Unorthodox Essays On Education (A work in progress)

Unorthodox Essays On Education (A work in progress)

These essays are unpolished and unedited. They are part of a larger project that is about six months away. I can assure you will not agree with everything within these essays, but this is the kind of out-of-box thinking we need. Feel free to comment, tweak, use, discard, nod your head in agreement or cringe with disagreement. It's all part of the process of seeking a better strategy for education and know that in spite of its sarcasm toward education and educators, it comes from someone who loves teaching.

Yours in education,
Jeremiah Dyke


1. What This Book Is About

2. Introduction

3. Essay on Discipline

4. Strategies For Discipline

5. Formal Ways of Getting Students To Listen

6. Write Ups

7. Lunch or Activity Detention

8. After School Detention

9. Sending Students Out of Room

10. Sending Students To Back of Room

11. Calling Home

12. Writing Letters Home

13. Assigning Them Extra Homework

14. Informal Ways of Getting Students To Listen

15. Conjuring up Guilt

16. Being Sarcastic

17. Embarrassing Students

18. Yelling or Inducing Fear

19. The Secret Weapon

20. Additional Essays

21. A Students Says It Wasn't Me

22. A Student Feels That They Are Being Picked On or Singled Out

23. The Pep Talk

24. Candy

25. Cellphones

26. Posters On The Walls

27. Longest Part of Class

28. Your Productivity as the Day Progresses

29. Socializing Outside Class (Facebook Anyone?)

30. Monday Mornings

31. Mini Lessons (Five Min Segments

32. Sleepy Kids

33. Getting Students To Do Homework

34. That One Student Who Really Gets To You

35. The Meetings

36. When Something Breaks or Delays Class

37. Quiet vs. Whisper vs. Talk

38. Group Work

39. Teachers and Respect

40. On Procedures

41. Internet Resources

42. Tests vs Quizes

43. When a Child Refuses to Do Anything

44. Extra Credit

45. Students Disturbing Class During A Test

46. Getting Your Class Quite When They Are Being Too Loud

47. Field-trips & Behavior

48. How Much Should Your Students Know About You

49. The Intelligent, Sarcastic, Child

50. The Bully

51. Vandalism

52. The Late Student

53. Back Talk (Getting Laughed At By Your Students)

54. Protecting Your Belongings

55. Students Who Hang Around You Too Much

56. How To Keep Your Cool When Embarrassed

57. Switching Your Student To Another Class/Team

58. Cheating

59. Student Attire

60. The ADHD Child

Let’s be honest, the latest trends within the journals of educational academia are appealing and interesting but in reality what we want are strategies (outside of those found in the boxing ring and the octagon) to make your kids be quiet and behave…not to mention actually care about what it is were telling them. Well, I have no idea what's going on in the world of educational think-tanks, but I'm positive I can help you with the latter part, getting kids to be quiet! Now, as a disclaimer I would like to warn you that I loved a loud classroom so anyone who observed my classroom would attest that it was anything but silent. Furthermore, I allowed many actions that other teachers didn’t; it’s just not in my nature to like authority. Thus, I come to you as the glutton offering you great advice on how to lose weight. The good news is i can't ever really remember having a stressful day while teaching. It's usually only adults that annoy me. Thus, I'm going to give you a crash course, interwoven with unorthodox advice and sarcasm, in how both to deal with students and how to relax more


As stated in my previous book Surviving The Trenches of Education vol 1: The First Week (reproduced in full at the end of this book), Not too many educators can stay employed as long as I could when they routinely picked fights with their bosses, publish articles bashing the system of education, routinely played tricks on their coworkers (like substituting decaffeinated coffee for their regular coffee just to watch everyone yawn all afternoon), played loud Rocky music before tests to get the students pumped, used every sick day allotted to them, and all around -- made a mockery of the system as much as possible. I learned a lot. I learned that good teachers normally spend their time worrying about how to untie the administrative handcuffs without losing their job. I learned that administrators are usually not depressed souls who hate kids, but old teachers who stopped worrying about teaching and started playing educational politics. They too spend their time worrying about their jobs. I learned that educators must fear the boring people who troll the school boards. Somehow these latte drinkers are walking educational gods whose opinions are like that of scripture. I learned that a students' respect must be earned not demanded. I learned that when students suffer, teachers suffer, that i will never send my kids to (what is now our public school) to be student-cattle, and more than anything, that preference is demonstrated through action. Change is only a cluster of action away :)

Surveying Others Books on Discipline

A short trip to my local library, gave me about a weekends worth of reading on classroom discipline. I won’t lie; I wasn’t impressed by any of them. Of the roughly 10 books I read I maybe jotted down a page worth of helpful pros that I could see myself using in the classroom. In contrast, I filled numerous pages with disappointing, self-defeating, things i would never use! Truthfully, outside our lacking, and completely arbitrary, state mandated curriculum, advice for behavioral issues is probably among the most disappointing aspects of public education. A typical classroom discipline book reminds me of a corny, twenty-first generation politically correct, Leave it to Beaver. Wait, did I mention corny? Yes, it’s true that we don’t have, and don’t need, administrators or educators paddling their students whenever they make mistakes, but we also don’t need rooms full of adult sissies! Students rarely respect their teachers anymore, and to counteract this lack of respect educators attempt to guilt their students into respecting them. Instead of earning the respect of our students, we pamper ourselves with excuses that this is just the way students are today; they lack respect for anything, it’s said. What a lacking excuse. The point is that student’s today lack respect for individuals who believe they can define success for the students as well as define what they deem to be failures. Such definitions of respect almost always involve good grades, test scores, college and knowledge of whatever subject the educator teaches. How self-serving! If a student asks me why they should study mathematics I don’t proceed to wax on about my accomplishments and how important it is to colleges or employers. Even if there is merit in such verbiage, the merit is totally lacking to the students; it is simply too far removed from their life to have relevance. It's like explaining the merits of retirement planning to a 22 year-old. Thus, first and foremost educators must purge themselves of this idea that they are important, that their subject is important, that their measly accomplishments are important, that their previous learning’s are important. Only from here can we truly begin to network with a students mind. Only from here can we create a system of mutual respect.

EssayOn Discipline

Just as parents of a toddler wish some portions of their parenting were easier (be it bedtime, bath time, or eating vegetables), all teachers wish some portion of their teaching were easier. Discipline is simply a function of your own embarrassment. I have a feeling that if classroom walls were soundproof the classrooms would be different in both volume and intensity. Simply put, kids are happier when they are louder and teachers are happier when their kids are happier; therefore, I imagine educators would allow their students to be louder if they weren’t afraid of being caught and I imagine that such loudness wouldn’t really disrupt learning like everyone supposes it would. When I’m teaching young students, I love a loud classroom! I would rather compete with other students for their attention than to compete with sleepiness or daydreaming. Being loud at least tells me they are awake! Many individuals are impressed by the fact that an educator can demand silence from their students for an hour by threatening, yelling, or scaring them; I am not. I think it is simply ridiculous!

Yet, there is no panacea for classroom discipline; each day will bring new challenges. Kids who impress you will at some point in time embarrass you, just as those who usually embarrass you will sometimes impress you. Some of the research on the subject shows that many educators spend as much as 90 percent of their disciplinary attention on less than 10 percent of the class. To translate this, within any population there are entertainers and there are the entertained; clowns will be clowns! Thus, as you are well aware, I don’t possess an all encompassing solution to your classroom problems, but I do have some strategies for keeping your sanity.

The first task it to take a second to get real. You and your students work about the same amount of hours per week, yet at the end of the month you receive a pay check and your students get squat! They are carted from their home, via a big yellow bus, where they are constantly told to be quite and do work until the end of the day where they are carted back home, to which point in time they begin the process of working on the work you didn’t have time to cover while they were in class. I can only imagine the advertisement for such a position.

The Chester County Middle School is proud to announce an opening for a fulltime student beginning this fall with hours 8:00am-3:30pm Monday-Friday


* Must be willing to work 35 hours a week unpaid

* Must be willing to meet deadlines

* Must be willing to take work home

* Must be willing to set quietly for an hour at a time

* Must be responsible for learning the material presented

* Must be willing to undergo tremendous pressure from peers

* Must be willing to listen to daily pep talks about how their life will be ruined if they can’t pass standardized tests

* Finally, the job is not optional…you must attend!

I know what you’re thinking and my response is sure, they are receiving an education that is valuable for their future, but let’s remember that value is subjective, to them, they are receiving little in exchange for their time. And to indulge the topic of value within the public school system, its role is questionable. Surely the public school system props up the bottom quartile of students, but it most likely pulls down the top quartile of students. Those near the middle are questionable. The fact of the matter is, the United States spends about $123,000 per student for k-12 education. For that price we could build each kid a library at their house and offer them 24 hour tutoring from undergraduates. Therefore, before you go patting yourself on the back, you may want to question if you play any positive role at all in your students lives. What are you actually teaching them?

Think of it this way, planning for retirement is thought by most to be good thing, investing a little per month over the course of many years will likely lead you to a lucrative retirement. Yet, it’s hard for a 20 year old to understand this because to them, retirement is forever away. The same is true for the public school student. The adulthood stories that you keep calling upon to scare them are too far removed from their life to serve any purpose.

Strategies For Classroom Discipline:

Many educator I have spoken with equate discipline with With all this in mind let’s list the various tools you have at your disposal for managing behavior and then discuss each topic in detail.

