Ready For Whatever

I'm doing part of Joel's Total Teacher Transformation series at So You Want To Teach? and the assignment for today is to Be Prepared. Joel gives a list of hypotheticals and asks you to plan out your response.

"There’s no right or wrong answer here. But having a plan gives you so much more
confidence when this type of situation arises. After you plan through some of
these things and begin to actually see them happen, your reactions to unplanned
events will fall much more in line with how you had planned for different
circumstances. Planning is the key. -Joel"

Today’s assignment
Plan how you will respond in the following situations: (I'm going to be so truthful it hurts.)

1. A student chews gum or willfully violates some other clearly stated school policy.

Hopefully I will have given the students a warning at the beginning of the year and after that, it's free game. If they willfully violate, then I willfully write a referral. If it's a disruption to the class, I send them to the office and then write the referral.

2. When a student’s misbehavior is brought to his/her attention, the response is ambivalent at best ("So what?") and insubordinate at worst ("No way!")

I would take this time to point out a few prime examples of that exact misbehavior.

3. Two students get into an argument that escalates (or almost does) to the point of name-calling or violence.

I step in and tell them both to calm down before I have to write both of them up. Or send one student in the hallway to dispel (ha ha) the disruption and write a referral for both of them at the end of class.

4. A student confides in you that another one is picking on him. One day in class, you observe it happening.

Again, step in and advise the bully to watch their language, not call names or make fun of others, etc. That serves as the warning. I would then talk to the student to see if this is happening in other classes. If so, I'd let other teachers know to be on the lookout for this behavior and watch to see if it escalates. I think if I don't allow anyone in class to pick on anyone else, then the student knows they have at least one safe place.

5. You have a student who is repeatedly tardy to class.

Our school's policy is after two tardies, you get after-school detention. That deters a lot of it. If it persists, I would talk to the student and see if there was a situation we needed to handle (move their locker, keep their supplies in the classroom, late getting to school, etc). Other than that, the administration pretty much handles this issue.

6. A paper airplane is thrown across the room, but you didn’t see who did it and nobody else is willing to tell you.

This wouldn't bother me so I would ignore it and leave it on the floor until class is over. I'd just pick it up and throw it away. It's not an issue unless I make it one. (I'm responsible for what goes on in my class!) I don't want to waste class time interrogating the students about something they won't admit anyway.

7. As you are sitting down, a student makes a “fart noise” with his mouth; the entire class begin uncontrolably giggling for minutes.

I would probably say excuse me in a dead pan and go on with my business. I'd make some kind of joke out of it. I like to have a good laugh- but I want to keep it under control.

8. A student loudly and clearly uses profanity; everyone hears it.

This is my pet peeve and students will definitely know this rule at the very beginning. I would probably say "Language!" in a stern tone and then write a referral after class. I have no tolerance for ignorance.

9. You are walking down the hallway and see two students making out.

Truthfully, I would probably say, "You do know I can see you, right?" followed by "And that will be a write up." Continue walking and write the referral. (Not at the same time as walking though)

10. A parent interrupts your class and begins asking you questions about his/her child.

Just randomly a parent shows up? That's definitely unexpected. Um....I would step out in the hall and ask the student if there was another time we could meet or talk. Or I would try to exchange e-mails or phone numbers. I guess if it was anemegency I would try to quickly address the issue. Luckily, the office handles visitors so I think they would make arrangements for the parent to see me or for someone to cover my class so we could speak.

So that was interesting! Feel free to constructively criticize these reponses or give some better suggestions. Or feel free to respond yourself in the comments. And don't forget to go and join TTT too!


  1. I've been browsing some blogs recently and chanced upon yours. I'm a 2nd year math teacher in Oakland, CA.

    Here are my thoughts on the questions (and your responses). This is definately a reflection of what I want to do, not what I am currently able to do.

    1. The best thing here is you want a consequence for every misbehavior. And stay on top of it from the very beginning. If it slides once, three more people will be doing it next time. (p.s. I'm not sure if a referal for chewing gum is appropriate, and you will quickly lose track of who has gotten warnings unless you keep discipline logs, which isn't out of the question.)

    2. A discipline log would be good to back up your position, but I don't think that its the time or the place to engage the student in a discussion. (usually the student knows exactly what they're doing wrong anyway) If you are trying to perform a correction, give the student a direct instruction right after calling their attention to the behavior: "do problem #3 on the board." "pass these papers out."

    Don't worry about their retorts when you call their attention to misbehavior. You call it, you give them a direction, then you move on. If they don't straighten up then you can go on to the next consequence, or write a referal.

    3. Give each student a clear direct instruction. This is one of the times to be concerned with equity, in my opinion. The students may respond better to you if they feel you're reprimanding both equally. Use their names when you talk to them. Depending on the severity of the argument, call security.

    4. Don't do this intervention in class. The bullying can increase if the bully feels the victim has ratted him/her out. Pull the bully aside at the end of the next class. Explain the expected behavior, explain that you will be writing a referal if you observe any future incidents.

    5. This is a major problem at my school. Just today I had 5 people on time in my first period class. 5 out of 28. I did not set out clear consequences for tardies at the beginning of the year and this is what happens. Now, our administration is very weak on tardies also. There are kids wandering the halls at all hours of the day.

    I agree that you want to talk with the student about strategies to fix the problem.

    I need to talk with the administration about what kind of consequences I can give for tardies.

    6. You're right, they wont admit it. But they'll probably do it again. A paper airplane is a little outdated though. How about that high-pitched cell phone ring? Its very hard to tell where its coming from. I had someone (never found out who) trigger that sound every now and then in my class. This type of behavior is probably best handled with proper engagement. Have backup assignments, have those stupid joke-worksheets, have a geometric art thing ready.

    7. That might be more of a middle school event. I don't see it happening where I am (but maybe I'll be surprised!) Also, I don't sit down a lot though.

    8. Another weak point at my school. The swearing is like an ocean that we are all drenched in daily. The hallways are just filled with high volume cuss words / racial slurs. Don't get me wrong, its not a war zone, the kids are just joking around. That's how they do it. During classes its better. Students know most teachers expect proper language.

    My advice would be, again, to have a clear consequence chain. A referal for every swearing incident at my school would be result in dozens per day. At the beginning of the year, lay out smaller consequences first.

    9. Sarcasm has its uses, but I personally find it doesn't work on kids who don't know you. Also if you are culturally different than your students, I'd especially advise against it. It can be hard for kids to figure you out as it is, no need to make it harder.

    Also is making out directly against school policy? I mean, I'd get em for cutting class, but if its on their own time... I think I'd ignore it.

  2. 10. Have a business card ready with your contact info (non personal contact info) and your available times to meet. You can quickly hand them the card and go on with your lesson.


    The two biggest things I've learned are:
    A) Say what you're going to do, and then do it. This is a overarching them that applies to things like having rules posted, and *consequences* posted.

    B) Don't discuss behavior with the kid in class. Arrange a one on one meeting with the kid and it will do a lot of things for you:
    1) the kid will be more responsive
    2) the kid wont be playing to the crowd
    3) the crowd wont be egging either of you on
    4) it doesn't take away from class time

    And like I said earlier, the kid knows he misbehaved. He knew before you told him, too ;)

    Good luck out there