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. Following at least two other warnings (small consequences), catch the student’s eye, go to your desk, and sit down and begin to write a brief letter (five sentences or less) home:

“Dear [parent’s name]:

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. Following at least two other warnings (small consequences), catch the student’s eye, go to your desk, and sit down and begin to write a brief letter
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Today in class I have had to deal with [briefly describe the behavior].

I need your help.

If we work together now, we can prevent this from becoming a real prob- lem. I will call you tomorrow, at which time we can make a plan.

Thank you for your help.”

2. Sign the letter, and put it in an envelope.

3. Address the envelope, but don’t stamp it yet.

4. Take the letter and tape it to the student’s desk while privately letting him know it is a letter to his parents or guardians about his behavior in class:

“If I see no more of this behavior before the end of [the day or week] then, with my permission and in front of my eyes, you may tear up this letter and throw it away. If, however, I see any more of this behavior, I will send the letter home or hand deliver it. Do I make myself clear? For now, all I care about is getting some of this work done. Let’s see if we can keep life simple.” (pp. 316–317)

Consequence 9: Student Has to Account for the Behavior in Writing Many schools require students who have been sent to the administrator’s office to write an account of why they have been removed from class and sent there. The writing is not much of a nuisance for the student since he or she has noth- ing to do in the office anyway, and it gives the student a chance to make his or her side of the case. The writing is not such an aversive behavior. But when the writing has to take place in the student’s own classroom and be given to the teacher who saw the behavior and called it, that is a different matter. Some years ago, Viv Swoboda, then an eighth-grade teacher, used the writing accountability technique to quell a rising tide of off-task behaviors. Here it is in her own words:



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Because the class I have this year is particularly challenging and continu- ally testing the established limits, I have done a lot of thinking about logical consequences for inappropriate activities in school. I am very conscious of how much school time gets wasted dealing with inappropriate behaviors, and how some students continually draw the class and me away from the day’s lesson. I struggled with what would be appropriate logical conse- quences for the various class disruptions that I could consistently imple- ment without giving myself a lot of extra work in the process.

I decided that I would develop a form that a student would have to fill out each time they did something inappropriate in school. I asked the students to respond to five questions:

1. What was your inappropriate activity in school?

2. Why was your activity inappropriate for school?

3. What are the negative effects that your inappropriate actions have on others?

4. What consequences would keep you from doing this inappropriate activity in the future?

5. Why is it necessary to have rules in order for a school to function smoothly?

I would give the student the form after asking them to stop the inap- propriate activity. The form needs to be returned to me by 8:00 the fol- lowing morning. Students knew I recorded the inappropriate activity in a notebook, but I usually didn’t record it until after class because I try not to break the momentum any more than necessary.

In the beginning, there was a lot of complaining from the students ev- ery time I gave them a form to fill out. I had spent a lot of time talking about what I was doing and why and had asked for their suggestions for ways to eliminate the many inappropriate activities that happened during classes. I made a slide of the form, went over the form with each one of my classes, and explained why I had included each of the ques- tions. When it came time to use the form, I wasn’t going to discuss it and continue taking time away from the lesson. In the beginning, some of the students tried to engage me in a debate, but I simply gave them the form, reminded them I needed it back by 8:00 the following morning, and quickly tried to refocus the class on the lesson.



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After two days, the students realized that they weren’t going to draw me into a debate and that I was consistently going to ask any student who was doing something inappropriate to complete one of these forms. Ninety-nine percent of the students brought back the forms by the next morning. I had the one percent of students who didn’t return the form complete it during their ten-minute break that occurs during the middle of the morning. It was torture for those students to have to sit at their desks and complete this form rather than be able to socialize with their friends. They decided they would rather complete the form for homework than give up precious time with their peers.

The number of inappropriate activities in my class has diminished tremen- dously. Before I started using these forms, there may have been twelve times a day that I might have spoken to students about doing something that was inappropriate in class. When I first started using the form, I would give out about six forms a day. Now I may pass out one form in three days.

I learned that my students really could control their inappropriate actions in school. This form really isn’t a terrible punishment, but it is enough of an annoyance that it encourages most of my students to think before they do inappropriate things in class. This system has worked for me because it doesn’t require a lot of my time. I keep the forms in a folder on my desk that I can reach easily, so I keep the break in the class’s momentum to a minimum. Students asked what I was going to do with these forms. I told them it depended on whether the inappropriate actions stopped.

Some students didn’t want their parents or school administrators to be- come involved, and these forms were a clear record of who was disrupt- ing the class. After the students all saw the form, they felt there should be a question asking why they did what they did. They felt it was important for me to have that information. I will include that question on a revised form.

Consequence 10: Time-Out in the Classroom Time-out is an elementary technique not usually suitable in secondary school. It is often a feature in behavior modification programs and thus is unpopular with educators who prefer more child-centered approaches. However, Ruth Charney (2002), one of the most humanistic and child-centered educators in the United States, devotes an entire chapter in Teaching Children to Care to implementing time-out. We recommend her version.



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Marty is jostling Kintara for the second time in the back row of the rug area where classroom meeting has just started. “Marty, time-out.”