* Write ups (usually leading to ISS or OSS)

* Lunch or activity detention

* After school detention

* Send them out of the room

* Timeout

* Call or write a letter to their parents or coaches

* Assign them extra homework

For more informal ways you have:

* Conjuring up guilt

* Being sarcastic or embarrassing them

* Yelling or inducing fear

* The secret weapon

Formal Ways of Getting Students to Listen

Write ups:

Usually a write up is something sent to the administrator who then has the authority to decide upon the proper punishment for the actions of the student. The punishment is usually a phone call home accompanied with a letter and some in school suspension (ISS) or out of school suspension (OSS). The reasons why such methods are delegated away from the educator and to the administrator are in an attempt to create a fair trial for the student. Otherwise, an educator may be impartial to the student and punish them irrationally—while in a state of rage.

Formally, we may say that a write up is the most intense punishment a teacher may engage in (though I do not believe it is neither the cruelest nor the most upsetting, not to mention the most effective).The write-up can be thought of in terms as the final straw at which point the teacher chooses to outsource the problem to an administrator. The educator is officially saying that they can no longer handle the situation given the resources allotted to them. As stated above, it may be that a write up is the most forceful in terms of punishment but, for the student, it is not the scariest form of reprimanding. In actuality, the threat of such a write up is much scarier to the student the actual process of being written up and the consequences for it. We know that students often brag about how many times they’ve got in trouble and thus ISS and OSS may actually act as a popularity booster. In fact, many students are not troubled by the consequences dealt by the administrator nor their parents since such punishments are considered normal. However, there were many times within my first year of teaching that I wrote up students only to have them plead to not tell their coach or their younger/older brother or sister. They would gladly take whatever consequences dealt to them by those who always dealt them these consequences (me, administrators, dads, mom, etc.), yet they couldn’t bear the thought of losing esteem in the eyes of those they respected. There is power in not jumping straight into penalization and why I would suggest you reserve write-up referrals for dire situations.

Though this may be intuitive to most, this idea didn’t come to me until I overheard a conversation involving two police officers and how the various forms of weaponry they carry is to follow a progressive format to would-be criminals. For example, police officers are trained to first use handcuffs, pepper spray, tasers and as a final point their gun all within an outlined progression from least harm/offense to most. When reflecting on this I realized that probably one of the main reasons for this is that the holstered gun is probably scary remaining holstered. By remaining holstered the criminal may heed the warning because they know what comes next if they don’t. Though someone could argue that the criminal may not stop until they know they’ve gone too far and the gun is drawn, but if the police officer conducts himself in a manner that if the pull their gun they are going to use it, then there is no progression. It should never get that far. Therefore, my main point is to keep your write-up reserved for the most extreme cases.

Like the police officer who lets it be known that if they have to pull their gun they are going to use it, let it be known to your students what a write up means to you personally. Don’t preach to them about what is good and bad or how their careless behavior reflects on the school/team/class, etc. This approach is simply too 1950 style corny! Grow a backbone and really explain what a write-up means to you. Let me offer you some suggestions in my own language.

“Look, if I send you to someone else’s room, it’s nothing against you, you were just being too silly and I needed you to settle down. Yet, if you are such a butthead that you make me have to write you up, then I’m done with you, I don’t want to see you…if your that disrespectful don’t even waste your time speaking to me”

Make sure you understand the point here. If you subscribe that the gun in the holster (or the write-up slip in the drawer) is more intimidating then its actual use, then you are selling them that such actions would be nonsensical; it would be the final straw that destroys all respect you have for them. Whether this is true or not is irrelevant, it is what you are selling. You are agreeing to yourself that you will you will NEVER use this form of punishment (unless of course there is a fight or something completely fanatical) and thus your students will never see that side of you. It is smoke in mirrors, but it’s my opinion that giving up the highest form of punishment in order to sell this idea will be serve more purpose then actually using the form as it was designed. Thus, rid yourself of this behavior-paper-pushing, don’t even keep these forms in your room.

As a side note, I know that for many the language I used above, in my personal quote, is much too harsh for your personality. So please feel free to change the wording to fit your personality, you simply have to remember that my style is somewhat theatrical and adolescent. I speak to young students in casual “dude and bro format” so for me to give a “don’t even look at me” type of glare or persona is a huge deal. And I want it to be, I want them to believe that a write up really makes me lose respect for them and hurts me as well as hurts them and our friendship.

Therefore, as is said, keep the write ups for the most extreme situations that way the kids never feel like they have lost your friendship or respect. They have never gone “that far” with you. Once you write a kid up, you have nothing else in your pocket. Sure they may get in trouble at home, but you can no longer do anything to them that you have not already done…you gave them your worst and they will soon realize that it wasn’t that bad.

To drive this point home, it may help to think about the role of the strictest parent. If you get in trouble and you mother says “wait till your father gets home and hears about this”. The worst part of that day is the delay from the time she tells you this until the time he gets home. The actual punishment and yelling is not that bad, but that wait is sheer torture.

If this is too far beyond your ability then at least allow me to offer some advice about how to write someone up.

If You Must Use the Write Up

My first year teaching I had no idea what the hell I was doing. I had no prior training in education (my contributions and areas of focus were economics and political theory), I took a bunch of math classes but I knew nothing about teaching a class full of kids. Given this, I would simply grab a stack of write-up forms about three inches thick and write up 2-5 kids a week. I did this for the majority of my first year. It was my strategy. After awhile, student simply became used to it. Sure there was that first few times when I grabbed the write-up form and my class instantly got quite and sat up straight. This was such a great feeling too. “They finally know I’m serious” I thought. After a handful of times thought, the students never even cared. They would brag and compete over how many times they got written up. All and all, I probably wrote up about 10-15 kids a month for my first year teaching. My second year was different though, I may have written up 1 or 2 the whole year and my classes were much better behaved. But, if I can’t sell you on my theory about the write ups (if I may even call it mine, maybe its common knowledge to educators), then let me offer some advice on how to use it.

It should go without saying that you should never continuously make threats about write ups. In fact, I wouldn’t even ever mention it.

Try this, have your write ups in a pile where the class may see. If the kids are really being bad that day simply walk over to that pile of write ups, letting the class see you. You may even want to ask the question “anyone deliver these write ups before”? What does “make up some word” mean? It’s a silly question but you are showing off what’s to come next in a nonchalant way, still composed. Watch as the little mouths become quite and the questions start spurting “who’s getting written up”…”Is it me”…

Simply fill out the date and period and put it on your desk and keep teaching. If your not satisfied with one kid in particular put their name on the slip and leave on your desk. Someone will come up to ask you a question, look who’s name is on the slip and tell that person. That person will eventually come up and ask “what they did” or “am I in trouble” Leave it at “we’ll see”

If they begin behaving, call them to your class during lunch or the next day and have a plan for how you’re their going to get better.

Don’t be afraid to make an empty threat either. I used to say to my kids when they pushed too far that they may be switching teams. This was of course a hollow threat, I had no intention in pushing for such an outcome and I wasn’t even sure if it was within my realm of authority. Of course the students doesn’t know what is within your domain of authority and thus simply stating they may be switching teams is a good as saying you may be getting a phone call home.

This may not always work and is better saved for the middle of the year after they have made relationships with their peers.

As a note of advice, do not get discouraged if your threat is not taken seriously or glossed over by the student. If this happens a lot, then you are probably engaging in a few things that are hurting your creditability. You make too many threats that you don’t follow through on or your making the threats in front of their peers as an attempt to prove your dominance. Even the smallest animal will stand up to authority under the right audience. Therefore, if you feel like a student is disrespecting you don’t start listing what you might do. Either do it or postpone the punishment by having them meet you after class.

Simply saying, “Mr. Smith please see me after class” is a way of asserting power without getting into a starring contest with the student.

I know that when I was young I was so defiant that if my mother or father made me angry with a threat of grounding for a week I would laugh, they would then proceed to make it two weeks and I would still laugh and again. The sheer fact that they could not get to me was more important than a month of grounding. Anyway, stop trying to stare down your students it will only make you blood pressure rise and the more they buck authority the more popularity points they receive.

Now, once you isolate their audience they will most likely reason with you.

This is not only true for your classroom but for kids in the hallway also. If you see group of boys doing some bad stuff call over one of them and talk to him away from the others. If you simply say yell at all of them at one time you will likely get a response you don’t want.

Plus, you have no idea what their morning was like before they got to you. I remember one our troubled kids came to school one morning ready to fight anyone and everyone. He disregarded even the slightest requests by the teachers with sarcasm. He had not lashed out in rage but was simply trying anything and everything to get a teacher to lash out against him. Finally I got him to follow me into an empty classroom for a second and he began balling—one of the toughest kids in our school balling. Come to find out he had been up all night listening to his mom and boyfriend argue and fist fight while objects were broke and insults were thrown to include insults about her kids.

The point is that you have no idea what the individual has been through before they are with you and you may be getting the bulk of their anger. We all have been responsible of redirecting their anger away from the source. The wife who directs her anger at her husband instead of her boss or students, the husband who directs this anger at the waitress instead of his wife or his kids instead of his boss. Be stronger than that!

Lunch or activity detention

Using After School Detention

After school detention is usally pretty brutal for a child. Not only does it take time away from their friends and family is puts them in a classroom for an hour without any stimulation. It the equivalent to vegetation time. Therefore, if you wish to include this type of discipline in your arsenal you need to have a plan for who to use it on and how to use it.

