Positive Classroom Management Series

Positive Classroom Discipline

Chapter 17 - School-Site Discipline Management Procedures (page 2)

Halls and Lavatories

School-site discipline management procedures in the halls and lavatories are related issues which focus on passing between classes in a departmentalized setting. Although many highly specific procedures may be instituted at any given school site, the following general guidelines convey the tone and nature of effective supervision.

 

Monitoring the Halls Monitoring the halls is a classic example of management by walking around-the administrative equivalent of limit-setting on the wing. Halls need to be monitored at all times, and all administrators and teachers need to help. The following policies give a rough outline of a successful management procedure.

 

  1. Two teachers are on hall duty during every period.

  2. Administrators are in the halls frequently, ready to deal with whatever they find (see Chapter 16).

  3. Additional teachers and administrators are in the hall while students are passing between classes.

  4. No student is in the hall without a pass during class periods.

  5. Hall passes are written so that they are not easy to issue (a response-cost management system for issuing hall passes).

  6. Teachers keep a log of hall passes in each class (including the time of going and returning) as a check against abuse of the hall pass privilege (if there is such a thing as hall passes at the school site).

 

Monitoring the Lavatories As the member of the theater troupe was well aware, lavatories provide a most sensitive indicator of who runs the school building. If adults stay out of the lavatory, it belongs to the students. If it belongs to the students, then the lavatory is the logical place to smoke, deface property, deal drugs, have fights, and get outrageous. Perhaps as important, a lack of adult supervision establishes the precedent by default that students can do what they please on school property regardless of what the rules say. The following guidelines are designed to make the lavatory a part of the school that is managed just as any other part:

 

  1. Faculty members on hall duty spot-check each lavatory repeatedly during each class period as do administrators who are out and about.

  2. Faculty members have specific assignments for monitoring lavatories during breaks.

 

The objective of supervision of the lavatories, like all management of large group gatherings outside class, is to provide an adult presence in a systematic and predictable fashion to make students accountable for their behaviors. The goal is to keep the "bad ass" 5 percent of the student body from pulling the "turkey" 15 percent into taking over the place. The vast majority of the student body will be most grateful for the faculty assuming its proper leadership role since it is no fun to be intimidated as the price of going to the bathroom.

 

Managing Behavior in the Cafeteria

At the secondary level management of behavior in the cafeteria is, for the most part, a variation on the theme of management by walking around, monitoring by moving continuously among the students, conversing with them comfortably and keeping an eye on things. As always, the key ingredient is the presence of an adult for purposes of accountability within a pleasant context.

 

The open seating and free conversation of the cafeteria make a "hang loose" attitude among adults most appropriate. Diplomacy is the key as opposed to an authoritarian attitude. Effective cafeteria monitors typically know the students by name, engage in informal conversation and kidding with them, are regarded by the students as a friend, and deal with minor problems through physical proximity and simple prompts which are often nonverbal. In the case of a confrontation, if monitors can simply remember the golden rule of limit-setting (when in doubt do nothing), and if they relax, shut up, retain eye contact, and simply wait after having given a prompt, the student will usually fold rather than continue the incident.

 

Supervision of the cafeteria at the elementary level follows the same principles as at the secondary level with the exception that it has a larger element of instruction concerning appropriate cafeteria behavior-especially in the primary grades. Thus, teachers typically accompany their young students to the cafeteria and eat with them.

 

Many teachers find this notion of eating with their students a noxious intrusion into their free lunch period, but there is no quick, easy, and effortless way to train students to use good manners and clean up after themselves. If the teachers pay their dues up front, however, by carefully supervising lunchroom behavior early in the school year, the ratio of monitors to students can be thinned as good eating habits and good cleanup habits become established. Lunchroom monitors hired from the community can be gradually substituted for the teacher's supervision in many cases so that the teachers can eventually have their free lunch period.

 

The efforts of the faculty in behavior management in the cafeteria must be matched by the administration, particularly at the elementary level. The one major correlate that I find between a trouble-free cafeteria and administrator behavior as I travel is that the principal is present in the cafeteria. Many principals will throw up their hands in revulsion on first hearing this news, but these are the same principals who describe their cafeteria as a zoo - as though the situation were both natural and irremediable. In well-managed cafeterias the principal typically talks with the students as they enter, kidding them and conversing with them by name, and walks among the tables during lunch giving praise and gentle reminders.

 

An active administrator role during the lunch period pays dividends not only with the student body but with the faculty as well. Help by the administrator in cafeteria supervision helps free teachers from cafeteria monitoring so that they can have their free lunch period earlier in the school year. In this way the principal is seen as paying his or her dues with a direct benefit to the faculty for which the teachers are usually quite grateful.

 

Supervision of the Yard and/or Playground

At both the secondary and elementary levels most fights take place on the playground as does most intimidation, extortion, and other assorted maladies. As in the supervision of all other large group settings, the main tool still seems to be responsible adult supervision and management by walking around. The administrators, in particular, pay their dues by supervising the yard or quad at the junior high or high school, but their efforts need to be supplemented by teachers who have specific supervisory assignments.

