What is a "tough case?" In the context of classroom discipline, a tough case is a student who simply does not respond well to what I would call "normal" classroom behavior management or discipline measures. This student often becomes a continuing distraction to his own education and the education of the other students in the room.
During your teaching career, you will encounter a handful of children who display:
"Trouble? I'm no trouble!"
There is a thread of aggressiveness that runs through the items listed above, and in my experience, it is most common at the elementary level to find these problems manifested in boys, although it is not exactly uncommon to find a girl with some of these issues.
I'm not anti-boy...after all, I'm the mother of two boys! But I believe that my observation is valid, though when it comes to classroom discipline and addressing the behavior, the gender of the child doesn't matter.
It is very common for a child of either gender to display:
It is misleading and irresponsible for any classroom discipline program to assert that every single child will respond if you just implement the program perfectly. Why? Because there are too many variables that you do not control.
Make no mistake: You exert a huge influence for the six hours per day that you have the kids - my entire approach to teaching, as outlined on this website, is predicated on the belief that effective teachers have the power to tremendously influence kids. And yet, I have learned that even my best efforts cannot totally overcome the effects of:
Let me make this totally clear, with no mistake: There is NO excuse for a teacher to give up on a child, any child, at any time for any reason. None.
At the same time, I firmly believe that a teacher must be the rigorous guardian of my favorite discipline in the classroom rule, the one that states that every child must:
Respect the learning and safety of all
We never sacrifice the learning of other students, but we never give up trying to help the one student.
This can be hard, hard, hard...the hardest thing that you deal with as a teacher. Physically draining. Emotionally draining. Draining in a way that other people simply cannot comprehend.
"Monday? Are you sure
it's not Friday?
How do you think most people would feel if they had to go to work and sit next to a person who regularly came into their cubicle to swear at them, pinch them, take their pens, mess up their computer and even lie on their floor refusing to move? Exhausted, that's how.
But this is your job, and when you sign your teaching contract, you are accepting the challenge to teach all kids, no matter what.
This series of "tough cases" articles is about impacting all the children described above, up to and including - in extreme cases - permanent removal from the school. There is no single approach that will work for every kid, but these articles are presented in the order in which you will normally proceed.
You'll find that my approach includes several key elements:
Hard, yes...but it can and must be done. Effective classroom discipline demands nothing less. And believe me, in 99% of these cases, you will positively impact the student to some degree. Perhaps not the degree that you wish, but if you follow the information presented here, you will have a significant impact on a child who desperately needs you.
Click above to like this page. Click top-left button to like entire site. Comment below!
Classroom Management & Discipline: Tough Cases
Investigating causes of extreme behavior
Positive Parent-Teacher Communication
Involving reluctant parents in tough cases
Foundations for Successful Discipline
in the Classroom
Tough cases: case studies illustrate individualized approaches
Classroom Discipline SOS - Part 1
Tough cases: outright defiance
Classroom Discipline SOS - Part 2
Tough cases: removal from the classroom - part 2
ALL Effective Classroom Discipline Articles
Go to the full listing of all effective classroom discipline articles