I never personally assigned anyone to after school detention, again, I just don’t deem an extra hour of discipline as worth time away from their friends and family. Yet, if I was going to use after school detention it would only be for those students who are not participating in my classroom. For those who are goofing their time away I would call their parents for approval (which is the rule for many schools) and explain what I want completed during that hour of detention. I would want said materials handed in before they leave to go home even if they weren’t complete with it and if I wasn’t satisfied with their work I would ask for another day of after school (it might actually be a good idea to ask for two days of afterschool when you have the parent on the phone and explain to them that the extra day is contingent upon them completing the work the first day and how they behave in class the following day).

Your goal is ultimately for the kid to try harder while in your classroom, so you want to make it known to them that this is simply an expectation issue.

Also, make sure other students know of the punishment as to simply fire a warning shot for the rest of class.

Be ready, some parents don’t have access to pick up their kids during those hours and some may simply not want their kids in afterschool. Also, some kids have sports after school so you might want to be respectful of the days they games and matches. Yes, its true you could use pull the ‘school comes first’ card, but it kind of discourteous to the coach and the team. A much better policy would be talking to their coach and explaining that you’re not going to schedule the afterschool during the days they have games but you would like their assistance in motivating them to do better in the classroom.

Sending Them Out of The Room

Like the playful insult that went too far, a student may at times go too far in their behavior. They may disregard your warnings or say something that offends you or simply become annoying. For situations like these, you may wish to send a child out of your room. The question becomes of course where do you send them, for what do you send them and how do you send them?

The question of where is quite easy. Most educators are clustered into teams of core teachers in which every student has an assigned math, English, history and science teacher. Typically the teams work closely together to discuss what is happening with their students and are often required to meet weekly. Under normal conditions it is is a good idea to keep student discipline s on team so as to free up your administrators. Therefore, use these teachers as you resource for sending a student out of the room. However, even here you may want to specify which teacher you would like to use. For example, don’t allow them to go to a teacher who will let them sleep or goof off (otherwise this is not really a punishment).

Students seemed to love getting sent out to my room since I allowed more goofyness than most teachers, therefore, other educators probably didin’t trust me to make my room a punishment for these refugees and thus not many students ever got sent to my room. You might also want to check with the educators to see if they have specific students or times they don’t want students sent to their room. For example if a educator has a full classroom or an already misbehaved classroom they may not want anyone else sent to them during that time. It also may be true that certain students don’t vibe well with certain teachers and thus all the reason why not to send them. New teacher also have trouble with having kids sent to their room.

The how do you send them may seem slightly redundant in that you simply ask them to go and they go, but how you send them and what you send them with is an important part of the punishment. Remember, you are engaging in trade, you are not punishing just to be evil. Keep in mind what you want as an outcome.

Yes, you want the students to stop talking while in class and since they won’t you want them to leave so you can reach the other kids. The sacrificing lamb way may be of use at times but if you find yours set of lambs increasing than you may need to think of another way. Ask yourself, is there any incentive on the part of the student to get sent out of your room? For example, do they get to get-out of doing a worksheet? Do they get to go somewhere and sleep or talk to their friends? If so, than you punishment is not a punishment and it certainly isn’t going to change any behavior patterns. You need to be smarter than this.

I was horrendously bad at this. I would simply ask students to leave my room without giving them any work to take with them, any consequences for being sent or thoughts to how they were doing while they were gone?

Some students would take a long stroll to the bathroom before going to the room I sent them. What I should have done is made sure that the punishment was indeed a punishment. For example, give the students tedious work to do while they are gone. Elementary teachers make them write sentences…As a math teacher I should have made them do multiplication and division problems without a calculator. Maybe it would be a good idea to have a folder beside the door with worksheets on multiplication problems inside so that the student may pick them up as they leave. Or maybe you can go to them with a folder and give them the worksheet?

If you don’t plan on grading it use a scantron. Will you allow them to return once they complete it? How will they make up the lecture/work they missed out on? You may want to strategize with various ways in which you can fix this, but, at the very least, you should know how you are going to send someone out of your room.

For example, are you going give three warning and then send them out? If you do be ready for all your students to reach two warnings. This is like when parents count to three, I have never seen a parent stop on “one” and most don’t stop on “two” there is always two and a half. The point is simply don’t play the warning game unless it is to your benefit. Like playing the bluff game in poker, don’t be predictable with it

You also may want to think of how long you want to send them out for? My strategy was usually 15 minutes but you may need to adjust this depending on the set up your class and what is going on at the time you send them out. The 15 minutes is usually enough to let them finish their busy work as well as make you point.

If you notice you are sending someone out a lot than you may want to start pursuing other means.

The when is a very subjective topic. You may not always be able to hold to your strategy for sending someone out of your room, meaning that you may simply wing it every now and again, but you should have an overall ranking of where sending someone out of the room is on your punishment scale.

Also, there may always be that certain individual goofball that you feel class would run so much smoother if you didn’t have them.

Timeout or the Back of the Room.

This type of strategy is simply a way of telling the student that they have gone a little to far in their behavior and they need sometime away from the class to reflect on their activity. This is a big deal to many. They are missing out on not only talking but hearing what’s going on. They are missing the jokes and the sounds of their friends. They may not feel sorry for their behavior but they are willing to make some adjustments so that they can return. This is usally a good strategy when the class if doing some group work or something fun. You can use it during you lecture also, but at this point you are trying to isolate the kid from their peers for the remainder of the lecture so focus will be directed to you. In the back the student won’t have as much of an audience so they should be better. If they still are misbehaving than they got to go!

Make sure you explain to the kids what the back of the room means. At the beginning of the year actually walk through the process of sending someone back to the back of the room.

What I did was have everyone be quite and pretend that they are working on something or looking at me while I was talking. I then picked a random kid to start acting disruptive and disregard my attempts to quite him or her down.

The student would start talking, I would go stand next to him, look at him, snap my fingers at him, shake my head at him or whatever it is I do…

He would keep talking, I would then say his name and ask him to go set in the back. I would not say “go set in the back and think about what you did and how you were disrespecting Mr. Dyke with your choice of behavior” All that is bullshit and the student will likely say something sarcastic back to you or giggle to him or herself and it does not add anything to their punishment.

He would then go to the back of the room and sit quietly (in real life be ready for a few grunts, or “I didn’t do anything”, “whatever”…

I response is a sarcastic “I care”, not everyone can get away with this but simply ignoring the few remarks is ok, it is expected, you just broke up the fun for him or her, just keep teaching. Now if they are in the back of the room kicking desks, and still yelling or saying sarcastic things send them away.

All of this should be reenacted at the beginning of the school year. I would actually pretend I was a student and get sent to the back of the room while acting like a kid,


“I didn’t do anything”

--make noise by shuffling my feet or kicking a desk

--Propping my feet up on the desk to show my defiance

The students would all laugh at my behavior.

I would then ask, did I look like an idiot?


Were any of you impressed with my toughness?


I would then tell them, see…that’s what you look like when you try to put on the tough guy/girl show.

“Look, you got caught, be a man…or an adult… about it”.

This type of approach may resemble something out of a cops T.V. show, but it may suffice in planting something in the back of their minds for the next time they get in trouble.

Calling Home:

Writing Letters Home To parents:


Coaches can be an educators best friend, it gives you leverage over many of the students who want participate in these events. Also, coaches carry a certain authority over these kids that educators do not because the coaches have the ability to take away (by kicking them off the team or benching them) such privileges.

Therefore, first and foremost, get a list of all teachers throughout your county who coach your grade level. Make sure you have a list handy with their names and their e-mail addresses and phone numbers. Next, make sure you keep up with which students of yours are sports players and what sports they play. Many are easy, cheerleaders, basketball and football players wear their uniforms on game days. Other students may not wear them.

Yet, don’t wait to find out by simply waiting for them to wear their uniforms, some sports practice for three to six weeks before a game. You may need to call upon their services during this time.

Be reasonable with your requests. Coaches are usually educators too and thus, respect their time. Therefore, unless it is an emergency, there is no need to schedule a meeting with the three of you, simply call them and leave a message or send an e-mail. You want to make sure you hear back from them as well as keep them posted on how things are going. Were the changes helpful? If you don’t see an improvement within days after the coach spoke to them be sure to call the coach again. It’s possible that the coach gave them a talk thinking it would help, maybe the coach can make some changes in their practice or their play to make them see that they were serious about them changing their behavior.

Coached are a great resources and it may be worth going above and beyond thanking them for their help. A good Christmas Card or gift certificate may help show how much you appreciate the relationship

Assigning Them Extra Homework

Coaches can be an educators best friend, it gives you leverage over many of the students who want participate in these events. Also, coaches carry a certain authority over these kids that educators do not because the coaches have the ability to take away (by kicking them off the team or benching them) such privileges.

Therefore, first and foremost, get a list of all teachers throughout your county who coach your grade level. Make sure you have a list handy with their names and their e-mail addresses and phone numbers. Next, make sure you keep up with which students of yours are sports players and what sports they play. Many are easy, cheerleaders, basketball and football players wear their uniforms on game days. Other students may not wear them.

Yet, don’t wait to find out by simply waiting for them to wear their uniforms, some sports practice for three to six weeks before a game. You may need to call upon their services during this time.

