Student disrupts your classroom, you warn student not to do that, student disrupts again, you send student out of your classroom to either another teacher's room or the office, after school is over, you call student's parents to let them know their child was being an unmitigated ass.
There have been days where I have spent two hours after school making phone call after phone call. Meanwhile, I pictured in my mind all those misbehaving students having a good ol' time at home while I was sitting in my classroom, away from my family, making phone calls. Over this Christmas Break just passed, I read something that gave me a revelation - why not have the student talk to his parents instead of me? The book from whence the idea came was Setting Limits in the Classroom by Rob Mackenzie, Ed.D. What Dr. Mackenzie suggests is that if you have to send a student out of the room, you send out that student with a pre-printed form letter that says the following:
From the Classroom of Mr. Chanman
Room ##, Unnamed Middle School
Dear Parent or Guardian,
This is to inform you that________________________________
was sent out of class today, and missed ___________ minutes of class
time because he or she continued to disrupt the class after repeatedly
being instructed to stop. The problem was handled at school, and
no further assistance from you is required at this time. However, too
many of these notices may indicate that your assistance may be
required in the future.
Please indicate that you received this notice by signing and
returning it with your child tomorrow. If you have any questions or
concerns please do not hesitate to contact me by email:
firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone: (916) ###-####.
Social Studies Teacher
Parent/Guardian Name (Please Print)
This is the exact letter (minus my redacted personal info) that I have given out this week on 12 different occasions, and I have gotten 11 letters back to me, signed by a parent. The difference in overall behavior in my classroom has been nothing short of remarkable. The first thing I noticed is that every single one of my letters has been given out in my after-lunch classes, and the 12 letters have been distributed among 7 different students. One of my 8th period frequent flyers has already received three of those letters! As I forewarn in the letter, that student is now becoming eligible for a phone call home and a possible parent conference being arranged. In the meantime, right there were three different phone calls I didn't have to make regarding that student, and in the four days of the school week that I handed out these letters, I left work on time because I didn't have to make a single phone call, except for two doubting parents who wrote on the letter that they would like a call back for more information. In both cases, it turned out that their kid had fed them a line of bullsqueeze about why they got in trouble, and I easily and pleasantly straightened out any confusion the parent may have had.
I think what made this letter work so well is that it took the responsibility for the students' actions out of my hands and put it into theirs. They would have to go home and face their parents; they would have to hand them that letter and explain why they received it; I wouldn't even be part of the equation. With the old method, even if the kid got a talking-to after the parent got off the phone with me, that just doesn't quite seem have the same impact when the parents are softened up by me first before dealing with their disruptive offspring.
For all I know, maybe I'm being a bit too optimistic; next week could be a disaster, and the letter could end up having as little impact as the traditional phone call home that I have used up until last week. Either way, I will definitely keep you all updated.
Good Day to You, Sir