Friday, March 14, 2014

Year 4: Week 25 – Kicking Kids Out Of Class

The longer I teach, the more comfortable I feel disciplining students. Once upon a time having a talk with a student after they misbehaved made me really nervous. Now, I look forward to these talks.

When a student needs to be disciplined, my brain goes through the many different ways that I could do this and I try to pick the approach that would be the least disruptive to the classroom and the most effective. There’s giving the “teacher look,” a student could loose his or her turn on an instrument, I could snap at them or I could ignore them depending on what they do. The one action that I hesitate the most with and I feel the least comfortable with is kicking a student out of class.

I rarely kick students out of class. There’s no way to do this that will not disrupt the flow of class, but usually the action that has led to this consequence is so disruptive, I guess that’s not really an issue. Also, there’s the issue of where the kid will go once they are kicked out. There’s a lot to consider with this consequence.

I don’t think that kicking kids out of class really motivates the student being punished to behave that much better. Often students who are being disruptive are doing so, because they don’t want to be in class. So in some ways you are giving them exactly what they want.

There are other things at play when you discipline a student besides how it will benefit the student being punished. Most students learn the limits of what is acceptable behavior in class partially from watching other students being punished. When we give a student a consequence, it’s letting other students know our standards. It’s one thing to talk about respecting each other, but students really have to see what happens when respect is not expressed to understand that your words hold meaning.

Beyond being a public consequence that others students can learn from, kicking a student out of class allows the remaining students to learn. The tipping point for me that makes me consider removing a student from class is when they get to the point that they are significantly taking away from the learning experience of other students.

I’m not going to kick a kid out who’s not working in class, or even a student who very quietly is having off topic conversations. I’m not going to kick a student out of class who gets in a heated argument with another students and I’m not going to kick a student out who accidently makes a racist comment. If a student doesn’t want to learn and is being quiet, I’ll keep them in and if it’s only one or two outbursts, that’s fine.

You may think a racist comment warrants being kicked out, but for me I’d pivot that into a teachable moment that the students who made the comment needs to be a part of.

I hesitate to kick students out because it means that they will miss class time, which means that they will be more confused and lost in future classes that could lead to worse behavior.

When I pull the trigger and I kick a student out, I’m making a public statement that the other students’ learning is more important than that individual’s growth. Yes, maybe that student has surrendered their opportunity to learn by being so disruptive that I had to get to this point. That’s one way to rationalize it, but it doesn’t make me feel any better about having to take such a harsh action.

After kicking students out, I’ve seen improvement in behavior while others fall into a pattern of bad behavior and start to be removed from class regularly. The latter always makes me sad but sometimes it’s just what needs to happen.

When I talk to students who I’ve kicked out after class some of them say the right things, others don’t. Like every consequence, it works better or worse depending on the student. My struggle is more how I feel about it.

I really don’t like getting to that point with a student. It feels like giving up, but the reality is that I only have so many minutes in a day and I have a lot of students. One disruptive student cannot monopolize my time and attention. The student who is doing everything right deserves as much attention as the student who isn’t.

Part of my motivation to work hard to create relationships with students is so I don’t have to get to this point with my students. If spending extra time hanging out with them before school and during lunch means I don’t have to kick as many kids out of class, than the extra effort in getting to know them is really worth it.

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