Be reasonable with your requests. Coaches are usually educators too and thus, respect their time. Therefore, unless it is an emergency, there is no need to schedule a meeting with the three of you, simply call them and leave a message or send an e-mail. You want to make sure you hear back from them as well as keep them posted on how things are going. Were the changes helpful? If you don’t see an improvement within days after the coach spoke to them be sure to call the coach again. It’s possible that the coach gave them a talk thinking it would help, maybe the coach can make some changes in their practice or their play to make them see that they were serious about them changing their behavior.

Coached are a great resources and it may be worth going above and beyond thanking them for their help. A good Christmas Card or gift certificate may help show how much you appreciate the relationship.

Informal Ways For Discipline 

Conjuring Up Guilt

Using Sarcasm To Get Your Way

Using Embarrassment To Get Your Way

Using Fear To Get Your Way

Though I mentioned above that idle threats are not in your best interest, it may be worth your time to engage in empty threats. Ones that you probably don’t have the direct authority to decide upon, but you’re betting that mentioning it will bring about the desired affect. I used to say to my kids, when they pressed too far, that they may be switching teams. This was of course a hollow threat, I had no intention in pushing for such an outcome and I wasn’t even sure if it was within my realm of authority. Of course the students doesn’t know what is within your domain of authority and thus simply stating they may be switching teams is as real a threat to them as saying you may be getting a phone call home. Likewise, the threat of your

As a note of advice, do not get discouraged if your threat is not taken seriously or glossed over by the student. If this happens a lot, then you are probably engaging in a few things that are hurting your creditability. You make too many threats that you don’t follow through on or your making the threats in front of their peers as an attempt to prove your dominance. Even the smallest animal will stand up to authority under the right audience. Therefore, if you feel like a student is disrespecting you don’t start listing what you might do. Either do it or postpone the punishment by having them meet you after class.

Simply saying, “Mr. Smith please see me after class” is a way of asserting power without getting into a starring contest with the student.

I know that when I was young I was so defiant that if my mother or father made me angry with a threat of grounding for a week I would laugh, they would then proceed to make it two weeks and I would still laugh and again. The sheer fact that they could not get to me was more important than a month of grounding. Anyway, stop trying to stare down your students it will only make you blood pressure rise and the more they buck authority the more popularity points they receive.

Now, once you isolate their audience they will most likely reason with you.

This is not only true for your classroom but for kids in the hallway also. If you see group of boys doing some bad stuff call over one of them and talk to him away from the others. If you simply say yell at all of them at one time you will likely get a response you don’t want.

Plus, you have no idea what their morning was like before they got to you. I remember one our troubled kids came to school one morning ready to fight anyone and everyone. He disregarded even the slightest requests by the teachers with sarcasm. He had not lashed out in rage but was simply trying anything and everything to get a teacher to lash out against him. Finally I got him to follow me into an empty classroom for a second and he began balling—one of the toughest kids in our school balling. Come to find out he had been up all night listening to his mom and boyfriend argue and fist fight while objects were broke and insults were thrown to include insults about her kids.

The point is that you have no idea what the individual has been through before they are with you and you may be getting the bulk of their anger. We all have been responsible of redirecting their anger away from the source. The wife who directs her anger at her husband instead of her boss or students, the husband who directs this anger at the waitress instead of his wife or his kids instead of his boss

The Secret Weapon

Some of these “weapons” for battling discipline sound like something out of a juvenile delinquency home, but I believe each of the options above have a place in managing behavior within a classroom, even if that place is nothing more than a last ditch effort. Yet, as a good friend and fellow teacher told me, the point you should always be asking is what you expect to get out this punishment? If you succeed in embarrassing them or getting them in trouble with their parents what do you expect to come out of it? After all, most teachers, like most students, are not malevolent, they just simply want something. The problem is of course your value scales are conflicting. You both want the opposite of what the other is selling. Therefore, you need to narrow your scope and give a little so that you may rightfully expect more.

We do this a lot actually, just not enough. For example, an educator may say that if all of you get are A’s on this test we will go outside this coming Friday. You have the right idea here, but your scope is too broad. If you want to indulge in what we will label bribery, make it more on the individual scale. Thus, what i’m saying is all schools have rules that certain teachers bend on, I’m only asking you to bend on the rules when it serves your purpose.

I remember one time late in my senior year, a friend and I pretended there was a fight to attract a huge crowd. We started banging on lockers, yelling and cursing. The crowd of course came running, as did the teachers. It was pandemonium because no one could see the fight (of which there was none, just yelling). So people are pushing and shoving each other for a better view. After all was said and done, we darted off and the crowd slowly dissipated leaving the teachers wondering what happened. Later, video surveillance caught us as the perpetrators and we were called into the assistant principals office (the one who would later hire me to be a teacher) to receive our punishment. Knowing the drill, (been there so many times before), we prepared for the days out of school or in-school suspension.

The principal closed his door, shook his head with a “What am I going to do with you two look”, smiled and said “I DON’T WANT TO SEE ANYTHING LIKE AGAIN…for at least two weeks, ok?” We laughed, “Ok” we won’t do anything like this for two weeks (and we didn’t).

We left the office feeling like we just got out of a speeding ticket. Yet, this small gesture would bring a huge amount of trust and respect for this principal. He could have done what every administrator had done up until that moment, but he didn’t. He proposed an exchange; I’m letting you off the hook this time in exchange for you not getting in trouble for two weeks. We of course obliged the request of a trouble free two weeks (which was a long time for us), but even more, we would oblige nearly any future request from this man. We would give him high-five in the hallway, talk to him in public, and listen to his future criticism without staring at the ground or air.

Now, I know you may be frowning at even the thought of bribing a student. You may operate under the assumption that the relationship between you and the student is like that of a country and a terrorist organization, and we all know that countries do not negotiate with terrorists! Well, sidestepping the hypocrisy of such a moral code, the point is you are already negotiating with them, only it is ineffective. Try to think of an exchange with students that doesn’t fall into these categories:

* Don’t do this, you get this

* Don’t do this, you don’t get this

* Do this, get this

* Do this, don’t get this

All are variants of negotiation because all are variants of exchange. You must remove the belief that you have any position of authority over your students; you don’t. Whether you like the thought or not you are not commanding unbinding orders, you are setting up parameters that most will decide to follow, but some will not. The problem is of course your students learn to play the game better than you because it is you that needs more from them than they need from you. Thus, they have the upper hand. Think back to when you were a kid and you wanted something from your parents. Didn’t you learn what actions increased the probability of getting what you wanted and couldn’t you really turn up the guilt when they made you mad? Maybe you whimpered around the house, sporadically cleaned your room, gave compliments, pretended to be interested in their hobby or even gave them the silent treatment. The point is that your parents probably didn’t stand a chance against you. You learned the rules and played the game better than them, as will your kids, as will your students.

To combat this, you must be willing to forget the close minded system of classroom consistency. Consistency may play a role in the normal day-to-day tasks of running a classroom or when in front of a crowd, but it is breaking from consistency that will position yourself better to negotiate with your students. Therefore, let’s say your rule is, if you throw something in my class you must serve in lunch detention. Now, let’s say a kid throws something in the middle of your class, what should you do? Well, it is probably a good idea to keep to your word and give them the detention. Yet, let’s say the individual is caught throwing without an observing crowd, or at least a small crowd. Now there may be an advantage to being inconsistent.

In a scenario like this, call the individual off to the side, away from their peers, and tell them what their punishment is or should be. After the student is feeling slightly disappointed for getting caught, make them a deal. For example, let them off this time on the one condition that they owe you one. Of course the point is not to cash in on the IOU but to simply forge a relationship in which you have a claim. You have created a bond between you and the student that will pay dividends later on. It’s possible that you may not even recognize the benefits from your action because it is only in absence of this action that the bad act occurs. Confused? Let me offer some evidence to my claim.

Let’s say you go all year without having very much stolen from your classroom, very much destruction to your property, or very much sarcasm from the students. Now, we of course know that it is possible for you to have had more of these things but why didn’t you? This is a tough concept because we don’t know if your negotiation with the students actually led them to do less of these bad behaviors, more of these behaviors, or if your actions affected such behavior at all. Simply, we don’t know the correlation of one variable from the other. Like the CIA, we only hear of their failures not their successes. Yet, I do know from my own experience, and maybe you can relate, that if someone goes out of their way to help me, I may not seek to return the favor (though I would if the opportunity presented itself and the costs weren’t too high) but I would never go out of my way to take advantage of this individual—if not for the very reason that they may bestow future favors. Thus, the benefits would have to be really high, or the costs really low, for me to take advantage of them.

Though the claim is akin to a police officer who lets you off on a speeding ticket, it is not accurate in description. It’s within all likelihood that you may never see the police officer who lets you off on the speeding ticket again. Or, if you do, the time in between the interaction would be so wide that you may not really remember each other. Your students are not like that. You see them daily. Thus, it would be more like a police officer who lives next door to you who lets you go on some minor infraction. Delighted by this, you make sure to keep your noise levels down, you may ask your kids to not play in his yard, you may cut your grass more often or make sure no trash blows over onto his lawn. Of course I know this is different, the point is simply to draw a parallel between the two examples. A good deed won’t usually go unrewarded, though you might not always notice the rewards. The reasoning, in my eyes, is simply zoological. We primates are social creatures who forge bonds and cooperate with those who we like and serve our interest.

This is the strategy I would suggest to improve classroom behavior; forge alliances and bonds with your students. Negotiate with them so your actions are mutually beneficial with two winners. Therefore, the next time you ask a kid to stay after class, at which point they prepare for the “old-person guilt trip”, give them a chance. Make a deal with them and make it look like you are sticking your neck out for them. Watch the relationship grow; it will pay dividends for you later, I promise!

