The Biggest Reason You Struggle With Consistency

Smart Classroom Management: The Biggest Reason You Struggle With ConsistencyThere are a number of reasons why you may not be as consistent as you’d like.

It could be that you’ve gotten into the bad habit of trying to convince students to behave rather than relying on your classroom management plan.

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.

It’s awkwardness.

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.

Here’s how:

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.

Now Practice

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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19 Responses to The Biggest Reason You Struggle With Consistency

  1. Dom September 9, 2017 at 8:00 am #

    This all sounds so simple and straightforward but was do you do about schools where there is a strong culture of young children disagreeing with the behaviour plan/consequences/reason for giving a reprimand fuelled by their parents willingness to listen, side with and then confront teachers stating that the whole thing is too harsh or unfair which then only makes the child worse? I worked at a school where parents constantly stick up for kids, disagree with the teacher or feel their child should be let off the hook as they’re normally well behaved.

    • Michael Linsin September 10, 2017 at 10:23 am #

      Hi Dom,

      We’ve covered this extensively here on the website as well as in our books. Following your classroom management plan consistently is important, but is only a small part of classroom management. We’ll write more about this topic in the future, including next week.


  2. Donna Wigmore September 9, 2017 at 8:23 am #

    Ok, Michael, we have had two days of school so far. I am going to use your plan this year and I have tried it before but was not successful because of inconsistency. I hashed this out with a teacher friend who has excellent CM and she said not to enforce anything for a week of=r so. So I have just been explaining things. I did a lot of modeling, they modeled, we did non examples, all that went well. As far as independent practice without talking and them following through on emptying their hands and looking at me when I talk, they aren’t doing so well.

    I am just wondering if, come Monday, should I start enforcing consequences or just make sure we practice more. I had never done the detailed modeling before and it had an impact in that area. It just took up so much time that I didn’t go over how to behave during independent practice. Or model how to listen to me or how to listen to another presenter.

    I am almost answering my own question as I write, but I found I wasn’t having time for anything other than the routines.
    I know it’s not too late to get them back. Thank you for your insight, I am really glad to have access to your expertise.

    • Michael Linsin September 10, 2017 at 10:24 am #

      Hi Donna,

      Yes, I think you should begin enforcing consequences.


  3. Lynne September 9, 2017 at 11:38 am #

    You have hit the nail on the head! My problem is that I don’t like conflict and the kids know it. This year I stuck with all your guidelines for the classroom management plan. I had 2 instances already in two weeks of school where I had a few tense moments of sticking with the plan. I had to step back, breathe and then go forward. One of the things I panic with is when I feel the kids are ganging up on me, and this can be a group of advanced students or athletes who sometimes are used to teachers admiring them and also getting away with stuff that they wouldn’t tolerate from other students. I had to deal with one situation and one parent this year who wanted to know every detail of how her perfect child could have gotten a consequence. At first I thought, is it worth it if you have to deal with nasty emails from parents? And the answer is yes. I did three activities this week in my science classroom and I was so very happy with the way it went. I haven’t had such a good start to a school year in many years! Thank you! You seem to get those of us who don’t exactly have the teacher look and that intimidating way about us that strong willed students seem to respect more than others! And when kids see you treating everyone equally with consequences (even the “good kids”, they respect you so much more.

    • Amy September 11, 2017 at 2:29 pm #

      Hear! Hear! I’m also the type for whom this pre-students practice will help. I like it best when we’re all smiling and focused and engaged, and I had the getting there backwards for several years – in other words, I assumed that if I was nice and easy going and let things slide, they’d enjoy their time with me more. But since I started insisting on not talking while I’m talking, listening to other students talking, responding to a call for attention immediately, we can move faster and cover more ground. Takes a while to prove that you really mean it, especially when you see them only twice a week for 45 minutes (I teach music), but I am entirely sold that it’s worth its weight in gold once established.

      • Katie September 13, 2017 at 6:17 pm #

        Amy, I see classes in the library either once or twice a week depending on grade level so I can relate to your comments. I am experiencing a lot of little disruptions and talking while I’m talking. I’m a little stumped on what I can use for consequences. I do have a reward system for students who are modeling appropriate library behavior and are on task. Can you share what you use to enforce the rule? Thanks!

