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Atmosphere: You are given a great deal of autonomy and freedom in my class and it is best for all of us when discipline is not an issue. Most students act with maturity and exercise self control, which makes the class run efficiently and with a positive, humorous tone. If necessary, I will remind you of to change your behavior but I'll tabulate those reminders.

Consequences: Although I am usually accepting of a wide range of class behaviors, I do have limits, especially when I feel taken advantage of. Therefore, the following negative consequences are given to those that need them.

  • Three reminder in a day cause removal from class, B.A.D. N.E.W.S. (Behavior Adjustment Directive/Notice of Extra-curricular Work Service) tasks to be assigned, and reduction of privileges. (form is here)
  • Excessive class time missed due to behavior is made up after school.
  • Whole-class consequences are class-specific and flexible.

Please act in accordance with the essence of my expectations and control yourself so I don't have to.


Q:  Why aren't you more strict, especially right at the start of the year?
A: Yes, the class is loud and over-active at times, but it is all part of a process... I am giving the 6 to 8 "culprits" enough time to find their own boundaries (or lack there-of) and then any discussions I have with them about it or consequences I impose will meet less resistance and (hopefully) more internalization of responsibility.

Related excerpt from weekly newsletter:

The 'downs' revolve around my disappointment that some students are not using their academic time and resources to their greatest advantage, nor are they being respectful of their peers or me when it comes to some aspects of classroom behavior and productivity. DCS is not immune to the age-old "games" that are characteristic of middle school: games where the social interactions can dominate the academic endeavors; where the locus of control oscillates between internal and external; and the stereotypically timeless (and therefor almost comical) games of "whose responsibility is it anyway" continue to play out. These issues are not affecting everyone, and those students that concern me are "slipping" to varying degrees, at various times, and for varying durations. Overall, though, I think that it is time for me to impose some progressive levels of consequences that relate directly to counter-productive behaviors. I assume and expect that any "other school" discipline policies I implement will have their effect quickly -- my faith in the tenets of internal control and the DCS philosophy runs deep.

This topic is a complex one worthy of a great discussion far beyond the monologue of an email. Here's the issue: I'm putting a lot of time and energy into getting kids on task and in focus during class, and I'm noticing some resistance (both passive and overt) from some kids in all of the classes -- that just shouldn't be happening during the second half of 8th grade. This does bring up the question as to how much prodding/encouragement/threat do I offer versus letting the kids work (or not) at their own pace and with their own preferred level of engagement, intensity, and attention to quality. I am in conflict about this and have both sides of this argument battling in my head. One says that I have to tighten up the relaxed atmosphere and assert greater control over the social interactions that are competing with instruction and productivity. The other side of the argument reminds me that kids will engage at their own pace and in proportion with their developmental readiness, that autonomy is a rocky road, and that all learning should be interactive and take place in a comfortable, stress-free, and often social environment.

I know that you all have high expectations for your students and the quality of their experiences in class. I do too, and classroom atmosphere as well as student-management are crucial components of the learning environment. I'd love to hear your perspective on this topic, so if you have a chance this weekend, please let me know where you feel a good teacher falls on that control-autonomy spectrum, how much energy and time should constitute the "grace period" for a student, and what positive actions or consequences might work best with your (or other) 8th grader(s). My preference, of course, is to have student self-control and communal responsibilities be enough to inform and regulate student behavior, but it often isn't. I, by no means, feel that my classes are out of control or unproductive, but it is loud at times and I find myself repeating instructions quite often and most often to those that chat at the wrong times. It is a big issue to me right now because I want to have my values clear and my policies well thought through before the need arises to impose increasing levels of control over student behavior, volume, accountability, and consequence.