As I said in the beginning of this section, I have no all encompassing solutions for your behavior problems, in fact, many of the administrators or fellow educators peeking through my door might have a comment that my class wasn’t well behaved at all. But this was simply because I never wanted a quiet class. I loved laughing and yelling with my learning. I never cared if I overheard a curse word slip from a student’s mouth or various other things these educators stay up at night worrying about. I cared about my student’s interests and how to build up their self-esteem or what was going on in their life with boys or girls or the crap they were going through at home. Sure we learned math and their state scores reflected it, but I was also their friend.

If you would indulge a story for a moment, on a Friday that I called in sick, a rumor began passing around the students that I had been fired, before the end of the weekend I had received 15 MySpace messages about a scheduled “sit-in” that was to take place Monday morning as a protest for them firing me. You wouldn’t believe me if told you how many concerned and sympathetic e-mails I received from parents or hugs I received that Monday morning.

Additional Essays

A Students says It Wasn't Me

This is the typical objection from a teenager. Indeed, they might even be able to pass a polygraph test during these stages of adolescence, because I have had teenagers put on such a great show that I begin to question the validity of my own senses. Nevertheless, maybe it wasn’t them. Maybe you picked the wrong guy and they have a right to be mad. The point is you don’t really know because you’re stuck staring at 25 little faces at one time.

At times like these you need an escape card, here was the one I used when a student spouted out “I didn’t do it” or “I wasn’t the only one”.

“Do I look like Sherlock Holmes” or “Do I look like a detective”

Explain this to your students early on in the year or revisit it when the situation calls for it. Explain that just because you get sent to the back of the room doesn’t mean that you were the one doing it, apologize in advance if need be, it could mean that you were the first person you heard or saw, or you might just want to hear what that side of the room sounds like when you’re not there. You could even explain that it is not your job to find the person who was guilty; you’re not a cop. It’s your job to teach and if you feel that seats need to be changed or individuals need to move then that’s how it is.

Make sure when you explain things like this you speak to the class in general and not to an individual student.

A good drill for the beginning of the year or even to make a point when it comes up. Ask a student, especially the student that just got in trouble and complained that it was not him, to wait outside the room.

Pick four kids sitting next to each other and have them all turn in their seats and facing each other. Explain to them that you want one of them say something while the other three laugh.

Bring the student back into the room and ask him or her to see how good they are at being a detective

After this, do it again only this time give the student a task, like reading something out loud or taking attendance to simulate a teacher teaching and trying to figure out who is talking.

Soon they will get the point, that it not too easy

A Student Feels That They Are Being Singled Out By You

We’ve heard it all before, your singling him or her out, always picking on them, no one else gets in trouble.

We have already reviewed why we as teachers are not detectives, yet there are situations where such complaints are valid…and you probably don’t even know it

Have you ever had a cell phone with the same ringer for a long time? You know, you’ve heard it so many times that you can pick it out from a batch of cell phones ringing in unison. Yet, if someone has the same ringer you will instinctively check your phone even if the sound is coming from across the room. Even if you are on your phone talking and you hear that ringer you will make rapid movements looking for your phone. In fact, do you ever start hearing your cell phone ringer within the songs on the radio. I always found myself hearing my ringer when listening to music.

Anyway, a student’s voice can have the same impact on you. A students voice can become distinctive. You may pick up on his or her voice through a crowd of other voices without any apparent reason except that it might be slightly louder or more shrill. Sometimes you may believe that an individual is always talking when in reality they may not be…they may be mostly responding. They may not be talking more than anyone beside them, or less, but if their voice is on your radar you will continuously pick up on them

If you find yourself in such a situation, maybe you should try to reassess the situation. Bring the said individuals into your classroom during some downtime and ask them how they feel. Get a feel for them, are they telling you that its others around them and not them in particular? If so, apologize and ask if they would like to move their desk.

Truth be told, the students whose voice you can pick out of a group may be taking the brunt of all the punishment and by doing so you may lose that relationship with him or her. I have had this happen a few times. You may ruin a relationship with a student that loved your class or you and then become a nuisance. Don’t give up. Try to mend the relationship by picking them to run the errands or to carry the football outside bring them in to the conversation as a complement. Don’t let a relationship of teacher student fall apart over simple things.

The Pep Talk

Given the amount of time you spend with these students, for many as much, if not more, than their parents. You may feel obligated to give them pep talks that they can succeed in life and do anything they set their mind to. In fact, you may have these posters all over your walls.

I’m fan of the pep talk, but within reason.

First, let’s assume that you student has two electives and four core classes. Therefore they have six different teachers they see every day. That is six adults giving them pep talks throughout the week coupled with pep talks from their parents and other adults in their lives. Even the teen-shows and cartoons and movies they watch have pep talks in them. All of this is great! Its great to have a vested interest in the future of your students, but what is this like for the student? Are they being energized with all this spoken zest or does it start becoming overkill?

I don’t have that answer and anything I tell you is based purely on personal experiences and not controlled ‘Dr. Phil type’ experiments.

My suggestion is to make the pep talk count. Don’t over indulge it and don’t use it as your own personal weapon to get their standardized pass rates to increase. Use it to truly motivate them and the more individualized you can make it the better.

For example,

Call a meeting of the students who are always drawing and doodling in class, have them eat lunch with you or even have them take a walk with you during activity time. Talk to them

“Look, really quick, you four have some serious talent. Seriously! Listen to me with talent like yours you guys could be famous (rich, etc.). What’s your plan of attack?


“What is your attack plan, tell me you’re not going to just sit on your winning lottery ticket. You need to take it to a higher level. Find more time to draw, find better ways to draw, watch videos on it, read books on it. Do you hear me? Not all tall people go to the NBA right? But if your tall your chances of getting in the NBA are better right…Alright then, do it! No excuses, I want to read about you someday…”

Leave it at that, let them go and play, let them be kids again. You have planted a seed may or may not sprout. If you see them goofing off with their time weeks afterward you need only say, “am I going to read about you someday Sara?” Alright, just making sure your still committed.

Do this with different kids and groups of kids throughout the year. These talks may be about math, writing, sports. You can always find something to motivate a child about and you have 180 days to find out what that is.

Get to know your students, learn what they like and be the persona they need you to be not some fake Brady Bunch Statue that administration wants you to be. Students don’t listen to corniness. I’ve heard teacher brag about the stupidest things. I’ve heard them brag about always being consistent and fair

“I was a very strict teacher but the kids always knew I was fair and consistent”

What? So you were another adult that students didn’t like but you were consistently not liked by everyone? Don’t be a sap…It’s like this always, I have never met a teacher who didn’t have a chip on their shoulders for what they did right and other do wrong.

Thus, find out what you children like—movies, books, comics, animals---and like it to. This doesn’t mean you need to listen to hip hop music in the car but you should at least know what that they like such music. Maybe then you would understand why they say certain things they say or dress like they do. It’s not training yourself to be a kid, it understanding their culture to better reach them.

I personally hate the top 20 countdown type of pop music. But every now and then I might turn it on to see what it is they are listening to. Let me give you one example that you may or may not relate to.

Jordan Sparks had a song titled “Battlefield” that was very popular at one time. In the song she says battlefield over and over and over. For those like me who don’t really enjoy the music it was torturous, but an idea hit me. How many times does she say “battlefield”? in how many minutes.

I researched it while at home. Then I made up an entire little worksheet asking what was the average amount of times she says battlefield per minute? I even had ratio problems where I asked, if she say battlefield (45) times in 3:45 seconds, ow many times would she say battlefield in 10 minutes.

The next day, I played the song for them (they sang) while they counted the “battleifieds”. Then I gave them the worksheet. They loved it

Thus, educators desire to be the person the student needs them to be by trying to get the student to love the things they love. For example, you may love American History and read about it constantly, so, when you get a chance to bond with a student you try to get them to love what you love. You try to get them to have conversations with you and ask questions so that you may pontificate for 10 minutes about what you read. Yet, this never tends to happen. The child never indulges your hobby and thus you grow tired of trying. This is not being what they need you to be this is trying to get them to be who you want them to be. Now, there is nothing wrong with exposing the child to your likes and hobbies, but you also need to let them expose you to their likes and hobbies.

Yes, the twilight series is not considered high brow literature. Yes, they won’t take up reading Steinbeck like you want them to, but would it hurt to enter their world? Read the books or watch the movies and ask them questions. Ask a thought provoking question and watch their little minds work

So, typically who would win on a one-on-one fight between a vampire and a werewolf?

What about between Jacob and Edward? Why? What proof do you have that that person would win?

No these questions won’t be on their standardized tests and they probably won’t be able to apply the same rigor to the required stories, but so what? Indulge them in learning.

Another idea is to keep a wide array of reading on hand. Get some comic books, some magazines about space, pop culture, music, tools, trucks, cars, guns, whatever.

Another idea that would get the kids reading is for them to make a classroom book. Everyone must contribute. This way, they could read their own writings. Don’t frown on notes passing…its is a great way of communicating. Make use of the skill. Make it so they are only allowed to talk in notes for a whole classroom period. Make them ask you questions in notes, let them pass notes for a few minutes and grade each other on their writing.

Using Candy

Never buy multiple colors or flavors of candy. These options are too much. Buy two flavors/colors or one. Don’t give them choices that waste time. Same way with as much as you can in your class. If you have one yellow ruler and 24 blues, they will argue over the yellow. Get rid of it.

