Classroom discipline often must extend beyond the classroom and involve the building administration. As noted in the series of articles regarding holding children accountable, you decide when a classroom behavior management situation needs escalation.
When I use the word "escalation," I am broadly referring to the involvement of any other adults in the classroom behavior management of a student - parents, principal, assistant principal, counselor, etc. These are also know as classroom interventions. When applicable, I will refer to specific resources (e.g. when to involve the school district psychologist) in certain sections.
There comes a time when a student's behavior simply needs to be dealt with outside of the classroom. You are only one person and must meet the needs of all 20+ kids in your classroom. When a classroom discipline situation with one child is consuming or will consume too much valuable instructional time, you need to call in the next level.
Remember this about classroom behavior management: The remaining students are equally deserving of your time!
They all need your attention
This does not just include a student's steadfast refusal to follow your guidance as outlined in the classroom management resources pages; it can include situations where the parents must get involved, or where suspension is indicated, and these scenarios require additional assistance.
But escalation should never become a crutch. Classroom behavior management and your classroom discipline plan are primarily a teacher's responsibility. Don't fall into the habit of sending kids to the office just because they are not being perfect angels. Use the escalation option judiciously.
Here are the four main areas where escalation to either the administration and/or the parents is called for:
This is grounds for immediate escalation and can include:
That's quite a list, isn't it? Let me explain a few of those. Weapons include anything intended to cause harm; this means the sharpened ruler or the straightened paper clip sticking out of an eraser counts.
Contraband is anything that the student is simply not supposed to have in his possession, such as electronic devices, cell phones or toys. (Your building will most likely spell them out in its policy.) Note, I said significant contraband...you can handle chewing gum on your own.
These classroom discipline issues require classroom interventions and escalation, but not necessarily to the office for discipline. However, if the situation is significant enough right now and the child really shouldn't be in the classroom, then removal is called for and the office is the first stop. You'll find yourself working with the school counselor or district psychologist on these issues.
Harm to self is not as common as harm to others, but just as serious – a student is getting hurt. Examples I have experienced run the spectrum from kids who pick at their skin until bleeding to an attempted self-strangulation with a jump rope at recess. The student is not in trouble for this behavior, but you need help in addressing it and therefore it must be escalated.
Self-stimulation is also not common, but can occur. Look for manual rubbing, or pressing against hard surfaces (desk edges) in both boys and girls.
Hygiene issues can become a strong impetus for other students to make fun and must be dealt with discreetly, keeping in mind that the child may not have easy access to hygiene facilities at home due to family size or living situation (such as a homeless shelter).
No teacher is required to work in an unsafe environment; discipline in the classroom suffers if the teacher is suffering, but this bears further discussion.
It is one thing to be threatened by a 6-foot tall high school sophomore, quite another thing to be threatened by a 4-foot tall third-grader. But the intent of the threat is the same, and if it goes unaddressed, the third-grader will eventually become a sophomore who feels that he can get away with threatening teachers.
I have had a fourth-grade student threaten to kill me. I had some level of concern since he came from a home environment that was involved in the gang culture. I treated the threat as real, if not exactly realistic, and escalated the issue appropriately to my administration (which unfortunately didn't want the event to carry any real disciplinary consequences...but that's another story).
The chronic disruptions are discussed on the "tough cases" pages - see the listing of discipline article below.
Any kid, however, can have a day when she becomes a storm cloud of some sort, and sometimes every classroom management strategy you try just doesn't get the behavior under control and every other kid in the class begins to suffer - either from outright distraction or from lack of attention from the teacher.
Sometimes the teacher just needs a respite, even if the classroom behavior is not severe. But here is where some teachers cross the line and begin to use the office as a crutch for classroom behavior management.
If you think you might need to make a distinct impression on a student for being disruptive, talk to your principal in advance to let her know that you need some "shock and awe" to make a real classroom discipline point. Let the principal know that you are talking about a specific case and not just anyone who tires you out.
If this type of escalation must be repeated more than twice, then you have a "tough case" on your hands and need to deal with it accordingly; classroom discipline demands that you dig in and address the situation thoughtfully and thoroughly.
Click above to like this page. Click top-left button to like entire site. Comment below!
Classroom Discipline - Involving the Office
Working effectively with your principal and support staff
Part 1: Parent-Teacher Communication and Positive Classroom Discipline
Relationship-building with parents
Part 2: Parent-Teacher Communication and Positive Classroom Discipline
Constructive approaches to presenting feedback
ALL Effective Classroom Discipline Articles
Go to the full listing of all effective classroom discipline articles