at 11:41 am #

      Hi Dubbs,

      We’ve begun work on a classroom management plan e-guide for high school teachers that will fill in the gaps. It should be ready in mid-July.


      • Jamie June 11, 2016 at 12:51 pm #

        Thank you, I am interested in high school classroom strategies as well.

        • Melissa June 11, 2016 at 4:48 pm #

          I am very interested in seeing what the consequences, especially timeout, would look like at the high school level.

          • Michael Linsin June 11, 2016 at 5:27 pm #

            Hi Melissa,

            I don’t recommend time-out for high school students. For exactly what I recommend, I have an e-guide coming out for high school teachers sometime this summer. Working on it.


      • Quasar June 11, 2016 at 11:06 pm #

        Can’t wait for high school-related material!!! I love your material but I feel that a lot of it is suited for primary/elementary-aged children. High school teachers definitely need tips/advice as well. I do use some of your stuff for the older grades but some of it just does not fit the high school setting. Thanks for this! 🙂

  3. Mary June 11, 2016 at 5:15 pm #

    Question: which grade level do you recommend to teach the first and last class of the day?

    • Michael Linsin June 11, 2016 at 5:28 pm #

      Hi Mary,

      I’m not sure I understand the question. Can you please email me with more details?


  4. Lynette June 11, 2016 at 11:26 pm #

    Do you have advice for a librarian.. Some teachers allow students to come to my lesson in a disorganised mess. How to I establish my sense of order and class routines on the class without wasting precious time. Only 30 minutes a week!!!

    • Michael Linsin June 12, 2016 at 7:44 am #

      Hi Lynette,

      The book Classroom Management for Art, Music, and PE Teachers was written for all specialists, including librarians.


  5. Rebekah McBeth June 12, 2016 at 11:23 am #

    Hi Michael,

    In my 20 years of teaching I have never been so challenged by a group of 6th graders as I was this year. In February, when I thought I might need to throw in my towel and quit, I came upon your blog of wisdom. Your tips have been an absolute godsend to get me through the rest of this year. Using several of your ideas, I was able to turn management and power struggles with students around to a much more positive level. Your message of keeping things simple, fair, and consistent, and not bending over backwards to overcompensate for the chronic misbehaving student was just the advice I needed to hear.

    Thank You!


    • Michael Linsin June 12, 2016 at 1:28 pm #

      It’s my pleasure, Rebekah. Thanks for sharing your success. Way to go!


  6. Madelyne June 12, 2016 at 2:34 pm #

    I love this blog. I have heard you have an e-guide coming out for HS teachers in Mid July and I can’t wait! But in the meantime are any of your present books applicable and worth reading while I wait for the HS specific suggestions? Thank you

    • Michael Linsin June 12, 2016 at 3:15 pm #

      Hi Madelyne,

      The new book, The Happy Teacher Habits, was written for all teachers. I think you’ll find it applicable for teaching high school.


  7. Sheryl Lawrence June 18, 2016 at 11:53 am #

    You have some good ideas for Gen Ed teachers. Dou you have any advice for teachers who work with Special Ed kids who might have behaviorally challenged kids?

    • Michael Linsin June 18, 2016 at 12:55 pm #

      Hi Sheryl,

      It’s a bit outside the scope of our focus, but I’ll keep it in mind for future articles.


  8. Felicia Idoko July 29, 2016 at 1:21 pm #

    Great insight. I’m enlightened, thanks. Often times though disruptive moments may occur as a result of teenage behavior or negative attitude to learning. How can the teacher handle this, especially when class rules and expected behavior patterns are clearly outlined?

    • Michael Linsin July 29, 2016 at 2:09 pm #

      Hi Felicia,

      I’ve written about disrespect, and how to handle it, extensively on this website, but I’ll be sure and cover it again in the future.


  9. Brenda wilkins September 17, 2016 at 8:33 am #

    Please help me to get a handle on teaching middle school students. I have been a kindergarten teacher for 29 years, suddenly I was placed into middle teaching ELA to 6-8th grade. I only see each class once a day. However, they are so disrespectful . We made rules, I have given and continue to give them my expectations, but to no avail, they don’t seem to care. They constantly say that I am treating them like kindergarteners.

    • Michael Linsin September 17, 2016 at 1:15 pm #

      Hi Brenda,

      This is a huge question, and one I couldn’t possibly give accurate advice in the space we have here. I would also have questions for you. If you’re interested, we do offer personal coaching.


  10. Florence September 24, 2016 at 5:37 am #

    Dear Michael,
    I have a question about this method.
    I tried it last year with students aged 11-12. They used to misbehave a lot, so when I told them to go out of the classroom and line up again, half of them would do so, but half of them (the mischievous ones) would take this as an opportunity to spend more time misbehaving and chatting, and I once overheard one of them whispering: “As long as we’re doing this, we are not WORKING!” …. so it went on forever.
    They just didn’t mind staying outside the classroom and practising ‘lining up’ during 30 minutes – but then one of my colleagues would finally get exasperated, come out of her own classroom and yell at my students – who shut up immediately. I guess it must have something to do with me. My voice? My ‘kind’ face?
    Any idea, Michael?

    Yours ‘hopefully’ 😉