Managing Cellphones

Cell phones are a big deal in our schools. They text each other, call each other all day. Students find the safest places to text (usually the bathroom) and exploit it. Schools waste so much resources over these little devices, indeed, some administrators are paid 1.5 to 2 times your salary to battle students cell phone usage all day. They are the cell phone Nazis!

It’s actually quite comical.

You as an educator will have to decide on your cell phone policy because any universal cell phone rule (throughout the school) is a joke. I allowed cell phone use in parts because I’m a very lenient teacher, because I knew it made administrators mad (hehe) and because it can’t be fought.

I remember administrators storming into my room with their clip boards, calling out little girls into the hallway to make them cry about texting in class.

It was always the same, little girls are sending text messages from your class to other classes. I always thought but how are they receiving them and resending them if the other teachers have such strict cell phone policies?

Nevertheless, they were sent to ISS where they weren’t monitored all that great and thus sent text messages from there or given out of school suspension where they sent text messages from home. All across the school kids are secretly checking their text messages. Even teachers are checking them on their breaks. It is an utter pointless policy when fought in absolutes.

I hardly ever took away a cell phone in class and if I did it was usually only for the duration of a few minutes and what happened? Sheer pandemonium right? Well, I would argue cell phone use was no longer a novelty. Kids stopped sneaking it under the desk or under their shirt. They typically checked their messages quickly and put it away and no kids ever made phone calls. At times I would see a kid writing some long text while I was talking and I would say do that later and they would. They might send it at the end of class or during some downtime.

The point is, you need to be more interesting than that damn cell phone. Kids don’t stare at their phones when they are having fun. If you can’t compete with a damn cell phone than you need to readjust your playbook.

Some will cringe at that suggestion but they are corny people who make excuses for their failures. Don’t get offended, get real. Don’t be a teacher who always starts with “kids these days” or some other excuse. You are paid to be a teacher and teaching presupposes learning. Thus, if kids aren’t learning than you need to stop calling yourself a teacher. You are not a salesmen if you don’t sell!

Be the person in their lives that they need you to be by enjoying what they love and not forcing them to enjoy what you love

How To Use Your Wall Space

Posters are hallmarks of classroom. Most classroom walls are covered with them. Though I am a fan of posters and classroom walls I personally have never been a huge fan of premade posters. I tend to think of them as phony and distracting but each their own. I would much rather see a classroom full of student posters for the topics they made. Even if you want motivational pieces on your walls I would much rather see then a motivational picture signed by every student then simply a motivational piece.

The Longest Part of Class

Einstein once tried to explain relativity in terms of the second spent kissing a pretty girlfriend versus the same second with your hands on a hot stove. Both situations involve a second, but one seems like eternity while the other is a flash.

For the educator, an eternity is a classroom without anything to do.

It seems so harmless. The class has been productive for the last 55 minutes and you wish to reward your kids with five minutes of free time, with some stipulation like stay in your seats and keep your volume down. Sixty seconds later your productive class has turned into a pack of heathens and you have nothing to do but repeat them to be quite as you watch the eternity of the last four minutes of class. This was one portion of classroom management that I struggled with. At first it seemed that I was always finishing up the class 15 minutes early, especially by the last period

Your Productivity as the Day Progresses

Most public school educators give nearly the same lesson four to five times a day. Sometimes they may have an honors class to switch things up or they may teach various grade levels, but many, like me, taught the same lesson multiple times a day.

If this is you there are a few things to prepare for.

Your productivity will increase as the day progresses due to specialization of labor. Essentially, your first class will seem optimal or slightly pressed for time, but by the end of the day you will seem like you are running out of time. The reason for this is straightforward. Each lesson plan has certain hang-ups within the material or directions. Your first class serves as a gunnie pig helping you to find such hang ups. Yet, as the day progresses you become more efficient with explaining where the students need to pay attention. You may stress certain steps in the directions or you may explain specific steps in more detail to prevent such student confusion yet by doing so you have shortened your class.

If you aggregate this over the course of a year you may spend an extra

Therefore, you must be ready for such increases in productivity. You must either consciously try to find such hang ups and decrease them or you may which to devote more time to your first periods by targeting them in study hall.

It may simply be that you don’t need to worry about it, perhaps you can plan extra material for later in the day, or maybe you can keep track that one class is ahead of the other classes. Either way, I just want to draw attention to the fact that your increases in productivity may cause an asymmetry in the learning of you early classes versus your later classes.

Socializing Outside of Class (Facebook Anyone?)

We all have lives outside the classroom and unfortunately most social stereotypes of educators involve Sunday morning church, polos, kakis with smiles from ear to ear. Thus, be ready for shock when someone’s finds out that you aren’t a carbon copy of a Brady Bunch episode. I remember grocery shopping one afternoon with a cart full of groceries, picking up a six pack of Sam Adams for Sunday afternoon football when I hear a little voice say “Hey Mr. D”! I turned and said “hi”, put my six pack in my shopping cart next to the eggs and milk when I noticed the mother staring at me in shameful eyes as if I was indulging in a street drug addiction. Who do these people think we are…saints? I teach your child mathematics not Sunday school morality…

Monday Mornings

You will always have sleepy kids in your class and we will address those in specific, but you will notice that certain times of the day are more prone to sleep than others. Usually, right after lunch or in the morning are the times the sleepers come out. It’s understandable. Many kids have no bed time and even for those that do they end up staying up later than you. Also, kids aren’t allowed to have energy drinks or coffee in school.

True story: My first year of teaching I brought in energy drinks for the sleepers. I soon found out that it was becoming too expensive and so I quit, but come to find out they weren’t even allowed. Nonetheless, is used to give shot glasses of Monster and Red Bull in an attempt to battle sleepiness.

Therefore, kids are at a disadvantage given that they must sit quietly when they got little sleep the previous night without any type of drug stimulant to keep them awake.

One of the best ways to combat these sleepy times of the day is to anticipate them within your lesson. For these sleepy prone classes, break into group work early into the class and save the lecture for later on. You may also decide to slide in more stories or jokes during these times, have them stand up and stretch or increase participation by calling on students more. Probably this most effective way for them to stay awake in your class—though probably not their other classes—is to simply allow them to eat and drink and chew bubblegum.

These small increments of sugar will allow keep them awake throughout your lecture granting your lecture doesn’t last for a prolonged period of time and you may not even need such access to sweets if you follow the five minute routine outlined above

The Mini Five Minute Lesson

Dealing With Sleepy Kids

Let face it, some kids for reasons previously mentioned are simply going to try to sleep in your class. Here are some various ways to keep those students from sleeping.

Playing particle jokes:

* Drop books beside them

* Pass out fake tests to everyone, yell “times up” and start collecting them

* Turn all the lights off in the classroom and have your kids wait out in the hallway, then wake up the sleepy kid and tell them they missed their bus.

* Draw on them

All of these are fun, though if you create too much fun with them than kids will purposely fall asleep to see what tricks you’ll play next.

Slightly mean actions:

* Make them stand up when you catch them sleeping

Other discrete actions

* Wake them up, have them take a walk to get something to drink

* Send to the back to do 10 pushups

* Give them a piece of candy on the condition that they wake up

Again, most of it going to come down to your lecture setup. If you talk nonstop for an hour, you’re going to have to pull teeth to get them to listen


Again, homework is to each their own. I personally hate homework (both receiving it and giving it). Home time should be spent with their family, friends or vegetating not with busy work. This probably stems from my views on government, but I tend to believe that the government has had these kids from 8am—3pm and thus view giving homework as a sense of greediness on the part of the educators. In addition the ones who do it are usually not the ones who need it. Thus, I see it as a manipulation of their time over and above what is required. You may not see it this way; you may see it as building work habits or something else. These are debatable topics but this not the venue for such debates and thus homework will be largely left up to you.

My only point of the topic would be, what do you expect to get out of it and what do you expect your kids to get out of it. And when they do or don’t complete it, what then? These are questions that need to be addressed unless you want to just assign things on a whim. You see this a lot in college math. Professors assign homework in access of what is usually needed. Students are asked to complete 25-50 odd numbered problems at the back of each section yet never check it. Yet, what many of the students don’t understand is that it is up to them to decide if they need to complete it all. Some students will complete them all simply because it was assigned, some will do none of it

You could also think about having no homework throughout the week, but some over the weekend. No excuses, you had two days type of speech.

A lot will depend on the subject

The more localized and student oriented you can make it the better. I knew of one teacher that made the student call their parents if they didn’t have their homework (it worked well)

Getting Students To Do Their Homework

That One Students Who Just Irks You

There is always that one kid. The one that is a complete goofball. That makes life hell for you while you’re in the classroom. Of course you feel like something must be wrong with you since you can make this kid behave.

First, let me expose what I believe to be a somewhat overblown myth of the bad kid. That is, class will run smoother without that one kid. Now, there is always the exception but I believe that the bad kid in class is simply a hierarchy. Therefore, if one leaves there is incentive for another to take their place. I think there are other factors at work here aside from just the one bad apple that spoils the batch.

Let me offer some examples and the reader can form their own opions

If you cluster individuals together, certain individuals will begin to form their roles in the group. There will be a funny one. The one that makes the rest of the group laugh. Yet, if you take that funny one away from the group everyone doesn’t cease from laughing. Now there may be less laughing at first, but soon enough someone else in the group will step up and become the funny one.