 

The behavior of the yard supervisors should be low key as it is in the cafeteria, with a maximal use of body and a minimal use of mouth for dealing with unpleasant situations. As in any form of supervision, accountability is the key objective and, consequently, knowing the students by name is critical. For this reason alone, the hiring of outside personnel for supervisory duties can help only up to a point. It does little good, for example, to hear from a playground monitor at an elementary school:

 

Some big kid from the fourth or fifth grade punched out one of the little kids and took his ball. I don't know who it was, but he had sandy brown hair.

 

If the playground supervisors know the students by name, however, so that strict accountability for inappropriate behavior is a possibility, then management can often be a simple extension of the homeroom teacher's responsibility training program (see Chapter 10). The playground supervisor may wish to "bench" the student temporarily, but a note routed promptly to the teacher after recess can be translated into a loss of PAT which encourages the peer group to set limits on their own behavior during play.

 

A more difficult problem at the secondary level on some campuses is verbal abuse, verbal threat, and physical threat to faculty who attempt to intervene in an unacceptable situation. Teachers who have not been trained in the skills of limit-setting will tend to be confrontational when dealing with outrageous behavior. They may as well wear a sign on their back that says, "I'm a jerk," or "Crucify me."

 

"Kid, what's your name!"

"George Washington."

 

"Oh, yeah? Listen, you can't talk to me that way!"

 

"I just did."

 

It is downhill from there, and the macho teacher is probably in for more abuse if he continues to up the ante with pheasant posturing. Often a heavy-handed teacher turns a relatively innocuous situation into a painful if not dangerous one. Usually physical proximity, relaxation, a respectful prompt, eye contact, and closed mouth will produce the desired result. If, however, a student should threaten the adult, the faculty member or administrator must make a tactical decision. Is it a bluff or is this for real? Am I in physical danger? Usually the cardinal rule of "when in doubt do nothing" will provide the best rule for action in the heat of the moment-or inaction as the case might be. Should the situation become dangerous, the adult simply excuses him- or herself respectfully and leaves peaceably. It is time to get help.

 

PLANS, PRIORITIES, AND LOGISTICS

Cohesiveness and Commitment

Many attempts to manage behavior fail owing to the simple lack of a plan. An all-school assembly with open seating is a classic example of a large group gathering without a plan of management. It therefore becomes mismanagement by non-management. The absence of continual supervision of the lavatories and halls is another common example. Unless there is a specific, highly detailed plan with well-understood assignments for all administrators and faculty members, there is no reason to expect a large gathering of young people to be anything but a picnic.

 

Quite often a faculty's first experience with a well-planned group activity comes as something of a revelation. As one teacher commented to me regarding the school fire drill:

 

Our fire drills were always the same, a mass of confusion. The kids would be told how to walk through the halls and where to meet outside the buildings. But when the bell rang, we always ended up with the whole student body milling around on the playground. Following training I decided, as you had suggested, to treat the fire drill as I would any other structured lesson with explanation, modeling, and practice. I took my students through a dry run complete with the verbal commands that I would be giving, walking through the halls properly, finding the place where we are to line up outdoors, and reentering the building. Sure enough, when we had the fire drill, it all went according to plan. It was embarrassingly straightforward. Students weren't unruly at all once they knew exactly what to do, especially with me being there the whole time.

 

Yet the notion of a plan carries with it the notion of faculty commitment to carrying out the plan. It must be an important faculty activity which is acknowledged by everyone and shared by everyone. Consensus and commitment are the ingredients by which school-site discipline management lives or dies.

 

As in all discipline management, we are up against a classic case of "pay me now or pay me later." A faculty that does not want to be bothered by management will be bothered by an endless stream of obnoxious behavior. The resulting reliance on enforcement rather than prevention will be more stressful and costly in the long run-a series of failure-laden run-ins with lippy kids convincing many on the faculty that discipline management outside the classroom is rightfully somebody else's job. When faculty and administration share this perception they will simply pass mandates directly to the students with no meaningful plan of implementation whatsoever. Students, in turn, frequently screw up-as is predictable in lieu of structures that spell success while adults and young people back ever deeper into mutual resentment.

 

As I talk with teachers and administrators about effective school-site discipline management, I get two distinctly different types of responses - a bimodal split with not much in between.

 

The first response, typically given by faculty and administrators at effective school sites, is: Of course! That's obvious. The second response is: Are you kidding? You're out of your mind if you think we are going to go to that kind of trouble. What goes on outside my classroom is not my problem. Faculties with the second attitude are, predictably enough, the faculties that are suffering most from obnoxious and unruly behavior.

 

A lack of faculty cohesion is most commonly evident in a simple unwillingness of faculty members to deal with problems outside their classrooms. I have worked with high schools, for example, who had as many as forty hall monitors on salary only to find out that this massive expenditure was to no avail. Hall monitors simply became plainclothes Keystone Cops who provided the student body with a new indoor sport while issuing pink slips that were never processed in the office. Even the good students took great delight in sneaking past the hall monitors to get to their lockers that were off limits during their lunch breaks. At this same school site I saw, as mentioned earlier, teachers bounce students out of their classrooms for misconduct and then, minutes later, open their doors to criticize the hall monitor for the noise being made by the kids they had just bounced.

