Teachers often struggle with how to best approach discipline and consequences in the middle school classroom. Middle school students are no longer small children, yet they typically lack the attention span and focus of high school students. As a result, it is important to have a consistent set of classroom rules and consequences that is used on a daily basis. A delicate balance between authority and flexibility is also helpful for adolescents seeking independence from the adults around them.
Class Code of Conduct
In the beginning of the year, allowing middle school students to create a code of conduct is a wonderful way to engage students in classroom discipline and consequences. Students are more likely to become invested in a set of rules if they are actively involved in creating those guidelines. Teachers should lead their students in creating a code of conduct so that consequences are appropriate and clear. Post the class code of conduct in the room where it can be referred to regularly.
Consistent Classroom Management
Once a code of conduct is created, the teacher is responsible for being consistent with the rules and consequences. Middle school students are observant and very much aware of when an adult is inconsistent or unfair. Be consistent when students lose focus. First, redirect negative behavior by using nonverbal cues. If a conversation is necessary, speak with the student quickly to avoid distracting other students from learning. Try to avoid sending a student out of the classroom as she will lose learning time. Tackling small attention and behavior issues immediately will prevent the entire class from losing focus.
Communicate with Parents
Communicating with parents can lead to an improvement in student behavior and academic record. Communication does not always need to occur by means of a phone call. Writing an email home or jotting down a message in a student’s agenda book is a quick and efficient way to reach a parent if a full conversation is not needed. In addition, communication with a parent should be positive before it is negative. Teachers should work to build trust with parents of middle school students by offering constructive feedback about their students. When a behavior or academic issue occurs in the classroom, parents and teachers ideally will already have a rapport with one another.
Administrative involvement with individual students should be the last resort for students who misbehave in the middle school classroom. Although sometimes necessary, sending a student to the principal will often lead to detention, and in some cases, suspension or expulsion. Administrative involvement is appropriate when students are violent or serious disrespect occurs. Students should also be sent to an administrator when cases of academic dishonesty occur.
- Creatas Images/Creatas/Getty Images