There are a number of reasons why you may not be as consistent as you’d like.
It could be that you’re not 100% sure what does and doesn’t constitute breaking your own class rules.
It could be that you simply get distracted and fail to notice misbehavior.
But there is one reason that stands out among the rest.
It’s a reason that may have never crossed your mind but is responsible for the majority of teachers who struggle with consistency.
You see, the act of holding students accountable can be uncomfortable. It can be unpleasant and unsettling. It can even be embarrassing.
For many teachers, just the thought of approaching a rule-breaking student—especially if the offense was minor or the student is normally well-behaved—can generate considerable resistance.
It can cause your every instinct to scream: “Just let it go!”
So what’s the solution? How do you get past the awkwardness? How do you enforce a consequence when it’s the last thing you feel like doing?
Well, the good news is that it’s doable, no matter how much resistance you may be feeling.
The key is to rely on a system that removes the awkwardness and makes your response to misbehavior automatic. Something you no longer have to think about.
1. Do it the same way every time.
When you know exactly what you’re going to do every time a student breaks a rule, you avoid much of the dread and discomfort of informing students of a consequence.
You don’t have to worry about coming up with the perfect thing to say or affecting the right tone. You just follow the same script every time.
2. Keep it simple.
Although it can vary depending on your grade level, the general script is to state what rule was broken and what the consequence is.
And that’s it.
Including any more than that risks causing resentment, an awkward interaction, and greater resistance going forward. It also weakens the effect of the consequence.
3. Don’t hesitate.
If you pause to consider excuses for not holding them accountable, which are a million and one, then doing so gets progressively harder each time.
It’s best to think of yourself as a referee officiating a game. A student breaks a rule and you call a foul. There is no hesitation or time to waver.
You just call ’em like you see ’em.
4. Move on immediately.
After delivering the news, which is essentially all you’re doing, simply turn on your heel and walk away.
Don’t stand and wait to give your students a chance to argue, point the finger elsewhere, or lie and deny—which will only make resistance stronger.
Don’t fall into the temptation to add your own two-cents, tell the student how they should feel, or otherwise cause friction or make the situation uncomfortable.
Just say your piece and be on your way.
The guidelines above will grease the accountability wheels.
They’ll remove the obstacles, the hassles, and the thorny discomfort associated with enforcing consequences. They’ll make following your classroom management plan a lot easier, as well as more effective.
But you can’t just decide to follow the guidelines. Resistance and temptation are powerful adversaries, particularly if they’ve already taken root.
Therefore, you must practice.
Before your students arrive for the day, close your classroom door, position yourself in front of your room, and visualize your most common misbehaviors.
See a student in your mind’s eye interrupting your lesson, for example, or talking during independent work time.
Now go ahead and walk over to their seat and pretend to give a consequence. Really do it. Make eye contact, say the words aloud, and then turn and walk away.
Practice a few more times, visualizing different behaviors. Just follow the script. And later that day, when a student breaks a rule, you’ll find yourself gliding over without a second thought.
Doing what needs to be done.
Easy as can be.
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