 

At another school site the faculty fretted about profanity toward faculty members and the riding of bicycles and skateboards on campus when, in fact, almost nobody was willing to come out of the classroom to do anything about it. They wanted a foolproof school policy-namely, a back-up system that would give the kids a good reason to shape up. Harsh measures were proposed which were always strangely separated from any meaningful system of supervision and accountability. The predictable result, I attempted to point out, would be an increasing number of suspensions with no noticeable impact on student behavior.

 

When faculty -administrative cohesiveness deteriorates past a certain point, the few teachers who are willing to take responsibility for school-site management are finally made to feel like fools. "Why should I be the only one to bust my behind around here when no one else cares?" is a common complaint of the effective teacher. Or, as one disillusioned teacher confided:

 

"I quit caring when I found a student vandalizing a drinking fountain one day while I was walking to the office during my break. I stopped to deal with the incident. It was obviously vandalism because the drinking fountain was halfway out of the wall and the kid was giving me lip. The vice principal walked around the corner, looked at me, and just kept walking. I thought to myself, 'What do you need, a neon sign on the wall that flashes the word dummy'. That's the last time I ever personally intervened in a discipline situation outside of my classroom. If the administration can pretend that they don't see, so can I. I'm not going to be the only one out on a limb."

 

If the planning and time commitment necessary for effective school-site discipline management strike the faculty as outrageous, chances are that this very perception is a clear-cut symptom of the low faculty morale that comes from poor school-site leadership. Sometimes we simply have to acknowledge that a social institution is moribund. It will not change without a massive infusion of help.

 

The Logistics of Success All the plans and good intentions in the world will eventually fail if they are at cross purposes with logistical realities. A great many high school districts, for example, have negotiated themselves into a six-period day with five teaching periods and one prep period. What seemed to slip away without anyone's noticing it was a duty period in the teacher's schedule which provides the manpower for school-site discipline management. Teachers often regard this as some kind of negotiated victory, whereas it usually represents their having shot themselves in the foot. If the school district hires outside personnel to man the cafeterias and halls, the money siphoned away for such salaries will be unavailable for teachers' salaries. And, if additional personnel are not hired, the school goes unmanaged and deteriorates into a depressing place to work. Added to this, adequate administrative staff to coordinate the supervisory effort has also been cut by many school boards in the belief that somehow a school site with over 1000 young people and tens of thousands of square feet can be managed by two or three executives.

 

Where there is no manpower there is no management, and where there is no time there is no management. If local educators and school boards express their priorities through such self-defeating scheduling and staffing procedures, then they may as well also recognize that effective schools are for them simply not worth the price.

 

OVERVIEW

The more that I have examined and compared the school-site management policies of effective schools, the more impressed I have become by how simple, clear, straightforward, and similar they all are. There is no quick cure or free lunch through policy or mandate. There is no discipline code or increase in the severity of punishment that can bring order out of chaos. Nor is there any substitute for faculty cohesiveness and shared responsibility in the business of operating every aspect of school-site life. Rather, there is the unavoidable necessity of clear, sensible plans conscientiously carried out.

 

In the language of operant conditioning, effective school-site discipline management procedures are primarily a matter of stimulus control rather than contingency management. It focuses on structure versus consequences, prevention versus remediation, effective procedure versus crisis response, faculty cohesion versus edict. It views policy as proper process rather than ultimate consequences. Effective school-site discipline management, therefore, is one of the most important ways in which a school site systematically avoids the built-in shortcomings and abuses of its own back-up system so carefully described in the preceding three chapters. It is the principal's and vice principal's contribution to their own job satisfaction-the chance to get out of the crisis mode and lead.

 

Most effective school-site management procedures are direct analogs of classroom management procedures. The principal's role is highly analogous to the teacher's role in the clarification of expectations with their faculty, the continual supervision of the faculty, and the follow through that is needed to make rules into realities. The principal is, in effect, the teacher of teachers when it comes to school-site discipline management.

 

The specific skills of management are also analogous from classroom to school site. The most common management technique is limit-setting on the wing-an adult presence which constantly monitors student performance and unobtrusively enforces rules through management by walking around (MBWA). Most effect school-site management, like most effective classroom management, is low key, unobtrusive, warm, personal, and continuous-a by-product of the physical proximity, accountability, and relationship building that comes from effective supervision.

 

The use of incentive systems on a school-wide basis, however, is in its infancy relative to its use in the classroom. There is a scanty research literature on school-site incentives for such things as attendance, picking up trash, noise in the cafeteria, etc. But the state of the art would have to be categorized as rudimentary. The development of incentives for use in large group gatherings will, it is hoped, develop in coming years so that it approaches the cost efficiency of responsibility training in the classroom.

 

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