Marty gets up from her seat and goes to the time-out chair, located in a visible (not central) area of the classroom. She sits for five minutes or until she receives a gesture from her teacher to return to her group. Signaled by her teacher’s nod, Marty quietly returns to her place. There has been no explanation, no discussion. The unstated message is: “You know the rules. You know you are disturbing the meeting. You will be able to recover your controls and return as a member of the group.” Later, the teacher will check in to make sure that Marty does understand why she was sent to time-out. (p. 168)

Charney (2002) makes a point of introducing the procedure of time-out to the children carefully and completely. “It’s a way that grownups help children get back in control. Children can also teach themselves to get back their controls and remember their rules. I stress that time-out is a job; it is work to recover your controls.” Note the careful way Charney (2002) frames time-out:

Everyone forgets their controls sometimes and everyone forgets the rules sometimes. Children forget the rules, so do teachers and parents. Our rules make it safe and good for everyone in school: not just me, not just one or two other people—everyone. So it’s very important that we respect the rules and use them. When we do forget or choose not to use a rule, we need to remember. We need a time-out. Time-out is a chance to recover the rules so we can keep our classroom safe and good and to gather our own controls. Then we are ready to come back and join the group.

The key to using a time-out effectively is to pay attention to the small disruptions [see the echo of this principle in Fred Jones], the minor in- fractions and misbehaviors. We take action before the lesson is in ruins, before self-controls—the student’s and our own—deteriorate. When we wait for things to get worse, we are rarely disappointed.

We don’t allow the minor drumming on the desk to reach a crescendo. The nagging and nuisance behavior does not go on until finally all our “buttons” are pushed. The background whispers and snide teasing are not ignored until fists fly and tears pour. (p. 173)

A pattern of casual “shut-ups” is not allowed to grow into one of constant insults. Noah may not call Mark “Fatty,” even if he claims he’s joking. Kevin may not use his superior size to push others aside, take a pencil



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or reserve first place in line. The group lesson might be stalled if I say, “Martin, the blackboard is this way!” for the fiftieth time between clenched teeth instead of saying, “Martin, time-out.” The small sideshows will not devastate the lesson or the temper of the teacher. But, unless they are confronted, these “small disturbances” add up to constant noise and in- terruptions which drain and divert the best intentions. Often they are the very things we pretend not to notice.

Alex regularly careens around the room—his idea of walking is full speed ahead. He’s a large boy, and he frequently bumps into the furniture, other children, and even largish teachers. He’s quick to say “sorry” and express genuine regret, but if he slowed down he would hardly crash at all and no one would get hurt. Why make a fuss? He’s only ten—he can’t help it. But the fact is he can help it. He can move slowly and with planning—or not move at all.

It is important that children understand that they can help it. Minor distur- bances are within their control. (p. 175)

In the immediate enforcement of time-out, lengthy verbal explanations and negotiations are strictly avoided. Imagine if instead of the directive, “Time-out,” the teacher had said, “Donny you need to go to time-out, because you are rolling a ball and not listening to Christie.” Would Donny, now the center of attention, be more apt to agree or argue, “I was so lis- tening . . .” An argument might lead next to a confrontation, and Christie’s sharing would quickly take second place to the duel between teacher and student.

If the teacher had just reached over and taken the ball from Donny, called his name or nudged him gently back into the activity, with no mention of time-out, wouldn’t that be as effective and easier? Not likely. Too many reminders (more than one) allow small disturbances to keep erupting like popcorn—one after another—and keep taking the attention of the teacher and group. Time-out sends the message that you are truly expected to follow the rules. (p. 178)

At the right moment—after a time-out—explanation and discussion help students construct meaning and take responsibility. At the wrong time— while a rule is being enforced—discussion stimulates evasion. (p. 180)

We recommend readers read Charney’s (2002) entire chapter (and book, for that matter) to get the full flavor of this decisive yet humanistic version of time-out.



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Consequence 11: Time-Out in a Colleague’s Room Time-out in a colleague’s room was first written about, to our knowledge, by Seymour Sarason in 1971. It was intended for elementary grades. With modi- fications, we have used it successfully in high schools as well, including inner- city high schools. Here is Sarason (1996) describing the version for young chil- dren (see Exhibit 10.3 for a summary):

Relationship building techniques for influencing the unmanageable child are indispensable to involving him constructively in the classroom, but they are usually insufficient to produce the dramatic suppression of hostile defi- ance that is necessary if he is to be allowed by the principal to remain in school. For the child’s own welfare, therefore, it is necessary to work out with the teacher influence techniques that effectively suppress the child’s defiant outbursts almost at once, unless teacher and psychologist feel that he would profit from a brief exclusion from school. The use of exclusion from school as an initial influence technique, however, is usually not nearly so effective with the defiant child as other measures. One of three tech- niques for suppressing defiant outbursts is implemented along with the relationship building techniques in the case of each unmanageable child.

Exhibit 10.3 How Time-Out in a Colleague’s Classroom Works

Adapted from Sarason (1996) pp.165-167.

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