You could also think of it in terms of other characteristics, like beauty or toughness, etc. If you remove the most handsome or beautiful guy or girl from class, before long the second most beautiful or handsome individual will step up and take this role. In fact, these individuals have been audition for this role the entire time, they’ve just been coming in second place.

Now, this there is nothing scientific about this analysis and it is beyond the scope of this book to investigate the argument further. Simply, I am stating that although teaching may become easier if this one kid is sent out of class or stays home from school, in the long run, another problematic student will most likely take their place.

Plus this is what we get paid for, this is how you earn your money so to speak!

As an administrator once told me, it doesn’t take a teacher to teach the advanced class. You could simply give them the book and they could teach their self. It takes a teacher to teach the other 75% of your students.

The Meetings

This tends to be the backbreaker for many educators. They can deal with the kids and the parents and the politics that comes with the job but on top of that extra meetings and training? It’s just too much! In reality, the fault lies not in the accumulation of training it’s the pointlessness of training. I remember a few months into my first year of teaching when I was balancing department meetings twice a month, new-teacher training once a month, district meetings once a month and sometimes teacher-mentor or one-on-one with administrator meetings. On our teacher work days I was usually scheduled for some arbitrary training, yet, my detest was not symmetrical for all meetings; it was partitioned based on helpfulness. I never minded the one-on-one meetings with my principal since he usually offered great advice. I also never minded the first-year teacher meetings since they offered great resources for helping to manage your classroom. Yet, week after week I sat in department meetings, district meetings and faculty meetings wondering what the heck was I supposed to get out of this. Literally, teachers would hush each other from commenting or posing questions so that they could go home early and those that did comment was usually just a longwinded observation of self indulgence. Simply talking to hear oneself speak type of comments.

Therefore, the fault really lies upon the coordinators of such meetings to give focus. Most of what is said could have been sent in an e-mail marked priority, that maybe even required a reply but it’s hard to relay such messages to the administrators. Therefore, if you find that the meetings are bothering you and that you’re not getting anything out of them then you’re probably sitting to close. Sit farther in the back and find a way to grade papers or some other task that you would need to do anyway. I used to bring in my checkbook and pay bills or study my fantasy football stats during such meetings but to each his own.

When Something Breaks or Delays Class

All teachers know that the worse time is down time. Time when the student has nothing in front of them to do. This is when students get loud and usually get in trouble. Therefore, it’s probably a good idea to think of some strategies for when something comes up that involves down time

For example:

The DVD/VCR may need to rewind or be cleaned

The overhead projector light may go out

You may run out of dry erase marker

Someone may come in your room and need to talk to you

You may be needed in the hallway or in another classroom for some reason

You may receive a phone call

Any of these scenarios may lead to downtime within the classroom and all the more reason for you to be ready. As a warning, asking students to talk amonst yourselves is not advisable

My favorite item to use when things went wrong was to tell my kids to “take a nap”. They generally tended to like this and sometimes multiple minutes would go by before I woke them. If I was fixing something I would usually sing something completely corny like

“go to sleep…go to sleep…go to sleep little seventh graders”

They giggled

Now, if you’re the “don’t waste any time” type of a person you could always have them draw or read. The point is simply to have a plan of action

Quiet vs. Whisper vs. Talk

Students have slightly different definitions of the terms quiet, whisper and talk than their adult counterparts. For a student to being quiet means to whisper…to whisper means to talk…and to talk means to talk loudly with bits of screams and loud laughs.

Group Work

This is a vital part of the classroom. I love group work because students love group work…it breaks up the boringness of lectures. There is so much more you can do with group work that you can’t do in individual work.

You want to have a routine for breaking into group work

What to watch out for while students are performing group work

Teachers and Respect

This is a concern used passed down onto the students by mostly older educators who remember a day when kids were nicer to them. Though, I’m quite sure that when they first began teaching the older teachers at that time complained about students not being courteous or lacking of respect as was when they began and so on ad infinitum back until parents bore the sole responsibility of educating their kids. And even then I bet they complained about how much more they had to respect their own parents the same way your parents tell you today about how it was when they were growing up.

Thus, let’s be real. Even if students are absolutely worse today than they ever have been in history, they are not relatively worse. Meaning, you feel about your students today the way educators felt about your generation when you were young. No doubt that the educators teaching in the 1960’s couldn’t handle your students today but neither could the teachers teaching in the 1930’s handle those students in the 1960’s.

The problem of this entire view is that educators somehow believe that respect is somehow implicit within the occupation of teaching. That somehow walking into the classroom guarantees an endowment of respect. This is clearly an arrogant assumption.

You need to build that respect...

On Procedures

Classroom procedures can be important to a functioning classroom as well as a huge burden on your mental health. Individuals often wondered how I could walk around the school singing and smiling while my colleges looked one Prozac short of a mental breakdown. As tough as I am on the teaching profession it is not without its stressors. In actuality, balancing the job of classroom management, teaching, meetings and the politics behind the business of conveying knowledge is enough for many individuals to pursue other work. A good majority of every colleague I spoke with was either looking for a different field of work, counting their days to reach an administrative position or simply needed to vent their anger in order to give them enough strength to make it through another day. It need not be so.

One of the huge stress factors for educators is their insistence upon adherence to rules procedures. Now, I wouldn’t advice any educator who wishes to make tenure or keep their position to run as laissez faire of classroom as I allowed. Indeed, i couldn’t have cared less about the majority of things most of colleagues cared about. I even considered the thought of such procedures to be strange. When parents or students would ask me what type of notebooks they needed or what my policy was on color pens I would laugh. I would simply explain I don’t care what you write with or what you write on. Can you imagine the additional stress involved in such procedural idiosyncrasies? Or the energy needed to continuously punish such procedural peccadilloes? Such OCD is quite mind boggling when you really think about it not to mention time consuming, all so that you may have your monopoly on red ink!

Fine, if you can’t operate within a classroom without said monopoly than so be it. But if you notice that everyday within the classroom ends up being a fight for controlling your blood pressure, than maybe you should look into some of the silly policies that are bogging up your day.

Internet Resources

Maybe the greatest investment of your time is to set down one day and browse the infinite amount of free material on the internet and I do mean set aside a day to do this, not an hour. This one day of work may save you a multitude of hours trying to piece together last minute lessons.

Simply create a journal titled internet resources, Google the word “educational resources” and start randomly clicking. Keep track of every little interesting thing you come across by bookmarking it to your favorites, writing it in your journal and/or printing it out, and don’t simply click “add to favorites”, actually create an education folder and write out what the page has that your saving. For example, you come across a great website that offers hands on math ideas for your classroom titled (it just so happens that I offer such a site :)

From here click,

1. The favorites tab

2. Add to favorites

3. And name the page so that you can easily find it in the future

4. And save it to a folder designated to education sites

After you have done this note the site in your journal under headings such as

Continue doing this throughout an entire day, hunting down sites that offer free worksheets, free videos, free lesson plans, free ideas for classroom management, free premade organizational worksheets and PowerPoint’s. Find out websites that offer free subject related computer games. Take time to browse pictures of others classrooms and take notes of how they arrange their materials. Locate teacher blogs that offer daily advice or motivation. Find teacher discussion forums in case you need help with a certain situation and don’t want to look incompetent. By the end of the day you should have a plethora of free materials to call upon whenever you need them.

There are also sites that offer all that was listed above in one place for a yearly fee usually running between $20.00--$45.00. Though I wouldn’t discourage such sites, I used them a lot my first year, just be aware that these are the first sites that come up in a Google search. Therefore, browse what’s free first. You may also want to check with you school to see if they would reimburse the fees or if a coworker want to split the costs. Many of the sites offer a free trial if you feel like working your printer to death during the trial period, but know that you can always write such expenses off your taxes at the end of the year (as with anything else school related you spend money on without being expensed).

Tests vs Quizzes

When a Child Refuses to Do Anything

Extra Credit

Students Distributing Class During a Test

Many administrators frown on this approach since it carries with it a certain embarrassment for the student. I think this is one of the few areas where I agree with the administrators for the same reasoning they claim. To embarrass a public school student by having others see their horrible test grades may be one way to make them realize their mistakes of not taking the test serious, but in return you may also cause the student to give up totally. Now, I’m not against failing students or making students realize the consequences of their decisions, but let’s be honest; this is not college and you need your students to do well. Your job description requires that your students pass some state/federal test and thus the last thing you want is for a student to completely give up. Thus, unless you believe that the embarrassment generated by the class knowing each other’s grades will somehow make the student work harder; there is no point in the behavior. Likewise, unless you believe that showing off the good grades of your students will reciprocate into them wanting to continue to make good grades, there is no need for the behavior. How do you find out if such a strategy will work, ask them. Ask the student if you may post their 100% test grade on the wall. If the student seems excited than you know that such a gesture will lead to a higher self-esteem and for your other students, threaten that you are going to place their test grades on the wall to see what type of response you get.

