When students misbehavior, we have several options

I attended primary and secondary school in East London, South Africa. I remember receiving jacks (spanks) from teachers and administrators until Grade 10. Our biology teacher once spanked the entire class, one at a time, in her storage room. Strange.

After high school I moved to Texas for my undergraduate and graduate degrees in educational leadership. I worked in U.S. schools, public and private, low-income and upper-income, for eight years. I am currently working in an international school in Shanghai. 

Every time I visit South Africa, this question is posed, "How do you discipline students in America (and Asia)?" I probe a little more and often hear, "Students are out of control. What we need is some good 'ol corporal punishment."

Image credit: realityclarkcounty.com
Listed below are several practice-proven techniques I have used when dealing with misbehaving students. Remember that each child is an individual. What works for one child, may not work for another. Also, partnering and communicating with parents/guardians when students misbehave is crucial. Here is also a piece on school discipline, emphasizing the importance of a positive and productive relationship between a chronically misbehaving student and a teacher/s.

  • Practice academies. Used when students need to end a bad habit. Students essentially practice a positive habit in a very controlled environment. Practice academies work especially well with ADHD students.
  • Meaningful detentions. These are not for students to get a head start on homework or for non-behavior-changing-activities like writing lines. Students work on completing behavior reflection forms, writing essays addressing poor behavior and any ideas for improvement. After the detention, responses are discussed further and action plans developed.
  • Loss of privilege. See examples at the end of this post.
  • Individual behavior plan (IBP). A parent, teacher and the student collaboratively develop a plan that includes desired behaviors and expected outcomes. It can be as simple or complicated as desired or needed.
  • In-school suspension (ISS). One to three days where student works at school at a designated spot. Out-of-school suspension tends to have more disadvantages than advantages.
  • In-school alternative school program. Long-term, two to six week program. Students receive normal curriculum with instruction in a location that separates them from their regular classmates. I helped coordinate a program like this in a low-income Texas public school.
  • Expulsion. The absolute last resort, when all options have been exhausted.
  • Saturday morning work-around-the-school-grounds, supervised by a teacher or administrator. Teacher or administrator creatively design it as a win-lose situation. I usually read a favorite book as I supervise the student.
  • Homework club for children having trouble finishing homework. Long-term program for students to focus on work habits and study skills. After school, one to three nights a week for two to six weeks, depending on rate of student progress. Parent or guardian also attends and receives training on how to support child at home. 
  • Logical consequences. You break it, you fix it (or replace it). You make a mess (i.e., vandalism), you clean it up or organize repainting. You run in the hall, you walk back to the end of the hallway and re-walk it. "A student wastes class time talking to a friend, looking out the window, trying to avoid the task. He makes up the time at another point during the day” (educationworld.com). 
  • Academic seminars for cheating and plagiarism. After school session covering what cheating and plagiarism looks like (practical examples) and why it should be avoided. Small accountability quiz at end.
Questions? Send me a message on Twitter if you would like more information about any of the ideas mentioned above.

This is in no way an exhaustive list of discipline techniques. What other consequences or techniques have you found useful in schools?

Proudly South African,

    Wayne Russell
    Shanghai, China 
    Tweeting @rssll80


Loss of privilege examples from educationworld.com:

  • A student waves scissors around. She loses the use of the scissors for the remainder of the art period.
  • Two children talk instead of working. They have to sit by themselves.
  • A child rocks his chair or sits way back in his chair. He sits on the floor or stands for the remainder of the lesson or activity.
  • A student plays unsafely on an outdoor structure. She has to choose a different area of the playground to use during the rest of that recess.
  • A student speaks rudely to the teacher. The teacher refuses to listen to her until she changes her tone of voice.
  • A student rolls his eyes or calls out during a morning meeting. He has to leave the group.
  • A student fools around on line. She has to walk with the teacher.
  • A student logs on to an acceptable Web site while doing research. He loses computer time for the rest of the period (or week).
  • Students go to the bathroom to gossip about classmates. They lose the privilege of going to the bathroom together or without an adult for the next couple of days.