  4. Mary September 9, 2017 at 12:36 pm #

    Hi Michael, I swear you are watching me teach. You seem to write about what I need. The one thing I’m not too clear on, even after reading your books, blog and listening to your audible book ( which by the way is fabulous! I got more out of listening to it, and great as a refresher on the drive to school) I’m not quite sure when to deliver the consequence. I do a gradual release method, so I do most of my presenting or demonstrating in the first 10 minutes of class. This is when I have most of the side talking, disrupters… do I stop and “call them out”. Like “Jimmy, stop chatting, this is just a warning.” In a calm non threatening way, and then if it continues, stop again, and ask him to “please go to time out spot”.? This is the way I currently do it, but several of my middle schoolers seem to need these warnings everyday, rarely pushing it to the letter stage. It is almost like they know they’ll get two chances, so might as well use them. Am I doing this incorrectly? It just seems to make that upfront time so chopped up with stops and starts. I know these same students and those at their table are often the ones who then ask for one on one explanations, and I guessing other teachers do give them the one on one teaching, but I struggle in not giving in to that, especially because some of the kids were victims or the talkers. Thanks

    • Michael Linsin September 10, 2017 at 10:29 am #

      Hi Mary,

      It’s a sign that there are other issues in need of addressing. I’ll put this topic on the list of future articles, but you may want to check out the high school plan (bottom sidebar), which includes a tangible consequence for the first misbehavior.


      • Deborah September 19, 2017 at 10:57 am #

        There is definitely a learning curve in the high school plan for the more stubborn students. Here in week 3, a student just asked “What is the point of a warning if you take a point away”. It gave me a chance to explain the warning cost a point but also serves to let them know that they are not on the right track. If they do not have any more issues – then that is the end. If they do, then I will talk to them at the end of class. I am still fighting some issues, and know that my consistency is good, but not yet great. All that being said, this has been the most calm start to a school year ever, and I am pleased with the general gist of the behavior of all of my classes. I feel hope for a good school year teaching freshmen Algebra.

  5. Gary September 9, 2017 at 7:33 pm #

    Hi Michael,

    That’s a good reminder.

    I use your class management syestem and it works very well. It has definitely transformed my class management and myself as a teacher and person.

    Just one question:

    I usually enforce consequences from the front of the classroom. Do you think it’s better to approach the individual student before issuing the consequence? If, so could you tell me the advantage of this?

    Thanks a lot for your very practical and helpful website!

    • Michael Linsin September 10, 2017 at 10:30 am #

      Hi Gary,

      It depends on your grade level and sometimes the individual student. I’ll put this topic on the list of future articles.


    • Hedy Kolb September 10, 2017 at 1:50 pm #

      I’d like the answer to this as well. (From Gary on 9/17)

    • Kate September 15, 2017 at 2:05 am #

      I guess if the behaviour is a function of desire to gain attention then up close and quietly is the best, that’s what u do.

  6. Ann September 10, 2017 at 10:41 am #

    I’m really grateful for the hints you’ve provided. You hit it on the nail with the awkwardness of having to punish students.

    Your tips are already in line with what I believe and therefore I am sure they will be successful.

    Keep doing the good work.

    Looking forward to your next session.

  7. Anne September 11, 2017 at 2:48 am #

    Hi Mr. Linsin,

    I feel so inspired by your articles and have read two of your books. I’ll be the class teacher of a third grade thus year. School is starting jn a few days in our country and I’m planning to use the classroom management plan. I adore youre articles on inconsistency because I can see myself in there. I have one practical question about the three consequences. Let’s say a student gets the consequences 1) and 2) in the morning for minor rule transgressioms. He behaves well during the day, and then for example later in the afternoon breaks another rule. Should I then enforce the third consequence? I would feel heartless doing that, but it would be inconsistent.

    • Michael Linsin September 11, 2017 at 8:20 am #

      Hi Anne,

      I’m so glad you like the website. Yes, you would indeed enforce a consequence. If not, you would lose respect, rapport, and trust and see a increase in misbehavior—among other problems.


  8. Perry September 11, 2017 at 11:11 am #

    For the most part, I feel I am doing a good job of enforcing my classroom management plan. A couple of students this year have thrown me for a loop, however. I’m pretty confident that at least two of them have some pretty real (although not medically verified) mental illness issues. How do I go about enforcing consequences for students whose mental health is in question? Is that being fair to them? I plan on starting the process of seeking help for them, but in the meantime, I’m not sure how far to push . . . without pushing them over the edge!

  9. Laurie September 12, 2017 at 8:22 am #

    I thought I saw while following a series of threads an article addressing how veteran teachers can assess if they’re prepared to adapt their teaching strategies and/or if it is time to move on.

    Can you direct me to that article, I can’t seem to track it down.

    I feel like I’m able to adapt, but sometimes wonder if it’s time to pass the baton.

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