Getting Your Class Quite When

One of the major issues I had with my classroom during my first year teaching was getting my class to quite down after an activity or during the beginning of class. Essentially, each student was having a conversation in which they wanted just a few more seconds to finish and thus I was stuck repeating “quite down, look at me” about 5-10 times before everyone finally did quite down and look at me. It was only later during a faculty meeting that I noticed our administrators repeating “quite down, look up here” multiple times that such behavior is actually normal. Simply put, the conversation is so intriguing that just a couple additional seconds of information are worth ignoring the speaker. This is simply normal group behavior; therefore, don’t take it as being disrespectful anymore than is necessary. The solution? What I found works well was something I first discarded as too old school. I noticed other educators using the line “I’ll wait” when their noisy classroom disregarded their request to quite down. The line “I’ll wait” probably only worked slightly faster than the “quite down, look at me” method, however, it is stress free. When you ask someone to quite down, and they disregard your request you become angry as if the individual is creating a personal attack on your authority. Or you feel as if you have no control over your classroom. In contrast, the line, “I’ll wait” simply tells your class what you’re going to do. You feel that you are in control since by default no one can disregard your request because you’re not making a request, you’re making a statement of what you’re going to do. Thus, even if the “I’ll wait” method takes longer than repeating be quite, you will still as if it is a better method because there is no stress factor generated from using it.

Field Trips & Behavior

How Much Should Your Students Know About You

The Intelligent, Sarcastic, Child

The Bully


The Late Student

Back Talk (Getting Laughed At By Your Students)

Protecting Your Belongings

Students Who Hang Around You Too Much

How To Keep Your Cool When Embarrassed

Switching Your Student To Another Class/Team


Cheating is a reality of life. I would argue that cheating needs to be tamed more than extinguished. Therefore, your approach to cheating can either be very proactive or very reactive and your choice will depend much on your personality. Before commenting on how to manage cheating, why not first ask yourself what is cheating? Is plagiarizing cheating? Is looking at another’s test really cheating? And who is this student cheating, you? Their community? Their self? It’s not really within this books scope to answer such questions but I will say that I believe our outlook on cheating is very much naive. Given this, do you feel that cheating is a careless mistake on the part of the student or a direct attack against you the educator?

It is in every school I’ve ever attended, but is it really?

In my experience, the reactive educator, the one who comes down hard on the cheater, is slightly lazy. Many schools

Student Attire

Student dress is a huge issue within the public school system. Young girls today dress more provocatively than ever before in history and there is a plethora of what the school would deem to be inappropriate material printed on t-shirts-- ranging from racist slogans to inappropriate language and pictures. Though what is deemed to be inappropriate and appropriate is typically delegated to administration the educator does have s say about what is allowed within his or her classroom. The issue for the educator is of course, where to draw the line between inappropriate material that affects teaching and learning and mere bickering as well as how to approach the situation of which we will comment on the latter first.

How to approach a student who is wearing something inappropriate

It’s not hard to distinguish what is distracting to you and your students, yet it is hard for educators to draw the line between self expression and inappropriate attire, this is mere preference. However, once an article of clothing or accessory has been determined to be disrupting to education the teachers approach should be nearly universal. If the article under objection is profanity or an accessory like a chain wallet or a bright sparkling earring that changes colors than the student should be called off to the side during the beginning of class, either out in the hallway or in the back away from their peers, in order to avoid a scene. Next, comment the student on the article

"Hey Amber that earring is awesome, where did you buy it at? I would like to get one for my little niece. Anyway, can you do me a favor put it away for the next hour. I’m afraid everyone will stare at it instead of listening to me"


"Johnny, that t-shirt is funny but you might get in trouble if an administrator sees you with it on. They might make your parents come and pick it up if they catch you with it on and you never know when they’re going to drop by our class. Anyway, either turn it inside out or switch to your gym shirt"

The point is simply to make the request without making a big deal out of the situation. You don't need to babble on about who might get offended by the shirt or what you believe to be proper character. This is only making you look robotically old and their not listening to anything you have to say anyway. There is only one reason why you shouldn't call a student off to the corner to request they change their clothing and this is a situation where a male teacher notices a female student dressing to provocatively. In a situation like this you need to send the student to a female teacher who can make the suggestion (who knows that they are the designated teacher on the team in charge of this type of situation). Though it is likely under most scenarios that nothing will happen by you making the request, but you still need to be careful about putting yourself in a situation like so.

Finally, let me add a few comments on the line between disrupting learning and expressing ones creativity through dress. As a rule of thumb you should let not be nitpicky. The students typically know what may be deemed inappropriate and what won't. Most girls pack extra shorts with them in case a teacher asks them to change. Thus, if a girls shorts are blatantly too high than proceed to make the request that they change (or have a female teacher do it), but if it’s not blatant, than there is no need to go throughout the process of having them stand up straight and measure their fingers on their thighs to meet the strict protocol of no shorts above the finger line. This is just arbitrary nonsense. Likewise, if the t-shirt has a pot leaf on it than proceed to make the request, but if the t-shirt has a well known rapper who raps about smoking weed than forget it. This is truthfully not your battle and if you make it your battle you are simply going to damage your character while making absolutely no impact on the student’s personal preference. You are simply the police officer who writes the ticket for driving five miles over the speed limit.

The ADHD Child

There are a variety of types of ADHD and it is not within the scope of this book to detail them. The most concise explanation of ADHD types can be found through the ADD in School website (, the website is a great tool for interventions within the classroom. Linked to their website are the different types of ADHD described as characters of the Winnie the Pooh

1. "Inattentive": Just like Winnie the Pooh

2. "Classic Hyperactive": Tiggers like to bounce...

3. "Over-Focused": Rabbit tends his garden

4. "With Anxiety": Piglet is nervous and worries...

5. "With Depression": Eeyore says, "Thanks for noticing me

Usually, the descriptions listed above characterize every classroom you ever taught and why some argue that descriptions like these lead to false conclusions and overmedication. Again, it is not within the scope of this book to comment. Thus, for this particular chapter you may call upon those you teach (or have taught) who truly standout under the fit of such descriptions. It is to these individuals that I offer some quick advice.

For the Really Hyper Child:

Our team had a student who was so hyper that we would randomly ask the student go for a run. Just run a few laps during lunch, study hall or even before school. We noticed it didn’t exactly work wonders but the student was no longer bound up with energy after their run (this strategy actually really works wonders on the sleepy student, when they come back in from a quick run they are refreshed). Such a strategy worked well, but we reserved it for those days when they had energy drinks for breakfast or their moms thought it to be a good idea to pack a couple sodas and five cookies for their lunch.

A more applicable strategy is to keep the student busy, even if that means engaging them in conversation and bringing them into the examples you use in class. The hardest part of the day for the overactive student is lecture, that is, the time of class where the students are supposed to listen attentively from their seats while their educator lectures. Such hyperactive students seem be distracted by any and everything that happens within the classroom. They also seem to take longer getting acclimated back to lecture when transitioning from activities. Therefore, seating is significantly more important than any other intervention for these students. You will need to study their behavior both within their groups and with the peers that surround them during class time. I tend to like the idea of have such students up front, both others disagree. You may also want to think about giving those individual errands that they perform like handing out papers or collecting homework. Finally, it may be useful to print out your lecture notes, or make copies of another students (if you have access to a scanner), and give it to the student at the end of class, thus freeing up the student from taking notes. The purpose of such an activity varies. Many overactive students release their bound up energy by doodling and thus you are taking out the doodle factor by giving them your notes. This may help some students get more out of your lecture by focusing strictly on listening. The problem can be that some doodling is actually healthy. I tend to doodle when note taking. Doodling frees up my mind with short intervals of distraction and helps me listen more attentively and alertly when my attention returns to the lecture.

The Inattentive Student

This student describes me while in school. I was a bright student that really just didn’t care about anything I was being taught. When thinking back, I’m not sure the educator could have done a lot (though the presumably could have done more) to teach me certain things. There was simply no way for them to make certain things fun or worthy of my attention. I was happy with C- and a few D’s and F’s in mostly every subject. It was 9th grade, while failing Earth Science, which I began flipping through my textbook looking for something to cure my boredom that I ran across a chapter on astronomy. I began reading a little a day during class and finished the chapter that week. So astounded by the chapter I began looking for more books in the library. Soon I began stealing books from the classroom and library on anything about astronomy. Later my love for astronomy would turn in to a love for science and finally for a love of learning. It’s hard for me to suggest what your inattentive student’s catalyst is, but it can be safe to say that no one else, including them, know either. Thus, I will first suggest a few things about helping them develop before we proceed to helping them become better students in your classroom.

Though you will never find the references to what I’m about to suggest to you in any education journal or for that matter hardly any book on education, I would suggest you Google “unschooling” for a refreshing approach to learning and motivating students and as importantly I would suggest you Google David Friedman’s thoughts on parenting (Freedomain Radio also has an excellent three part series on libertarian parenting). The premise you will find among the aforementioned readings is simply that individuals learn and retain more when they have choices about what it is they want to learn. Therefore, an aloof child who is apathetic toward school does not necessarily equate to apathy toward learning, they may simply not want to learn your lesson plans. Therefore, try to throw some other things at them. Bring in some magazines about sports cars or paintballing an let them take it home under the condition they bring it back the next day, ask them to paint you a picture of their favorite Hollywood character, or write a Christmas list if they had one million dollars. Switch it up a little bit. You can still require they do their school work like every other student, but help them find their hobbies through likes and dislikes. Once you find something they like, like drawing, find ways to parallel it to your lessons.

“You’re going to like this next lesson on right angles; you might be able to use it in your art”

Again, the point is to find a connection to something real and worthy of their time. Simply assuming that what you have to say is important, and it takes a break from self esteem to figure out that it probably doesn’t, or shaming them into learning is simply ineffective.

The over focused, anxious or depressed

These last categories of ADD are quite hard to plan for, since in some aspect they apply to your student’s everyday. Nothing is better for your students than an awesome relationship.